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10 CEUs Treating Locking In & Blocking Out: ADHD Adults

Section 12
ADHD in the Work Engagement-Performance Process

Question 12 | Test | Table of Contents | ADHD CEU Courses
Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track, we discussed two difficulties adults with ADHD have in one-on-one interfacing. These two difficulties were working too hard and having too much intensity. We also discussed five tips for dealing with one-on-one interfacing. These five tips were Relaxing and Listening, Clarifying the Message, Avoiding Fighting Words, Watching the Intensity Level, and Slowing Down.

On this track, we will discuss interactions on the job. As you know, interactions in the workplace has elements of both group interactions, as discussed on track 10, and one-on-one interactions, as discussed on the previous track, track 11. However, as you are aware, the workplace often calls for new methods of coping with the challenges of an ADHD diagnosis. Does this sound like something of interest to you? As I explain Rhonda’s difficulties in her office, think of your ADHD client.

Rhonda, 35, had just been promoted to the position of Sales Manager in her company. This promotion came quickly after a series of large commissions and bonuses she received due to her hard work in the company. However, Rhonda wasn’t fully able to enjoy her success.

Rhonda stated, "Dealing with the people under me is a nightmare. They can’t solve problems as quickly as I can, so I have to instruct them all the time. None of them work as hard as I do, or as much as I do!! So I’m trying to get some policies changed to increase our productivity! But a couple of days ago, as I was leaving the office, I found THIS crumpled up paper on the floor!"

Rhonda handed me the paper, which was a caricature of her towering over her sales force and shouting down at her them through a large megaphone. Rhonda stated, "I just don’t know what to do. I don’t understand why they dislike me so much. I mean, my superiors think well of me. Why doesn’t my sales force?"

As you can see, Rhonda’s impulsivity is playing a role in her current challenge. She is used to solving problems and getting the job done immediately. Unfortunately, as you know, the ability to sell a product does not always equate to an ability to manage a sales force. I stated to Rhonda, "Selling a product isn’t the same as selling people on one’s ideas for managing a sales force. As an adult with ADHD, you should try to be sensitive to the needs of colleagues who may also have hidden disabilities."

4 Categories of Challenging Areas
In a workplace, such as Rhonda’s, I find that there are often four categories of challenging areas for the ADHD adult.

Category # 1 - Written Rules
The first category I have found is Written Rules. Because ADHD adults don’t work in isolation, they need to try to understand and abide by the written rules of the company. I explained to Rhonda that questioning policies and procedures can be a positive quality, but that she might be moving too fast to do so. I stated, "Before you start trying to bring in new rules, demonstrate your loyalty and dependability. Then, after you’ve earned the respect of your co-workers, your suggestions for change may be more well-received."

Category # 2 - Unwritten Rules
The second category of challenging areas for the ADHD adult in the workplace that I have found is Unwritten Rules. As you know, not all of the information about a company can be found in a policy handbook. Often, much of the vital information is unwritten. I explained to Rhonda that to understand these unwritten rules, she would need to get inside the inner circle.

I stated, "Try finding someone who seems to know what’s going on. Try to earn her respect. Gradually, you may draw information out of her to learn how the company operates." Rhonda looked downcast and stated, "But there are already so many written rules! How am I supposed to keep the unwritten ones straight?" I explained that it may be necessary to make a list of the informal rules and procedures.

Category # 3 - Communication
In addition to Written Rules and Unwritten Rules, the third category of challenging areas for the ADHD adult in the workplace is Communication. As with communication in Group Interactions and One-on-One Interactions discussed on previous tracks, communication in Interactions on the Job relies both on verbal communication and body language. However, Interactions on the Job also have the added aspect of written communication. I asked Rhonda if she was having difficulty with written expression in her office.

Rhonda stated, "Well, I get by. Nothing I ever write is amazing, but I think it’s sufficient. It gets the job done." I explained to Rhonda that a variety of options are available to her to improve her written communication to her sales force. I stated, "You could get a software package of templates, or prepared generic letters, for basic memos, letters and reports. You could also try remedial writing classes, if you need to write more complex documents." Are either of these suggestions you have made to a recent ADHD client of yours?

Category # 4 - Managing ADHD Symptoms
Finally, the fourth category I have found of challenging areas for the ADHD adult in the workplace is Managing ADHD Symptoms. Although ADHD adults may not be in perpetual motion, as ADHD children sometimes seem to be, ADHD adults usually have mastered the arts of foot-tapping, finger-drumming, and knuckle-cracking.

As you know, ADHD symptoms also tend to get worse as the day wears on. I explained to Rhonda that she could try substitute behaviors for some of her ADHD behaviors that may be distracting to those on her sales force. I stated, "For example, instead of tapping your foot impatiently, you could swing your foot to create less noise." I also suggested finding acceptable excuses to get up from her desk periodically.

"STAR" Technique
Rhonda pointed at the caricature and stated, "That information might be helpful to me, but I still don’t know what to do about this." I suggested to her what Kelly calls the "STAR" Technique, which is done in four steps. This technique is called the "STAR" technique because STAR is an acronym for the four steps.

The four steps are Stopping, Thinking, Acting, and Reflecting. I explained this to Rhonda and stated, "Before you say or do anything, Stop. Think about what you will say or do. Then, Act upon your decision, and Reflect on the results of your action. If it helps, put an actual star somewhere on your desk or in your office to remind you of these four steps: Stopping, Thinking, Acting, and Reflecting."

Do you have a client like Rhonda who is having difficulties in the workplace? Would the "STAR" Technique work for your client?

On this track, we have discussed interfacing on the job. We have also discussed the four challenging areas for the ADHD adult in the workplace. These four challenging areas were Written Rules, Unwritten Rules, Communication, and Managing ADHD Symptoms.

On the next track, we will discuss the challenges the ADHD family faces regarding boundaries and communication. We will also discuss the "Message Center" tool.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Becker, S. P., Mossing, K. W., Zoromski, A. K., Vaughn, A. J., Epstein, J. N., Tamm, L., & Burns, G. L. (2020). Assessing sluggish cognitive tempo and ADHD inattention in elementary students: Empirical differentiation, invariance across sex and grade, and measurement precision. Psychological Assessment. Advance online publication.

Brunstein-Klomek, A., Kopelman-Rubin, D., Apter, A., Argintaru, H., & Mufson, L. (2017). A pilot feasibility study of interpersonal psychotherapy in adolescents diagnosed with specific learning disorders, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, or both with depression and/or anxiety symptoms (IPT-ALD). Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 27(4), 526–539. 

Cohen, E., & Kalanthroff, E. (2019). Visuospatial processing bias in ADHD: A potential artifact in the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale and the Rorschach Inkblots Test. Psychological Assessment, 31(5), 699–706.

Courrégé, S. C., Skeel, R. L., Feder, A. H., & Boress, K. S. (2019). The ADHD Symptom Infrequency Scale (ASIS): A novel measure designed to detect adult ADHD simulators. Psychological Assessment, 31(7), 851–860.

Halbesleben, J. R. B., Wheeler, A. R., & Shanine, K. K. (2013). The moderating role of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in the work engagement–performance process. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 18(2), 132–143. 

What are the four challenging areas for the ADHD adult in the workplace? To select and enter your answer go to Test


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