How do you talk about ADHD with your boss/employer?

I’ve struggled with depression most of my life, but for once I seem to have it mostly under control (though I’m not above a good unprompted cry now and then – they sneak up on ya) but I’m really struggling with ADHD lately. I have a few things I can use to try and combat it (but am currently unmedicated…long story) but it’s really starting to eat into my job.

My boss already knows because I awkwardly blurted it out during a one on one, but I’m curious to get other peoples’ input on this. A part of me feels like it makes me a liability, while another part of me knows they have to be accommodating. I also trust them not to just fire me so I’m not super stressed about it at the moment. However, I also know that it’s not an employer’s responsibility to care about my personal life (although they often do) so bringing this up seems pointless/like a burden.

Have other people had these conversations with employers? If so, how did it go? If not, would you? Since this WILL affect my work, I feel obligated to let them know, but at the same time it can seem like I’m painting a target on my back to be let go for “performance” or something even though I want to do well.


I disclose things on an “as needed” basis to clients and employers. Always afraid to give too much information because I don’t want them to think less of me or fire me.

On occasion, it has been helpful to explain why things are a certain way. When things go wrong, employers sometimes jump to conclusions. Sometimes they might think that you can’t do the work, or a miscommunication could lead them to think something that is not true. I find that if I disclose just enough information to explain why I do (or don’t do) things a certain way or why I need a certain accommodation (like working remotely), most are actually ok with it as long as I do my job.

On the other hand, an employer could easily take that same information and use it against you. If you think your employer will not do that, it could be worth it to let them know what is going on and what they could do to help. It might make things better for them too, or at least lead to better communication and understanding.

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I think the first thing you should do is contact an HR person at your company. I’m not a lawyer, but I am under the impression that (in the US) once you notify HR of a mental health related issues, they need to treat it as a disability meaning that (1) they can’t tell other people without your permission and (2) they can’t fire you for it, not legally anyways. You should definitely look up mental health and disability related laws in your country/jurisdiction.

You’ve mentioned that you’ve notified your boss about it, I think you should also have a formal, sit-down conversation about it. Let them know that this is an issue you have, that it might be a problem sometimes, and that way they can plan around it, and you can work out strategies to make sure that your deliverables and responsibilities are adjusted accordingly. Also, if you find yourself slipping because of these things, let them know sooner rather than later. In my experience, a lot of people will be accomodate you, at least as long as you are more or less productive and on top of things.

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If you are in the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects you from discrimination in the workplace due to a mental illness (referred to in the law as a “mental health impairment”). This includes ADHD. As others have recommended, the best thing to do is talk to HR and disclose this information. You can then work with them to identify reasonable accommodations to support you at work. Take a look at OSMI’s Handbook for Employees (under “resources”), which answers common questions about how to disclose this information, what documentation to have, how to ask for recommendations, and further explains the laws protecting you.

{Disclaimer: I am a professional psychologist. I volunteer for OSMI. I am not soliciting clients or offering treatment. My participation in this forum is to offer professional input to be considered with the range of responses and support offered by fellow developers.}