Study Highlights ADHD’s Workplace Impact

When those with ADHD leave school, they don’t leave their symptoms behind them. Rather, they bring their symptoms into the workplace, as a new study led by researchers at University of Groningen reveals.

To learn more about the effect of ADHD symptoms on the job, the researchers surveyed 134 adults with ADHD and 268 adults without ADHD who were comparable in terms of age, gender and education. The sample of survey participants was selected to be diverse in terms of age and gender.

Survey participants with and without ADHD were then asked whether they’d experienced nine potential impairments at work.

The participants’ answers revealed a large gap between those with and without ADHD. While seven out of ten non-ADHDers hadn’t experienced any of the workplace problems, only one in five ADHDers could say the same.

Most commonly, adults with ADHD identified with two of the impairments they were asked about in particular:

  • Problems working to your potential
  • Problems with getting your work done efficiently

In fact, more than half of the participants with ADHD said they’d experienced issues in these two areas. We know that “not meeting full potential” is the classic ADHD report card, and it now appears that the same pattern follows those with ADHD into their careers.

Sometimes struggles with underachieving and working inefficiently escalate into more concrete consequences at work. At least one in five participants with ADHD were affected by:

  • Getting fired from work
  • Problems with your attendance
  • Poor performance evaluations

By contrast, fewer than one in ten of participants without ADHD reported experiencing any of the nine problems they were asked about.

As if that’s not enough, the survey results also indicated that adults with ADHD have more issues working collaboratively. Specifically, ADHD symptoms made people more likely to experience problems with your supervisor and problems working in a team.

And perhaps those interpersonal workplace difficulties aren’t so surprising when you consider that adults with ADHD seem to frequently be performing below their capability and working inefficiently. Plus, ADHD-related behaviors do have a tendency to sometimes irritate others.

Across the nine types of workplace problems in the survey, researchers found another interesting pattern: inattentive ADHD symptoms in particular were associated with workplace difficulties. Hyperactive symptoms by themselves were not as strongly indicative of problems on the job – except to the extent that hyperactive symptoms also tended to come with inattentive symptoms.

Overall, the results of the study underscore that ADHD symptoms have far-reaching implications for people’s work lives – from meeting their potential, to keeping good relationships with their colleagues, to sometimes even keeping their jobs.

For many, then, a key part of managing ADHD will likely be gaining insight into what ADHD symptoms look like in the workplace and how coping strategies can help address ADHD symptoms on the job. Being able to spot an ADHD-friendly work environment doesn’t hurt either.

On a society-wide level, more awareness of ADHD’s impact at work is part of the solution. As the authors of the paper on workplace impairment put it: “ADHD-related difficulties at work should be considered in the clinical evaluation” of ADHD symptoms, with “targeted screening at the workplace to provide support when indicated.”

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