View Full Version : I am struggling ADHD boss

11-17-15, 02:59 PM
I've started this post about 20 times over the last month or so, but could never get it I'm going more basic with it.

I am a small business owner and have 2 non-ADHD employees to manage. My non-ADHD wife helps quite a bit, but she's not in the office very much so it's really up to me to handle things.

Some of my bigger issues include, not being able to correct employees when they do something wrong, always expecting 100% from them when I should be ok with somewhat less, time passage and planning is very difficult, being in hyperfocus makes me "unapproachable" as they don't want to "bother me" if they have question.

I've always been quiet and not very social. I describe myself as "not quite able to be a leader, but not happy with being a follower." I've never had to "encourage people" or "give praise". I'm frequently reminded that employees are not robots, but that's the only way I can evaluate them is on their work. I have trouble accepting less then 100% from them (And myself) as it seems either you are doing the work well (100%) or you're not (0%)--I have no middle ground. I would rather work with things then with people (fairly typical IT person I suppose).

My wife has made us have a all-employee weekly meeting over lunch. The point of the meeting is for "team building" and "getting to know each other better" rather then work planning. I have major anxiety before and during these meetings and often cannot finish a sandwich because I feel like I'm going to throw up. I end up (and usually try) to not say much, just disappear into the corner while they are all talking. I can sometimes add a joke or something to the conversation but never anything more then that.

Sometimes someone will ask me what we should do about this problem or that problem. I often truly don't know (or haven't had time to think about it so I don't know right now) what to do so all I can reply is that I don't know yet. It kills me to do that and I'm sure they think I'm some kind of idiot, but I don't know what else to do.

I also can't get anything done until it's close to the deadline. That does not work trying to work with people. Our receptionist person has also decided to not ask clients when they need their request completed by, so everything on my list has no I have no idea what to do next if I decide to do anything. I cannot keep myself together sufficiently so I certainly struggle with helping and keeping others rolling.

Ok I'm just rambling now it feels like. I am on Adderall, Bupropion, and starting taking 5-HTP as it was mentioned I may be low on serotonin. I take a busbar for anxiety as needed.

Are there any other business owners or bosses out there that struggle with this?



11-20-15, 05:21 AM
Hi ITguy!

It looks like you have a type of controlling personality, either acquired or 'congenital' and a lot of anxiety to fight with. It still might be a great feature set for an SMB owner, if only you learn how to vent this energy out.

First of all:

1. Ad+Bp is known for increasing anxiety, can you try a different combo ?

2. Many natural substances are known for anxiolytic and relaxing effects, they may help you survive the team building meetings without getting hungry ;)

3. Can you automate your workflows with online tools so that your guys have more clarity (eg use online knowledge base instead of asking you) ?

4. Can you find a partner or promote your guys into roles you don't find perfect for yourself ? Do you have commissioning incentives for that ?

5. Perhaps you should rethink the ownership/legal structure of your business - being a sole and sharing responsibility with a subordinate doesn't sound like a good sleep.

6. It looks like your guys have some idle time when they wait for you - this is degrading the work ethic and your financial bottom line. It would be good to establish a self-learning/research schedule on a quaterly basis so that you do something useful when you don't know what else you can do.

Good luck!

11-20-15, 03:20 PM
First, remember that you're human, and we humans are slow to change.

So, first suggestion; change the division of labour. You have a hard time prioritizing and scheduling tasks, so maybe have one of your employees work to break down a project into smaller "deliverables" so there is a constant need for action. Ideally they're also set up so you can flip from task to task as needed.

Alternately you could have a brief meeting at the beginning of the day/week to do a quick review of tasks and what the next steps are. This can be an opportunity for projects to be broken down, and it allows you to rely on the organizational skills of your minions instead of struggling with it solo. You are paying them to work for you, so make the best use of their skills that you can. This doesn't just apply to the skills you hired them for.

As for your interpersonal relationship with your employees, to relieve the pressure, you don't NEED to say anything at the lunches. Just being a silent participant has its benefits; people generally love to talk, so having a good listener will be helpful to them. Another option; find something to DO during those lunches. You're IT folks, so maybe a multiplayer game. Or a game of Euchre. Or a boardgame. My wife's work has a puzzle always on the go in the lunchroom.

You mentioned that you reliably experience high levels of anxiety before and during the meeting. Do you know what's driving that anxiety? What you're afraid of? If you can speak a bit to that, we might be able to give more specific advice. For now, here's what would work for me in your situation:

* On the day of the meeting, spend an extra 15-30min first thing in the morning to devote to self-care. Relaxation, mindfulness, breathing, yoga, Metalica, Fallout 4, whatever helps you unwind, let go, and get into more of a zen state.

* Schedule your day to ensure that you're busy for a little while right before the lunch; something that will keep your thoughts away from the lunch. That way you have a harder time building up that "anticipatory anxiety" You probably know when you'd need to be busy, as there's probably a time you start ruminating about the lunch

* Take some of your anxiety meds proactively. You KNOW you'll be anxious, so take a small dose beforehand. At least enough to lower it from "I'm going to throw up" to "I'm a bit nervous" Going into situations when your anxiety is at a 7+ out of 10 is no good, as the anxiety itself becomes something you're dreading. At a 3-4, you can face the task, feel somewhat anxious, but ultimately have an easier time next week.

* Reassure yourself that it's new and different and uncomfortable, and that's okay. The whole point of the lunch is to change your relationship with your employees, and any change is uncomfortable.

With respect to questions people have, if you don't have an answer right away, it's okay to tell someone you'll get back to them. Encourage people to send requests/questions by e-mail or through your secretary, so you can read, process, THEN go talk to them. And if a situation requires more than a single e-mail and a reply to sort out, then you meet and talk face to face. EVERYONE has their own preferred communication style. Teaching people yours, as well as learning theirs, can go a long way to improving your work relationship.

As far as their performance, the world is grey. It's good that you have the insight to view their performance as 100% or 0%. Now the hard part: What do you do with that information? How do you challenge those thoughts/attitudes that are harmful to yourself and your employees?

I knew one manager who said she had to take a step back from people's daily jobs. She'd see someone checking their e-mail or texting or chatting in the hall, and she'd want to fire everyone and start over. When she took a step back and focussed on the work, and investing some trust in people's professionalism, she started to notice that despite the texting, e-mailing and chatting, the work was getting done. And ultimately, if the situation is in a crunch, if you've hired the right KIND of people, they'll step up and do the work (likely followed by a period of reduced productivity).

Giving 100% all the time is impractical and self-destructive. That goes for you too. This, and the anxiety you describe, would likely benefit from some therapy. Maybe even taking a night course in management?

Presumably your staff have the skills you need, otherwise you wouldn't have hired them. They also likely have a good work ethic, as you would've learned pursuing references as well as your own judge of character. The tough part is taking a step back and having faith in them.

Ideally, a manager is there to help the employees do their jobs, not to tell them how to do it. One of the hardest things when you're leading a project or overseeing work is that it's your reputation on the line, and your professionalism and personal pride lead you to invest some of yourself in the work. If the work suffers, then it feels personal. It's hard to separate the work from self sometimes, and to give up a certain amount of control over the outcome.

You mentioned you work in IT. If you're doing development, perhaps take a look at some different development models (e.g. waterfall, agile) and find one that works for you. My sense is that part of the productivity issues are related to that difficulty in scheduling or prioritizing tasks; creating urgency. The right model will help structure your day and create the environment you need.

Involve your team in making decisions as much as you can. You don't have to always go with their recommendations, but one of the biggest complaints employees have with bosses is when they don't feel heard.

Hope these are helpful tips!