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Managing ADD in the Office
Do you recognize the traits?

Employees with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) are often high energy, well educated, bright, creative, intuitive, sensitive, talkative and engaging people who do well in sales and other professions requiring good networking, empathizing and influencing skills. They can also be quiet and successful in structured or technical positions that require hyper focus, creative problem solving, or troubleshooting.

Because diagnosis of ADD is a fairly recent scientific development, many adults don’t learn that they have ADD until their children are diagnosed. Additionally, scientists have recently concluded that ADD is an inherited brain-wiring trait—not a deficiency. People with ADD tend to have more creative, right brain strengths than linear, detail-oriented, left-brain strengths. As one of my bosses used to say, people with ADD are “right brained people in a left brained world”.

Employees with ADD may do very well in a job until they are moved or promoted to a position that is unstructured, unsupervised or undirected. In this new environment, they suddenly begin missing deadlines, letting details fall through the cracks, and failing to follow through with projects. Their paperwork becomes a chaotic mess, and they feel overwhelmed and stressed.

There are several types of ADD, and the severity can range from mild to extreme; some cases require medication to help the person stay calm and focused. Regardless of severity, though, as a boss, you can help employees with ADD to be more productive by using the tips below.

Since employees with ADD may be sensitive to pressure, asking them to finish a specific task will work better than ordering them to do it. Show respect and appreciation for their efforts and accomplishments.

They often over commit, so helping them to look at their current work load and teaching them how to say no or negotiate priorities will help them to stay on track and get the most important things done.

Present information in an orderly way and clearly express the format required and time table for expected results. Help them to break down assignments into small steps.

People with ADD learn best by doing rather than by listening or reading instructions. In training, “show and do” is most effective. When assigning tasks, show a sample of how the end product should look. Ask employees to review with you their action plan for getting the task accomplished.

Noise, interruptions, phone calls and emails can seriously distract and eat up valuable time needed to accomplish important tasks. Advise employees to block out specific times (30 minutes to an hour and a half several times a day) to work on a high priority task. For that specific time, they should close the office door, let phone calls go to voice mail and not look at emails.

Most people with ADD have a hard time creating a structure for themselves. If a job has not been previously structured, set priorities and help your employee to think through a useful structure. Suggest organization tools such as a day timer or electronic calendar, a daily or monthly to do list, project follow up sheets, and a good filing system.

Finally, people with ADD, even if they have never been diagnosed, are well aware that for some reason they just do not process information the same way their linear thinking classmates or coworkers do. They have often been labeled lazy, forgetful, disorganized, and unreliable. They have been told again and again that they are “not living up to their potential.” Thus, they often doubt themselves and their abilities. They may get stuck worrying about what they have not done rather than seeing what they have accomplished.

People with ADD are frequently highly intelligent and talented people who simply need an understanding boss who tailors the position to capitalize on their strengths. As their boss, focus on what they have done well and compliment them explicitly. They will work hard to continue to please you.

This article was written by Joan Bolmer, author, speaker, executive, business, career and personal coach. For more articles by Joan or to contact her directly, visit her website at www.bolmer.com.

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