I'm taking a little detour today because of something that just happened. In an ADHD support group I'm a member of, someone asked the following question:
I was told that I shouldn't disclose my ADHD diagnosis to places of work. I feel like that would be hiding something that would explain how I function. What do I do?
The answers in the comment section (233 at the time of writing this) varied between “never,” “it depends,” “it doesn't matter,” “only to HR,” and “absolutely.”
As a person with ADHD, I've been an employee and an business owner who hired employees. I have an opinion and it's something I feel strongly about.
I want to reprint my answer here (and expanded for clarity) because I think it's an important discussion. Since you're an entrepreneurial professional who runs a business too, this may apply to you.
Let me first disclaim that I don't have all the answers, and I might not have the right answers, either. But this is my philosophy. Feel free to challenge me. Just reply to this email if you have any thoughts or questions.
OK, so here's what I said.
Sorry for the rant, but I strongly disagree with this. I've had this argument many times with other people, especially with old-school business people and employers who think we shouldn't disclose our ADHD publicly.
Here are my thoughts:
First, not disclosing any disorder or disability was an older way of doing things. Or better said, it was a way of not risking losing jobs (or being turned down for one), and avoiding being judged or discriminated against.
Some people with whom I've had this argument with said it was no different than tattoos, and that you should hide your tattoos when getting interviewed just as you would anything else that might hinder your job prospects.
While that may be true in a public-facing job or business (and even that is arguable in many industries), I believe the world has changed and becoming far more tolerant and open than ever before.
This might be a bold statement to make, but I believe that employers who would not hire you because of your neurodiversity are old school and probably not worth working for, anyway.
The reason is, they likely will not make any work accommodations for your situation, and they probably are the types that micro-manage their staff because “productivity” to them is more task-related than it is results-oriented.
Modern and more progressive companies are far more accommodating. Workplace culture and working environments are highly flexible and adaptive nowadays, and some even go out of their way to make accommodations.
For example, they allow remote work, flexible hours, reduced disturbances, quieter workspaces, staff headphones, fewer meetings, creative input, and more. Some even participate in employee mental health programs.
As a sidenote, COVID has forced a new reality on us, and it's also a wakeup call for many employers, particularly old-school, clock-punching, “I need a big office” ones who weren't prepared for decentralized remote work, which neurodiverse people tend to thrive in.
Finally, an increasing number of companies are more understanding and accepting of ADHD, even seeking out and hiring neurodivergent people. To them, ADHD is regarded as a skill, especially for its creativity, problem-solving skill, ability to hyperfocus, and more.
In short, ADHD is far more understood and accommodated for today than even as recently as the 2000s, and discussing it is far more socially acceptable, too.
So my short answer? Yes, do disclose.
If you're working right now and you're contemplating disclosing it to your current employer, I admit that it may be a tough decision.
You will need to weigh the risks and possible consequences, including losing your job if you do disclose to continuing to struggle if you don't — which may also lead to job loss.
But if you're looking for a job, it's best to disclose it now.
If you only disclose it after you're hired or if they ever find out, particularly if performance reviews don't take your neurodiversity into account, you will be subjected to a higher risk of dismissal, or more harshly micromanaged, criticized, and yes, discriminated against.
But I think that's rare these days.
As I said earlier, most employers are accommodating, and many recognize and welcome neurodivergent people. If you disclose it and they don't hire you because of your ADHD, take that as dodging a bullet. You would eventually hate your job, your boss, or both.
But if that scares you, remember this:
For every employer who won't hire you because of your ADHD, 10 more are specifically looking for you and your skills.
Thanks for listening.