Bully at Work Moody Boss Karma Office Gossip No Picnic Back stabber Plug your Ears Moody Boss

A.D.D. interferes with my ability to change gears

Dear Office-Politics,

This question is similar to the question asked by Stunned and a little Lost. I have attention deficit disorder (A.D.D.) and it interferes with my ability to quickly assess situations and change gears.

I get stuck on what I anticipated as reality rather than regrouping and dealing with the reality at hand. Often, it has to do with my inability to switch focus in an instantaneous manner. It gets me into a lot of trouble because I tend to appear very argumentative and inflexible rather than a good team member.

What strategies can you suggest to help me overcome this communication barrier?


franke james

Dear Trouble-changing-gears,

Your letter strikes close to home. I have first-hand experience dealing with a close family member who has a form of ADD. Attention deficit disorder comes in many flavors, with some people having mild cases, and others, very extreme.

Clearly from your letter, you are able to view your behavior with some objectivity, which bodes well for modifying your responses and adapting to new events.

Let’s rephrase your statement: ‘I get stuck on what I anticipated as reality rather than regrouping and dealing with the reality at hand.’ to put it in a more positive light, ‘I have the ability to focus very intently on solving problems, but when something or someone interferes, it throws my concentration off and I get upset.

I think seeing your behavior in this light is advantageous. Your ability to focus on one task at a time is a strength. But moving into a new activity can be bumpy, and cause friction with others. One technique to help you to switch gears is to consciously think of what is happening. Be in the moment. You were focused on doing your work. Now you are being interrupted. That is annoying (even to people who do not have ADD), and it requires you to do six things:

1. Recognize that you are being interrupted. (Take a deep breath.)

2. Try to listen carefully to what the person is saying: What is the new message? You might want to carry a pen and paper and actually write down the new facts to keep them ordered in your mind. (That will also give you time to process the new information.)

3. Now that you have the new facts, you need to go through different ‘creative-thinking’ scenarios to figure out what is the next best step. There are usually several solutions to any problem. Ideally, you would engage the other person in a dialogue to discuss the pros and cons. But this might not be appropriate, in which case you’ll have to think through the different options in your head. Always keep the shared end goal in mind!

4. Don’t let yourself get so rushed that you speak without thinking. Try to psychologically step back and ask yourself what the goal is, and whether these new facts require a change in strategy.

5. Verbally state the shared goal you and your coworkers are working towards, and how these new facts have helped you to come up with a new solution.

6. Put your plan into action (and get back to work).

Good luck! I hope these tips will help you to stay centered, be productive and be a good team member. Much of this is advice that you already know — but perhaps hearing it from someone else can help to motivate you and give you confidence that it will work. Please let me know if this feedback has been helpful to you!

Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.


Franke James, MFA
Editor & Founder, Office-Politics.com


Franke James, MFA is the Editor & Founder of Office-Politics.com. She is also the Inventor of The Office-Politics® Game a dilemma-based social game that teaches you how to play, and laugh, at office politics. It’s used by HR departments, and corporate trainers worldwide. The Office-Politics Dilemmas have been inspired by the hundreds of letters submitted to Office-Politics.com.

Publication note: This letter was originally published in 2006. We are republishing the best letters from Office-Politics and integrating them with our blog format.

  1. One Answer to “A.D.D. interferes with my ability to change gears”

  2. Feedback from Trouble-changing-gears

    Thank you very much for the advice and positive comments. I will let you know how it helps me as things happen, but I can tell that you gave me wise commentary.

    By Letter Writer on Jun 19, 2007

What's your advice?

(You can also tweet it to @dearOP)