Everyone with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is different. Some people may fit the generic stereotype of a ‘problem child’ who was constantly in trouble or hounded by their teachers for not trying enough.
Others are like me. Not diagnosed until I was an adult, I wasn’t a stereotypical case and I slipped through the net. I didn’t misbehave, but I was frequently unmotivated and emotionally impulsive.
Below are some of the things I feel affect me day to day working in PR as a student that may affect those with ADHD elsewhere in the industry and how employers, teachers and colleagues can help those with ADHD.
We are all helpless to being distracted from time to time, but if you suffer from ADHD you can often find yourself distracted even when you don’t want to be.
Often a lecturer or client can be talking to you and your mind becomes distracted by the people passing in the window, or what the student next to you is doing on their laptop.
While you’re probably aware that people with ADHD have trouble focusing on tasks that aren’t interesting to them, you may not know that there’s another side: a tendency to become absorbed in tasks that are stimulating and rewarding. This paradoxical symptom is called hyperfocus.
In a PR environment when I study a module I am interested in, or work on a campaign that catches my attention I can often become hyperfocused. This can be great for my work, it means I remain focused for long hours and can often get a whole assignment done in a day with few errors to amend.
However, there are some downsides to this if we let hyperfocus take control of us.
People with ADHD often get bogged down in fine details. I could be working on a PR campaign and spend half of my day focusing on a problem that is relatively minor and leave myself little time to finish more important client needs. Hyperfocus is a balancing game in a work environment that with time becomes controllable.
Trouble getting organised
For people with ADHD, the responsibilities of adulthood – including bills, jobs, and children, to name a few – can make problems with organisation more obvious and more problematic than in childhood.
In a PR environment this can be particularly challenging. PR is a fast paced environment, requiring you to work on many tasks at once with multiple deadlines to meet. I can often find myself with ten alarms on set on my phone, while files and sticky notes cover my desk that resembles a bombsite.
How can I help?
Whether you’re in a senior position or not, if you work with someone who has ADHD there are number of things you can do to help those with the condition. In turn this can work for you, it’s well known that many people with ADHD are often highly intelligent but disrupted by their symptoms.
Keep our brains on track
The ADD/ADHD brain is something that never stops. It’s always moving from one task to another, this can be hard for a colleague or manager to handle.
Find things that keep up with our non-stop brain. Give us a project that you know will interest us, and if you don’t know are interests then talk to us!
Find out what interests us and roll with it! If you do this, you will see a side you didn’t expect to see from us.
We’re listening but you may not think so
This is pretty typical of a person with ADHD. I promise you, we are listening to you, but after about the first ten words, our minds can find themselves in la-la-land. We still hear you talking, see you talking, and understand that what you have to say is probably very important.
I think the best way to avoid this is involve us more. Let us talk, let us make suggestions. Ask us questions about how what you said makes us feel. By doing this, you’ll not only be keeping our interest, but you’ll make us feel engaged and that our comments and opinions mean something.
Cut to the chase
If you have something to tell us, just tell us. Many people with ADHD are prone to emotional outbursts.
If you want to cause one, beat around the bush, there’s nothing we hate more. When it comes to discipline, a new project you want us to do, not doing our daily job tasks correctly, whatever it may be. Just say it, don’t hint around. If you’re up front with us, you’ll have the best performing team in the workplace.
People with ADHD can be great additions to a PR environment
People with ADHD can bring energy, enthusiasm and new perspectives to your team.
For example, when we are engaged in work that is interesting to us, our energy can provide us with an ability to “hyperfocus.” While people with ADHD may find it hard to concentrate on some activities, we can also focus intently on tasks or subjects that interest them.
We are often bright, energetic and creative people who have found innovative ways to overcome a lifetime of challenges. This also means that we are aware that people are different and need different things to succeed. Consequently, it makes us very compassionate, generous individuals and excellent additions to a PR team.
Jack Moorcroft is a second year student studying Public Relations with Politics at Edge Hill University