How To Make Tasks Manageable for ADHD


My question is coming on the heels of a written warning for poor performance. Without getting into too much detail, I was using my company’s operating system functions “inappropriately.” I knew what I was doing was wrong, and now I need to fix it. But I’m not sure how to go about “fixing it.”

The task involved can be just a bit too big for my brain. I have ADHD, so what I’m pretty much saying is I can do the work itself, but I need tips on acceptable ways to make the task more managable while meeting productivity goals. In the past asking for help seems to just get me into debates about what is and is not part of the task. Then I start feeling like an idiot because I need to break the task down and can’t think like the trainers do. This is where I give up to save face and slink back to my desk. Is asking for tips on acceptable ways to make a task more managable for me too much to ask? (genuine question, no sarcasm intended)


Needing Help


Dear Needing Help:

I’m wondering if your manager knows that you have a learning disability. If you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, there are probably organizational policies that would at least protect your employment while you learn some methods for being more effective at work.

At least you should express honestly the problems you’re having understanding instructions. (Most of us do better when instructions are given slowly and clearly and we have a chance to work through a new process slowly at first, so that is nothing to be embarassed about.)

There are many websites and local and state organizations that are focused specifically on how to modify workplace methods and training to accomodate learning problems of various kinds. Check those out and see if there are suggestions offered by experts that might help you. I often suggest checklists and “go by” work samples as way to make work easier for many people. But, the most important thing is to let the trainer know if you’re not understanding. Otherwise the attitude of management is that you were taught it, you understood it, you just aren’t doing it right.

It may be that there is some aspect of your work that must be done a certain way, no matter what. More often than not, adjustments can be made if the outcome is the same and can be done in the correct amount of time.

The idea of the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) is that employers must make reasonable accomodations if the employee could do the work with those accomodations. Employers are not required to make unreasonable accomodations nor are they required to retain an employee who, in spite of accomodations, makes excessive errors.

So, this is something for you to discuss with the person who diagnosed your disability (so you can get verification and some ideas for accomodations) and with HR as well as with your supervisor and manager, according to how your business works.

In the meantime, if you have a friend at work, perhaps you can ask that person for suggestions for how to fix the problem you mention with the operating system. Or, ask your manager if she could assign someone to assist you with it while you’re working out the disability concern.

I know this can be worrisome to deal with. But, it would be better to get something on record now and try to find a solution for all of your work, than to try to slide through this one instance knowing that the same problem will come up again.

I might note as well that this is one of those times when it will be very helpful if you have influence with your manager and coworkers and a good working relationship with them. If you are able to get it worked out, be sure to write a thank you note to your manager for any extra work he or she did to assist you through this.

Best wishes to you. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.