Should I Tell my Boss About My ADHD?

by | Jan 21, 2016 | ADHD Coaching | 7 comments

tell my boss about my adhdWhen a client asks, “Should I tell my boss about my ADHD?” my answer is almost always a loud “No!”

Who you tell about your ADHD is an important decision. This is definitely one place NOT to be impulsive.

Disclosing attention deficit can have a big influence on your career and how you’re treated. I recommend you carefully think through who to tell about your ADHD and who not to tell.

I detest that we even have to talk about this. How I wish it were different. But, it’s a reality. Perceptions of you will possibly change after someone discovers you have ADHD. Especially at work.

Telling your boss you have ADHD can be a gamble. I’ve noticed about half the people who disclose at work mysteriously have performance issues pop up.

Even if they’ve been considered good employees before the disclosure.

Somehow, after the ADHD disclosure, that messy desk and late arrival are cause for reprimand or even become reasons for termination.

As ugly as it is, I’ve seen some instances where the boss begins to build a case against the employee. Not everyone understands ADHD or wants to take the time or energy to help an employee succeed.

This isn’t always true. A few clients have had exceptional support from their supervisor. Some companies even pay the ADHD coaching fees.  You just never know. Plus, even if your current boss is supportive with ADHD in your employee file your next supervisor may not look on it so kindly. I’ve seen that happen, too.

If you shouldn’t tell your boss about your ADHD what should you do? Do you just struggle in silence?

Of course not. Struggling never solves anything.

Focus on learning your ADHD management skills to improve your work performance. Many clients hire me for coaching to do just this. Learn how to be on time, manage conflicting priorities, meet deadlines, organize your desk. Building these skills at work will make your life easier at home, too.

If your ADHD fueled habits do come up simply say, “It’s hard for me to keep my desk organized, and I could use some help.” There’s usually no need to bring your diagnosis into it.

Next time you wonder, “should I tell my boss about my ADHD?” Pause long and hard first. What could be the consequences? What can you try instead? Silence may literally be golden.


  1. Erin

    When I read the first sentence of this article, I felt immediately deflated. I’ve been researching this very thing for quite some time, and everyone says to not disclose. But everyone I work with already knows I have ADHD, and my boss even has ADHD, although not quite to the same degree. What I need from my employer is accommodations, and I don’t know how or what to ask for. I’m drowning in my job, I’ve been trying to deal with this on my own for months, doing everything in your article, but I really need help, and I don’t know what to do now.

    • Dana Rayburn

      Hi Erin, I HATE to deflate you! Yes, you need accommodations. But do you need to say, “I have ADHD so I need an office with a door”? Would “It’s hard for me to focus in our noisy office. I could get more work done if I could close the door”? Does the difference make sense? Also, can you be sure you won’t be treated differently if you tell your boss you have ADHD? They seem to know already. Some bosses are supportive. If you are fairly certain yours will be than disclose and get help. I wish you all the best. Warmly, Dana

  2. JMS

    When I finally learned that I had ADHD, and began to realize how it had affected my life in the workforce, I had to deal with the issue of whether or not to reveal my ADHD on the job.
    At first, I didn’t agree with the people who gave a resounding “NO!” I thought, for heavens’ sake, what’s the big deal? ADHD isn’t a psychosis. It affects a lot of people. You wouldn’t hesitate to tell your boss that you’re nearsighted and need glasses, would you?
    Since then, I have joined the ranks of people who shout “NO!” you should not tell your boss you have ADHD. I’ve tried it and it cost me my job. They’ll find an excuse to can you. They will.
    While you’re at it, don’t reveal it to a potential employer, either. I interviewed for a job with a woman who was very enthusiastic about my qualifications–ready to hire me on the spot. I met with her for a second interview, to sign the release for a background check. Background checks are costly, and she didn’t want to shell out for one for nothing. She made me swear that I was serious about taking the job and that I wouldn’t quit after a couple of weeks.
    On the release form, I put down that I had ADHD but that it would not affect my ability to perform the job duties. That was the last I heard from her. She never did the background check. I reached out to her a couple of times and she said she did not currently have any openings for that position. Then I would see where she advertised for that position.
    Finally, I would add, don’t tell your coworkers, either. People will sucker-punch you. In front of everyone. You could be in for some very unpleasant scenes.
    Even if the people at work don’t mind if you have ADHD, once you’ve outed yourself as a disabled person, in your employer’s eyes, you are a liability. We can thank the Americans With Disabilities Act for that. Employers are very averse to getting sued. It doesn’t matter how much they love you, you are not worth the risk.

  3. Emma

    Dana, I’ve been struggling to do a certain aspect of my work that is incredibly detail oriented, and for which my employer wants me to manage alone without adding additional peer review. It has come up over and over again. The errors I’ve made have caused me significant stress, and have caused my supervisor to doubt my ability. I’m again stuck in the recurring pattern of authority figures thinking that I’m “just not trying hard enough.” Or thinking that I don’t care enough, when in reality I care so much. And am trying so hard. After a particularly bad week, I hit a personal low. I felt hopeless, helpless and wondered, not for the first time, “What is WRONG with me.” I pursued help, and was finally diagnosed with ADD. It illuminates things I’ve struggled with my entire life, and was honestly a relief to finally know why. This week, I began taking adderall which will hopefully help me cope with my disorder. I’m already noticing a difference, but know that this won’t solve everything. Today, I received an official warning from my supervisor about the details that were dropped in that particularly bad week. If I mess up at all over the next couple months, I am at risk for official evaluation and termination. I work at a non-profit that encourages openness about mental health in the workplace and works for equal opportunity for all. It should be a place in which disability is accepted and understood. But I’m anxious about disclosing my disability, especially when I’m still learning about it myself. Yet I still feel it would help me work with my boss to create better systems (perhaps with checks and balances outside just me – for example, peer review), and also could help my supervisor understand how just how seriously I’ve taken these mistakes. They literally were the catalyst that finally helped me realize my disorder and receive a diagnosis. I feel discouraged and afraid to be in such a precarious spot while still trying to cope with what it means to live with ADD.

    • Dana Rayburn

      Oh Emma, what a challenging situation you’re in. I’m sad to hear you’re struggling. Sometimes you have to disclose to your supervisor what’s going on. This may be one of them. Only you know the work situation.

  4. NT

    These comments seem a bit off. It is illegal to discriminate against someone for ADHD.

    • Dana Rayburn

      Yes, it is illegal to discriminate. As I say, I don’t like to have to give this advice. However, reality plays out over and over. I stand by my view.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Welcome to ADHD Success

Tired of struggling with ADHD? You’re in the right place. ADHD Success is loaded with free, practical tips to help you get organized, manage your time, and live more easily with Adult ADHD. Like what you read? Sign up for the newsletter now! No Spam. I promise!

Like Dana on Facebook: