Unlocking ADHD writer Jean Ang shares her views on how people with ADHD can inform their loved ones and coworkers about their condition.
Finally being able to put a name to a diagnosis could be a huge relief for those who are struggling with symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Some might even be ecstatic because they were often frustrated and misunderstood. While it could be a form of liberation to share this piece of news with everyone, it may also be wise to hold your tongue for just a little bit.
Remember that you have no obligation to disclose or divulge your ADHD diagnosis. Share the information with people whom you trust to be understanding, dependable, and respectful of your privacy.
Breaking the news to your loved ones
Keeping the condition from your immediate family members and loved ones may not be recommended. They are most likely to have witnessed most of your symptoms, and how these have affected you. A strong social support network consisting of your friends and family can be pivotal in helping you through the challenging times.
How you can break the news to loved ones:
- Identify the ones who are trustworthy and supportive
- Arrange a good time and place to reveal your diagnosis in person
- Explain in detail about your condition
- Be honest with how you are feeling – avoid a false front, or a “happy face” if you do not feel that way
- Acknowledge your listener’s reaction
- Be mentally prepared in case they fail to understand you
- Ask your loved ones regarding their knowledge about ADHD. If their knowledge is limited, you can help debunk any myths
- Share with them about the positive traits of the ADHD brain
Whatever the situation may be, it is worth noting that there is no right or wrong way to communicate the news to your loved ones. It all depends on your relationship with them and your comfort level.
Breaking the news at the workplace
Unlike sharing the news with your family, the decision to break the news to your workplace and superiors can be somewhat delicate. Some professionals advocate not to disclose your condition, as your colleagues and superiors may not be sympathetic or empathetic towards your situation.
Since they may be uninformed about ADHD, your condition might seem like an excuse. Even if they are understanding, there might be limitations on how much help they can provide for you.
Instead, you could consider ways to improve your own productivity, such as:
- Wearing a pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones
- Using a to-do list
- Setting phone reminders for tasks
- Breaking up bigger tasks into smaller tasks
- Setting milestones and deadlines for key projects
- Getting a close colleague at work to be your accountability buddy
If such initiatives are still inadequate, try requesting additional but valid support. For instance, flexible working hours, if normal office hours are tough to strictly adhere to. However, if your attempts for alternative arrangements are still unsuccessful and your ADHD is ultimately affecting your performance, it could be timely to disclose your condition.
How you can break the news at your workplace:
- Identify the ones who should know about your diagnosis e.g., your direct superior
- Choose a conducive environment to deliver the news
- Decide beforehand how much you want to share, and abide by the facts
- Explain how you are getting treatment and its effects, if any
- Be calm, not dismissive
- Talk about your concerns and ask for accommodations at work
It is important to remember that you are in control of what you disclose to colleagues and superiors, and that communicating your needs does not imply compromising your privacy.
In Singapore, the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices (TGFEP) states that “companies should not ask job applicants to declare personal information, which includes their mental health condition, unless it is a job-related requirement”. Employees can file an unfair dismissal case with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) due to discrimination.
Everyone has different perspectives, so be mentally prepared for any unforeseen responses from people after breaking the news. Try to not take anything personally and remember to be patient with yourself.
At the workplace, it may take some time to adjust to workflows and to make modifications in job productivity while also caring for your own health. However, with these efforts, you will be a step closer to living in an environment that empowers your ADHD journey!