Help! Should I Tell My Boss I Have ADHD?


Dear We Are Teachers,

I was recently diagnosed with ADHD, and it has shed a ton of light on certain behaviors and patterns in my life. I’ve been thinking about letting my boss know about my diagnosis so she can better understand why certain things deeply bother me (like my super-loud AC unit) and how she can support me better (like understanding I might need help prioritizing tasks). Do you think this could help more than hurt, or vice versa?

—Always Doing, Hardly Done

Dear A.D.H.D. (I see what you did there!),

I’m glad that your diagnosis has been helpful to you! It seems like you feel empowered to apply the knowledge of how ADHD affects you in the workplace and advocate for yourself.

Only you can make the judgment call on whether and whom you tell. I know people with ADHD who only tell the people in their closest circles, and I know a fellow teacher* who is very open about his ADHD at school as an advocate for students and himself.

My advice is to consider your comfort level with the implications for sharing your condition.

On one hand, revealing your diagnosis would grant you a certain level of accommodations and support under the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act). An employer might be quicker to get your A/C unit fixed knowing they need to stay ADA compliant. You might inspire other teachers or staff to ask for what they need to perform at their best.

Consider how many people you want to know about your diagnosis too. The teacher I mentioned earlier has had his ADHD weaponized multiple times in contentious parent-teacher conferences. He also wonders whether his openness was a factor in not getting a leadership position he applied for. (An important note: Discrimination based on ADHD is illegal, but some employers may sidestep it by claiming other reasons for rejection.)

Unfortunately, even with the leaps we’ve made as a society acknowledging and protecting people with conditions like ADHD, it’s still stigmatized in some circles. Evaluate whether you feel more comfortable right now as an advocate and pioneer, just sharing it with trusted coworkers, or somewhere in between.  

*Even though he’s anonymous, I have his permission for sharing his experiences.

Dear We Are Teachers,

I was collecting money for our upcoming 5th-grade class field trip in an envelope that I keep in the very back of one of my desk drawers. I had about $180 in it the day before I was out sick and had a substitute. I left a note telling her where it was if a student had money to turn in. When I came back, the envelope was totally empty. I reached out to the sub and she said she has no idea where the money went. None of my students have any idea either. My principal just wants to reimburse the missing money and be done with it, but it really bothers me that I think the sub is going to get away with stealing. What would you do?

—Righteously Indignant

Dear R.I.,

First, thank your lucky stars your principal isn’t making you pay it back yourself.

My next recommendation would be looking at the cameras for students who popped in to grab a forgotten lunch box or binder while the sub was out. Your sub knew where the money was, but she also knew that you knew. You know who also probably saw you get an envelope full of money out from the same location every day? All your students. The ones who still listen to their amygdala.

But if your principal doesn’t want to investigate it any further, you’re kind of stuck. Just take this L and move on.

I will say this too: I don’t suspect kids because I think they’re bad or greedy or any of that other “kids these days” crap. (I am firmly on team Teenagers Forever). Also, I don’t think subs are infallible, as I have walked in on one eating the leftover takeout lunch I was saving … from my personal mini fridge. This is just my hunch as a former teacher and armchair detective.

Now go ask your principal for a lockbox!

Dear We Are Teachers,

I recently got a warning for napping at my desk during my conference period and lunch. I didn’t want to ask my boss but: Why is this a problem? Availability-wise, isn’t it better than going off-campus, which other teachers do all the time during their conference period?  

—ASLEEP ON THE JOB

Dear A.O.T.J.,

As a person who cannot nap, I am both jealous and empathetic. I understand your point, and I think we might be better as a culture and a people if we adopted a regularized rest time in our country beyond preschool.

That said, because the United States is largely not currently a nap-at-work culture, your principal’s issue with your snoozing may be more about the optics than the actual logistics.

Think about it from their perspective: They have a lot of stakeholders in the building at any given time. If a parent volunteer wants to poke their head in and say hi, or if a district administrator wants to tour the school, sleeping at your desk might send a negative message about you or the principal’s leadership. If a student or teacher sees you napping and tells the wrong person, I could easily see them using this (unfairly) against you.

It could also just be logistics. Check your contract. It might list sleeping on the job as a punishable offense.

If napping isn’t forbidden in your contract AND:  

  • You’re getting enough rest at night.
  • A short nap improves your performance for the rest of the day.
  • You’ve had a physical recently to rule out any medical conditions that may make you sleepy.
  • You don’t mind a little boundary-pushing.

I say test out some strategic napping locations not visible from the door. Lock your door. Set a timer. Nap your little heart out during your lunchtime, which most states protect.  

Do you have a burning question? Email us at askweareteachers@weareteachers.com.

Dear We Are Teachers,

I got my master’s in Curriculum and Instruction this past May. I knew it would mean a pay increase and saw the bump on my first paycheck plus our cost-of-living raise this year. This week, I got an email from the district saying they have been overpaying me and because it was my responsibility to report it, they said I can either pay it back or work Saturdays until the debt is paid. What is this nonsense?

—OVERWORKED AND OVERPAID

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