To Manager: How to handle a new ADHD employee

First thing is to make sure your new employee with ADHD and not another disorder or something else like drug use like someone has suggested. Has he approached your or HR about accommodations or does he just say “I have ADHD”? There are many who claim it because ADHD has a good reputation in high-tech and an image of non-conformity. If he refuses to provide proof of diagnosis and treatment of ADHD then fire him.

Regardless, you’ll be working with other ADHDers in the future and you will find us passionate about our work and among the best and brightest.

Communicate, challenge and hold accountable. Clearly defining what is expected and what will get him fired will give him a domain to perform and assist him to acclimatize to the job. Write it down; these boundaries may be obvious to you but probably not to him, especially just coming out of school.
Find out what he does to manage his ADHD traits. If he got through school he already has methods to deal with any challenge you can give him.

I developed a reputation of being able to be handed a big mess and the ability to sort it out and develop a good solution independently. For success I learned that I required a good definition of what the end result should be either a work breakout line item or a contract requirement, and a schedule.

Agile development envisioning and scrums might be a good approach for this guy to get aligned with the team. Having a user story and a daily check-in will provide the “scaffolding” needed to avoid “rabbit trails” and “space outs”.

A quick informal ADHD friendly format:
User story:
As a developer I will develop (feature) in order to (function) so that (stakeholder defined goal).

Answer 3 questions
1. What I did yesterday
2. What I am doing today
3. What is blocking me?

The user story communicates what feature and why which will give opportunity for engagement and big-picture understanding. Defining the end result will help with direction. The user story is aligned with the team’s direction and also describes work for two weeks at a time. Any longer risks getting off track.

The three questions get your ADHDer aware of what is happening now.

I use this approach both professionally and personally. I scrum with my wife over breakfast every morning.

Why I suggest this:

If you give an ADHDer a laundry list of things that are unrelated, e.g. assign a handful of issues on bug tracker, then he may not know where to start, how long should it take, when to ask for help etc. This can be a big rabbit hole and the direction he decides to take may not be aligned with the team’s direction.

The two week duration is also good for the time perception of ADHDers. We have two times, NOW and NOT NOW. You can be firm about what work is being done NOW. Define what is NOT NOW to reduce distractions. Refer back to user stories and the points to be worked on today. It might sound a little micro-managey but it actually reminding him of agreed on work, which you are paying him for.
More things you may find:

Getting him to show up at a specific time every morning may not be worth the amount of effort and aggravation. In my career I did not have to show up at a specific time every morning unless there was a meeting. It was made clear that I put in the hours. As a response to working hour flexibility I happily put in way more hours than others. If I was on-task I didn’t want to stop.

He will have periods of low-productivity and this is the downside of the ADHD superpowers. You will probably be able to tell and be on the lookout for bugs and divert him to binary tasks if possible. I really haven’t found a way to always be “on my game” but have learned not to keep banging my head against this wall. When we are “off” then we can screw up even the most basic tasks. When we are “on” we can do amazing things and it more than makes up for any lost time.

Inconsistencies in performance makes unit testing vital. He probably knows when to be more vigilant on error checking. Be clear on coding standards.
Thank you for seeking out how to work with ADHDers. You will reap the benefits and probably enjoy the experience.

If you have any other questions you can ask me directly on this forum.

One of the biggest things ADHDers are known for is being “on” or “off” with no in between.

Just like any true superpower the ADHD Superpower has a weakness and that is inconsistency. We can be kicking butt one moment and a little while later it’s like we’ve lost all ability and power. Pick any Superhero or Greek God and you’ll find this is also true.

When we are on we are unstoppable and we can find it just as hard to stop as it is to sometimes get ourselves going.

It is important to have people around us recognize the good is outstandingly good and help us make the bad not a big deal. My personal approach is to do this with myself. When I do this I find a heck of a lot of awesome things…except for my keys…squirrel.