Interpersonal Edge: Attention deficit disorder and workplace success
Sunday, April 2, 2017

By Dr. Daneen Skube

Tribune Content Agency
Q. I have wicked attention deficit disorder (ADD) and really struggle with tracking detail, getting sidetracked and forgetting processes at work. I take medication but still find myself dropping details through the cracks. My manager is very frustrated with me, and I am afraid I will lose my job. Do you have any clients that have bad ADD, and how do you help them?
  A. Several of my very successful clients have "wicked" ADD. I help them by understanding that even with good medication their brain works differently than those of most people. Understanding both the weaknesses and strengths (yes, there are some) of an ADD brain will help you be productive at work.
  Frequently, people with ADD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also have brains that are low in serotonin. Thus these same people with attention issues also may struggle with anxiety or depression. If your anxiety and depression are not also evaluated by a psychiatrist, then you are only treating half of the problem with your brain. There are lots of medicines for these medical mood issues.
  The cognitive side of managing ADD involves not trying to operate as if you have a normal brain. The ADD brain does two things well: hyperfocus and no focus. The normal shuttling back and forth just doesn't happen well with ADD.
  The other weakness is that with ADD you will come into a room to get a drink of water, see the cupboard needs organizing, notice the garbage needs to be dumped and then get nothing done. The ADD brain has enormous trouble staying on just one track.
  On the upside, people with ADD  who have appropriate medication and tool-based counseling are amazing at managing multiple priorities. One of my clients jets all over the world, constantly shifting goals and managing lots of employees without missing a beat. His job would drive a normal brain crazy, but he thrives in it!
  Here are some of the tools my ADD clients learn and use to be effective:
  -Lists on their computer, phone, tablets and hard copies. Lists keep you on track.
  -Reminders of all types: phone, email and people who double-check with you (ask them to do so).
  -Prioritize your tasks. An ADD brain sees all tasks as equally important.
  -Force yourself to do one task at a time until completion.
  -To concentrate better, reduce outside stimulation (noise and distractions).
  -Enjoy that you will always handle chaos better than your coworkers.
  Realize that ADD does not make you stupid or incompetent. Your brain simply works differently. However, your workplace will not grant you grace if you don't learn to manage it. 
  Meet with your boss, let him know you appreciate his patience and tell him that you want to make a plan with him to obtain the results he wants. Put together a proposal on using the tools I've outlined here and also brainstorm additional ideas with him.
  Now work your plan! Also, if you've never read books on ADD or ADHD, get educated. Your different brain is not a character flaw and is based on your neurology. An ADD brain is like a skittish horse that can be ridden well, but you must approach that animal with skill.
  The last word(s)
  Q. I made a promise to work at my current place of employment for two years. I've worked here for a year and have a better offer. Should I just take the offer?
  A. No, if you gave your word, then be the unicorn employee that keeps your commitment. Otherwise, you just shredded your reference from this job.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.
Printed in the April 2 - April 15, 2017 edition

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