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Managing an Employee with ADHD? Here’s How to Help Them Thrive

6 minute read

By Leanne Maskell, ADHD Coach, Director of ADHD Works and author of ADHD Works at Work and ADHD an A-Z


ADHD is not (just) an ‘HR thing’. Managers have an important role to play in empowering employees with ADHD to not just survive, but thrive in the workplace, by leveraging our unique thinking styles to our advantage.

Here’s how to align your management style with the 30% developmental delay in executive functioning skills linked with ADHD: 



As people with ADHD may struggle to be aware of their feelings, needs, and experiences, this can make knowing what could help us very difficult. If you’ve met one person with ADHD, you’ve met one person with ADHD. 


As a manager, additional 1:1s or mentorship can provide space for employees with ADHD to ask for help, check in on their capacity, and celebrate their wins. 



The ‘interest-based nervous system’ linked with ADHD can result in hyper-focus for work stimulating interest, novelty, and adrenaline, or on the opposite end of the scale, procrastination and overwhelm. This means we may need more, not less, work and responsibilities, and support with seemingly ‘easy’ tasks, such as administration. 


Task swapping can be highly effective here, enabling everyone in a team to play to their strengths – especially benefiting those with ADHD. 



As people with ADHD may struggle with staying on task, breaking ‘marathons into sprints’ can be a great way of providing actionable, short-term goals to harness the power of hyper-focus. This can be done by setting artificial deadlines for work and being clear about when work will be completed at the outset. 


Having subject-specific meetings and providing agendas in advance can also be very helpful. 



People with ADHD may experience Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, which is extreme emotional pain at real or perceived rejection. Constructive criticism is an important part of growth, but this can be delivered in ADHD-friendly ways, such as by providing feedback in writing and allowing time for this to be processed before discussing it. 


It’s extremely important to provide regular positive feedback to employees with ADHD, which can act as positive reinforcement, as well as build confidence and excellent motivation. 



As people with ADHD think outside the box, we can have lots of excellent ideas which may challenge the status quo, especially in a working environment. Managers can harness these unique problem-solving abilities by identifying and creating opportunities for them to be used, such as by having a ‘blue sky thinking’ day where ideas can be presented. 


As we can also struggle to prioritise, experiencing time as ‘now or not now’, managers can also support employees by clearly identifying priorities and providing clear examples of outcomes that they’d like.  




ADHD is commonly associated with Audio Processing Disorder, meaning we may struggle with remembering and processing verbal information. As a manager, providing written instructions and information can be extremely helpful in the workplace to aid memory. 


Encouraging the use of aids such as password managers and task management systems can support employees with ADHD to create ‘second brains’, where they can organise and store important information, using their time effectively. 


Tailoring your management style to the individual, instead of the job, can unlock limitless potential, performance, and productivity – it’s a no-brainer. 


Leanne Maskell headshot 2

Leanne Maskell, ADHD Coach, Director of ADHD Works 



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