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Old 02-01-05, 11:36 PM
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The ADD Dilemma

The ADD Dilemma

Some eight million Americans have attention deficit disorder. One of them may work for you. Or be you.

From: Inc. Magazine, February 2005 | Page 30 By: David Dent
In many ways, Dan seems like a perfect employee. He's energetic, full of ideas, and loves to brainstorm. "You put a paper clip in front of me and I'll come up with a ton of ideas about how we can use it," he boasts. But Dan (who asked that his last name not be used) admits that he can be a real pain for his managers. He'll become so enthusiastic that he interrupts his colleagues or fails to let them talk at all. In a 20-year career in marketing, he's dazzled colleagues with proposals for new products. But he's always had problems following through. So a year ago, a therapist suggested Dan get screened for attention deficit disorder. The test came back positive.

An estimated eight million Americans have ADD, and one of them might work for you -- or, for that matter, be you (see "The ADD-Small Biz Connection," page 32). The condition is roughly where depression was in the early 1990s: Awareness is mounting and the condition is coming out of the closet. Indeed, when ADD emerged as a distinct condition in the late 1980s, it wasn't even considered a problem for adults; psychiatrists believed adolescents would outgrow it once their brains matured. But according to Edward N. Hallowell, author of Driven to Distraction, one of the first books to document ADD in adults, 60% of children with ADD carry the condition into adulthood -- and into the workplace.

It's not uncommon for corporate America, where large human resources departments are the norm, to contract with coaches and counselors to help workers with ADD. For the most part, smaller businesses have yet to respond. But ignoring the problem is getting to be less and less of an option. Attention deficit disorder is now covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act. That means that firms with 15 or more employees are required by federal guidelines to make "reasonable accommodations" for people with ADD, just as they would for any other disability.

That does not have to be bad for your business. Attention deficit disorder does not affect one's cognitive abilities. The brains of adults with ADD, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, simply use less energy in the regions that regulate attention and motor activity. As a result, those with ADD often find it difficult to focus on mundane subjects for an extended period of time. They also tend to be easily distracted, impulsive, and disorganized. On the other hand, people with ADD often become hyperfocused when working on matters of intense interest. "I've worked with many people who, once they discover the disorder and put a program in place, really discover their talents and soar," says Frank Coppola, a therapist and ADD coach in New York City.

Dan, who now works as a VP of business development for a Santa Barbara design firm, says his own awareness of the condition has changed everything. He now carries a digital tape recorder with him at all times to record his ideas, which keeps him from pestering others. "I listen back later," he says. "Some of the ideas are great and I present them." He also has set up his computer to send reminders to keep him from getting sidetracked. "It reminds me to get back on task if I am doodling or starting a new project," he says. Still, Dan remains in the closet. He works on his condition in private, with a therapist. "Telling my boss," he fears, "might change the way he looks at me."

In fact, penalizing or otherwise stigmatizing an employee for having ADD could land you in legal trouble. And accommodating ADD is neither difficult nor expensive. For Dick Bickford, national sales manager at Fischer Connectors, a manufacturer of electronic connectors for the medical and military industries, it was simply a matter of asking for a flexible schedule. Rather than working the standard day, Bickford, who was diagnosed with ADD 10 years ago, now works longer hours but takes frequent breaks. "If you perform, a good boss should be open to helping you," he says.

The problem for employers is that even if you see the telltale signs of ADD, you are restricted by law from asking employees if they have the condition. According to the Americans With Disabilities Act, it is the responsibility of the employee to inform you; then it's up to you to take steps to put "reasonable" accommodations in place. What's reasonable? A longer day so an employee can take frequent breaks is common. So is flextime. Others invest in computer programs that send reminders about meetings and deadlines.

Most adults with ADD remain undiagnosed. "This puts the employer in a tough position," says Dave Giwerc, an ADD coach in Slingerlands, N.Y. (Business owners cannot be held responsible for not aiding an employee who has not divulged the condition.) Even when they have been diagnosed, problems can arise. Ed Macomb, owner of Global Contacts, a New York City-based oil supply company, found himself in such a position. He had hired an assistant who had ADD but did not reveal it. Macomb found that the company was not receiving payments from many clients. He personally called a few to complain and they all said the same thing: We never received your invoice. Macomb reprimanded the assistant, who eventually resigned. A few weeks later, Macomb ran into one of the assistant's relatives, who told him she had ADD but often failed to take her medication. "If I had known," Macomb says, "I might have been able to help her."

Sidebar: The ADD-Small Biz Connection

Thomas Edison probably had it. So did Walt Disney and Henry Ford. More recently, David Neeleman, CEO of JetBlue, has publicly acknowledged his ADD. In fact, ADD often is associated with positive traits that can make a good entrepreneur, says David Giwerc, who, after being diagnosed with the condition 10 years ago, launched an ADD coaching business that targets entrepreneurs. Giwerc, who also serves as president of the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, spoke to Inc. about the link between ADD and entrepreneurship.

Q: Why are people with ADD disproportionately drawn to owning their own business?

A: These are generally people who do not work well in typical environments. But not only can people with ADD pay attention, they can also hyperfocus with super-intense levels of concentration. At some point in the start of any business, you need someone who can do that.

Q: But doesn't any good business require some kind of structure?

A: Entrepreneurs with ADD create a structure and an environment that works the way they do. For example, I do a lot of my thinking while I'm moving. So I've put a headset on and conducted meetings while I'm on a treadmill. I couldn't do that at a corporation. They would think I was nuts.

Q: Does ADD make people better entrepreneurs?

A: I don't know if I can say better. But I can say they can be very effective entrepreneurs -- if they understand their ADD. It can also make you a horrible entrepreneur -- one that never gets past first base -- if you don't understand it. If you're in an environment that is not supportive, ADD is not going to manifest in a good way.

http://www.inc.com/magazine/20050201/managing.html
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Old 05-13-07, 01:19 PM
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Hi, Tara
I really appreciate reading this article. But you know, somebody has to be functionally running things in a work environment whether traditional or entrepreneurial. And I have no faith that though the boss be head of state, that they are they ones pulling off the successes. I work at a nonprofit that has been rendered virtually extinct. Why? Because of the presence of someone in supervisory capacity who has ADD. No matter how hard I tried to point this out, people felt it was just a personal thing between me and her. Unfortunately, we only had 10 employees so could not take advantage of the law. She is gone now, and we have crashed down to a staff of four. The convoluted mess created was as a result of her five year tenure. Hopefully, the organization can recover. There seems to be community support for it. We have an upcoming general board meeting to which the community is invited. Nominations to the board are being taken. Guess who is expected to nominate herself now that she is no longer a staff member. And guess who will be at that board meeting to oppose it? Unfortunately, though I may have this article in hand, I won't be able to play it. ADD is a hard thing to get across to others at such a moment. It will be a lot easier to stand on the results of her track record: embezzlement, misappropriation of funds, kickbacks, etc. And I know she was not considering such tags as she engaged in the self-serving stimuli that thrilled her every moment. She has a brilliant mind. But until she comes to accept and deal with her own ADD, everybody and every thing is at risk.
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Old 05-30-08, 02:40 PM
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Re: The ADD Dilemma

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Originally Posted by GettingBy2 View Post
Hi, Tara
I really appreciate reading this article. But you know, somebody has to be functionally running things in a work environment whether traditional or entrepreneurial. And I have no faith that though the boss be head of state, that they are they ones pulling off the successes. I work at a nonprofit that has been rendered virtually extinct. Why? Because of the presence of someone in supervisory capacity who has ADD. No matter how hard I tried to point this out, people felt it was just a personal thing between me and her. Unfortunately, we only had 10 employees so could not take advantage of the law. She is gone now, and we have crashed down to a staff of four. The convoluted mess created was as a result of her five year tenure. Hopefully, the organization can recover. There seems to be community support for it. We have an upcoming general board meeting to which the community is invited. Nominations to the board are being taken. Guess who is expected to nominate herself now that she is no longer a staff member. And guess who will be at that board meeting to oppose it? Unfortunately, though I may have this article in hand, I won't be able to play it. ADD is a hard thing to get across to others at such a moment. It will be a lot easier to stand on the results of her track record: embezzlement, misappropriation of funds, kickbacks, etc. And I know she was not considering such tags as she engaged in the self-serving stimuli that thrilled her every moment. She has a brilliant mind. But until she comes to accept and deal with her own ADD, everybody and every thing is at risk.

I understand you concern with of someone with ADD or ADHD running a business, It can be overwhelming trying to keep up with them. It can also create tremendous messes with very important paper work.

I understand this because of the way I failed while managing a store. we had the highest level of sales within a three state region for 6 mths straight after opening. The bad part of this is at the time I was not aware of being ADHD. Had I known at the time, I would have been able to deligate the appropriate tasks to other more capable people, and the store would have remained a top store. Unforunatley for me and the employees of that store I didn't know. The store ended up dropping in performance due to my lack of writing performance reviews. I was lucky enough to realize that it was my fault and I resigned from the position. I now delegate these tasks that i am not good at out to others. But with my ability to raise the level of energy and mood in a store far surpasses that of anyone else in the company I work for now. ADD can be a burden on some, but with the right help and support it could bring a company from failing to far exceeding its goals. Of course that is just my opinion.
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Old 07-04-08, 06:54 AM
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Re: The ADD Dilemma

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Originally Posted by GettingBy2 View Post
Hi, Tara
I really appreciate reading this article. But you know, somebody has to be functionally running things in a work environment whether traditional or entrepreneurial. And I have no faith that though the boss be head of state, that they are they ones pulling off the successes. I work at a nonprofit that has been rendered virtually extinct. Why? Because of the presence of someone in supervisory capacity who has ADD. No matter how hard I tried to point this out, people felt it was just a personal thing between me and her. Unfortunately, we only had 10 employees so could not take advantage of the law. She is gone now, and we have crashed down to a staff of four. The convoluted mess created was as a result of her five year tenure. Hopefully, the organization can recover. There seems to be community support for it. We have an upcoming general board meeting to which the community is invited. Nominations to the board are being taken. Guess who is expected to nominate herself now that she is no longer a staff member. And guess who will be at that board meeting to oppose it? Unfortunately, though I may have this article in hand, I won't be able to play it. ADD is a hard thing to get across to others at such a moment. It will be a lot easier to stand on the results of her track record: embezzlement, misappropriation of funds, kickbacks, etc. And I know she was not considering such tags as she engaged in the self-serving stimuli that thrilled her every moment. She has a brilliant mind. But until she comes to accept and deal with her own ADD, everybody and every thing is at risk.
ADDers are great at management because we think 'big picture' and can look ahead while others who are detailed oriented think in the 'now', if she did have ADD she'd probably would have seen what was coming before you all did. She probably isn't ADD, but has very similar characteristics of an ADDer
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Old 07-04-08, 06:59 AM
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Re: The ADD Dilemma

Thanks that was a very helpful article.
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Old 07-04-08, 09:06 AM
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Re: The ADD Dilemma

as long as there's someone else to fill out the forms, I am capable of anything.
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Old 07-08-08, 03:15 PM
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Re: The ADD Dilemma

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Originally Posted by GettingBy2 View Post
I work at a nonprofit that has been rendered virtually extinct. Why? Because of the presence of someone in supervisory capacity who has ADD.
Having ADD in itself doesn't tell you what a person is or isn't capable of doing, any more than what not having ADD says about a person's competence (absolutely nothing). There are incapable and irresponsible people with and without ADD. Why should it be assumed that those of them who have it represent the entire spectrum of people with ADD any more than those who don't represent the entire spectrum of "normal" people? The way you phrase your post, one should assume that the presence in supervisory capacity of anyone who has ADD is automatically a recipe for disaster, or that any disaster can solely and securely be attributed to the disorder. The symptoms present themselves differently in every person, and not every character trait, positive or negative, stems from them. The problem was the presence of someone who was not fit for the job, period, and whether the disorder contributed or not is a separate issue.
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Old 07-08-08, 03:45 PM
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Re: The ADD Dilemma

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as long as there's someone else to fill out the forms, I am capable of anything.
Unfortunately, in my line of business (taxes) I do not only get to call the shots, but I also fill in the forms.
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Old 12-26-10, 02:26 PM
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Re: The ADD Dilemma

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Originally Posted by katja View Post
having add in itself doesn't tell you what a person is or isn't capable of doing, any more than what not having add says about a person's competence (absolutely nothing). There are incapable and irresponsible people with and without add. Why should it be assumed that those of them who have it represent the entire spectrum of people with add any more than those who don't represent the entire spectrum of "normal" people? The way you phrase your post, one should assume that the presence in supervisory capacity of anyone who has add is automatically a recipe for disaster, or that any disaster can solely and securely be attributed to the disorder. The symptoms present themselves differently in every person, and not every character trait, positive or negative, stems from them. The problem was the presence of someone who was not fit for the job, period, and whether the disorder contributed or not is a separate issue.
very well put thank you for that post i feel the same way
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Old 12-26-10, 02:35 PM
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Re: The ADD Dilemma

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The problem was the presence of someone who was not fit for the job, period, and whether the disorder contributed or not is a separate issue.
Kat, this was an excelletnt point. I was released from my postition as a technical writer about a year ago. I was not a "fit" for this type of job. The invovled very long projects, about 3 months long. There was so much planning and researching boring technical documents. I struggled knowing what to put into a current document. It seems as though commonality is a majore problem among companies today. There may be one person who believes that this is a way that soemthing should be done and there are others who have opposing opinions in that regard.

This was also a sit down job for me, so it was really hard to stay awake let alone document a procedure which involved multiple steps to complete. I was always wondering if I was on the right track or not.
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Old 12-26-10, 03:02 PM
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Re: The ADD Dilemma

This is an excellent letter that helps me figure out how to deal with my situation. The good news about being diagnosed with ADD is that everything is starting to make sense for me now. Lots of things. I invent or develop so much so fast people can't keep up with what I'm doing. On the other hand, they laugh at me because I can't keep track of anything. Insults such as "Lazy bum", "sloppy idiot", and "just do it right for once" have come at me for decades. Mainly, because I don't know how to use a filing cabinet correctly. To me, it's a terrifying monster who has won every battle we've fought. I am trying to figure out how to work within the corporate world system, but it's very hard.

So, yes, I understand why ADDers tend to create their own companies.
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Old 01-16-12, 06:56 AM
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Re: The ADD Dilemma

Please, please, please I am dying to work for myself! Working on it ++ hard the last six months. I know I will get there. Glad to hear I am in good company. Thanks for the brilliant article Tara!
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