How to manage an employee with ADHD

How to manage an employee with ADHD

For those in management, having a productive team who can work together to achieve business goals is essential. Management often spends a lot of their time trying to improve processes in order to maximise their team’s performance, and it isn’t always easy. You might have an employee who excels at their job and delivers fantastic results, but their impulsive behaviour and forgetfulness might leave you and your team feeling frustrated and conflicted about their future. If this is the case, it’s quite possible that they may have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder),  which is a more apparent relation of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder).

You might not be aware that someone is struggling with ADHD until problems start to manifest, so what can you do to make their time at work more productive and beneficial all round? First, it might be handy to put this issue into perspective. ADHD is commonly diagnosed in children. In fact, a recent research report from ADDISS (ADHD Information Service) states that around 5% of children struggle with ADHD in the UK (that’s 500,000 kids), and the male to female ratio is quite striking at 4 to 1. This is an important thing to note because while many children outgrow their ADHD, many also retain their condition throughout adulthood. Research carried out in the UK also confirms a strong hereditary link – if a family has one child with ADHD, there is a 30-40% chance that another brother or sister will also have the disorder.

So, to the matter in hand. What can you do as an employer to make working life easier and more productive for an employee with ADHD? Let’s look at some key factors…

Time and scheduling

One of the big issues when it comes to ADHD is focus. What would be background noise for most people can be a terrible distraction for someone with ADHD. For that reason, it’s a good idea to talk to them about scheduling. It could be that they find the coming and going of people, or the ‘lunchtime rush’ extremely distracting, leading them to act impulsively or miscommunicate. Why not discuss different hours with them, or give them the flexibility to work when/where it’s quieter? Productivity will likely increase as a result.

Managing deadlines and being organised

Just as distraction can lead to behavioural and productivity issues, it can also lead to missed deadlines. It’s very common for those with ADHD to underestimate how much time they’ll need to complete a given task. To combat this, try introducing more regular check-ins from management and introduce new ways for employees to manage their time, such as help with calendars or computer-based reminders.

Make your team dynamics work

Collaboration is key at work. While those with ADHD can often be high-energy, idea generating machines with lots to talk about and share, it’s also easy for them to slip off-task and even lack awareness of their social conduct at times. For that reason, it’s usually better to make sure those with ADHD aren’t solely given responsibility over tasks that require patience and precision, but instead are part of a high-energy team that requires creativity and idea generation. Talented people with ADHD will bring a lot of value to your team if you give them the space and the right dynamic in which to grow.


One way to keep employees on task is by introducing a reward scheme. If you’ve got a long, ongoing project and need your best person on the job (and they happen to have ADHD), up the reward. Or rather, increase the frequency of rewarding. Breaking a long project up into smaller deadlines with check-ins and rewards at various milestones will really help to keep them on task.

At the end of the day, ADHD doesn’t have to be a blocker to progress. It’s often stigmatised in the workplace, but when handled in the right way it can actually be a boon to you and your team. While attention spans may be short and social interactions can be inconsistent, those with ADHD often thrive when their energy is channelled and rewarded in the right way. So if you’re looking at the CV of an ADHD sufferer, don’t be afraid to give them a chance, they may just surprise you. Furthermore, if you’ve employed someone and have recently learned that they have the condition, don’t overreact. Harness it and work with them to help them fulfil their potential.


Sources2: Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network, 52 Attention Deficit and Hyperkinetic
Disorder in Young Children: A National Clinical Guideline, June 2001,