Deciding if you should tell your employer that you have ADHD may be one of the most common and difficult decisions for adults with ADHD. It should be made with care after weighing the pros and cons, and assessing how you feel about sharing this information with others.
Remember, only you can decide whether or not to tell your employer about your condition. No one can force you to disclose if you don't want to. It is totally up to you how much information you share, whom you share it with and how you reveal it. Know your rights as an employee.
Who to tell
Who you decide to tell about your ADHD may depend upon your particular circumstances at the time of disclosure and the reason why you have decided to disclose:
- Your supervisor or manager – if you need him/her to provide or approve an accommodation
- The human resources staff – if no immediate accommodation is needed but you would like the protection of the Canadian Human Rights Act
- The person interviewing you or the human resources staff – if you need accommodation during the hiring process
- The employee assistance program staff – if you are already on the job, experiencing difficulties, and need help deciding how, how much, and to whom to disclose
When to disclose
You can disclose your ADHD at any time.
If you decide to disclose before or during the interview process, mention your ADHD briefly. Give examples of how you've performed job duties in the past, especially tasks related to the job for which you are interviewing.
Some employers may require new hires to pass a medical exam or other tests related to the job. It is a good idea if you can find out about these requirements ahead of time.
If you decide to disclose after you are hired, it is best to do so before a serious problem with job performance occurs. Employers are most likely to be responsive to a disclosure if they think it is done in good faith and not as a last-minute attempt to keep your job. Request a reasonable accommodation when you are in need of one, and explain how the accommodation will assist you in meeting the work goals.
What you disclose
You may find it helpful to prepare a script to read from or at least some notes/prompts to help keep your thoughts organized during your discussion.
- Decide how specific you want to be in describing your ADHD. For example:
- General terms: a disability, a medical condition, an illness
- Vague but more specific terms: a biochemical imbalance, a neurobiological difference, a brain disorder
- Specifically referring to mental illness: a mental illness, psychiatric disorder, mental disability
- Your exact diagnosis: ADHD (and also any coexisting medical condition, if applicable, and you wish to disclose it as well)
- Describe your skills that make you able to perform the main duties of your job.
- Describe any functional limitations or behaviours caused by your ADHD that interfere with your performance. Identify the accommodations you need to overcome them.
- You may also wish to suggest resources to your employer for further information.
If you decide not to disclose your ADHD, try to find other ways to get the support you need:
- Support and advice from friends, therapists, job coaches, etc.
- If you are in the process of looking for a job, research potential employers who may already provide an ADHD-friendly environment or accommodation support available to all employees (without the need for disclosure)
Myth:People with ADHD simply don’t want to focus or complete tasks that they don’t enjoy.
Fact:People with ADHD find it difficult to regulate their attention. They are not just distracted or absentminded. Others may misconstrue the ability of someone with ADHD to “hyperfocus” on a highly stimulating task (like a video game) for hours as an example that the person can focus, but lacks willpower. Being unable to break or prioritize focus is a core symptom of ADHD.