Your boss zones out in the middle of a conversation and can be distracted by just about anything. His desk is always cluttered with half-finished and overdue projects. Sometimes when you talk to him you feel as though you’re talking to the wall – he just doesn’t seem to be focused or even listening. Frustrating as this scenario may be for you, it’s probably even tougher for your boss – he has all the symptoms of untreated attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.
ADHD is a chemical disorder of the brain. It has nothing to do with intelligence, and ADHD sufferers can be very intelligent. However, it can be accompanied by learning disorders, accordion to HelpGuide.org, and a person with ADHD can live in a constant swirl of frustration, anxiety and poor self-esteem. Older people with ADHD may have been told they were lazy or labeled goof-offs, especially if they had ADHD as children in the days before this condition was likely to be recognized.
Strategies for Employees
There are ways to help an ADHD boss. Michael B. Laskoff, CEO of AbilTo, wrote an article for “The Huffington Post” in March of 2010 in which he makes some recommendations for managing an ADHD boss. For example, ADHD sufferers often tend to ramble and jump from one issue to another. Laskoff suggests that you let your boss ramble. Shutting him down can cause resentment and stop the creative process. He also suggests that you not try to organize your boss, but that by staying organized yourself, you can help him when he’s trying to juggle multiple balls.
Organizing Your Boss
How you work with your boss depends on what your position is in the organization. People with ADHD often procrastinate. If you are the administrative assistant charged with getting him places on time, try strategies such as telling him he needs to be somewhere 20 to 30 minutes before the actual start time. Don’t rely on him to have everything he needs for a meeting – provide him with a file folder of all relevant material, organized and color-coded for easy retrieval.
Help Him Focus
If you are a subordinate, make it a point to write down your understanding of conversations or work assignments and send him confirmation e-mails. Schedule frequent, brief meetings to discuss work projects. Make your presentations succinct, with bullet points or other organizational tools that help him grasp the important issues. Provide meeting handouts. When you have a conversation, reflect his instructions back to him: “You want me to discuss the water resource problem with Martin and get back to you by Friday.” In any case, treat him with patience and respect – ADHD or not, he’s still a human being, and your boss.
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.