Attention deficit disorder, the often controversial illness usually associated with unruly or underperforming school children, has made its way into the workplace. But before you install Ritalin dispensers in the lunchroom, consider a few points.
What causes ADD?
Opinions vary, depending on who you ask.
ADD is a controversial diagnosis with kids, and its now being applied to adults, says Robert Schleser, professor of psychology at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Schleser and his associates study an individuals environment as the possible cause of trouble, instead of targeting physiology.
People have symptoms that are consistent with the diagnosis, says Schleser. Some believe it is highly overdiagnosed.
One group says ADD is a physical disorder within the person, while Schleser says everyone has it to some extent, and the environment they are in can cause the symptomsdistractibility, lack of concentration, physical restlessness or generally being antsy.
People put in a boring repetitive routine, such as school or assembly lines, are more likely to show signs of ADD.
Helping someone with ADD
If you know that boring, routine situations elicit symptoms in anybody, the solutions are obvious: Create a lively, varied environment in the workplace.
Try to fit your demands to the abilities people have, notes Schleser. ADD doesnt make them nonproductive, they just approach work differently. Some can sit down and work on the same task for two hours, while other need to switch to another task every 15 or 20 minutes, then come back to the original task.
Working on multiple projects at once may be the strength of someone with ADD, but it doesnt make them invulnerable from missing deadlines. Make sure they understand the priority of each project and establish clear deadlines.
While rotating jobs may seem like it will result in a loss of efficiency, if the employee is staying focused, it will actually result in an increase, says Schleser. Some people work well on one task for a day, while others can only focus for a few hours. Its not just those diagnosed with ADD, the symptoms are universal.
We come from a tradition of mass production and standardizationproduct lines and assembly lines. We like to line up people in columns and rows. That doesnt reflect what we know about humans. We are more efficient if you are flexible to their work style and their learning style. If someone is having trouble, dont automatically assume they cant fit in and go replace them. If they have value, look at what you can do to accommodate them.