As a licensed mental health counselor I work with many clients who come to me for a variety of issues. One of the most common issues I see, however, is professional men who struggle in their careers due to ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) tendencies or more specifically what is often termed as “executive functioning.” Many people can easily recognize hyperactivity and impulsivity, people who struggle with these specific ADHD tendencies will squirm or fidget a lot, have trouble keeping still in general, cannot keep quiet for long periods of time, blurt out answers or interrupt others and are overly talkative in social situations.
What about the professional white collar man who does not? Yet, these same men may have difficulty coming to work on time, completing projects, are always late to meetings or forget about appointments. These men also suffer from ADHD but more specifically a collection of issues often observed within attention deficit sufferers, referred to as “executive functioning” (EF). No one specific definition of EF exists but many neuropsychological experts agree that it is a brain based issue which hinders the ability to plan ahead, manage multiple responsibilities, as well flexibility in problem solving.
Since many of the professional men I work with have college degrees and make a good living, it is clear that many of them have developed various coping skills over the years to deal with ADHD issues such inattention and distractibility while in college. They may have had others who held them accountable or taken longer to graduate due to taking fewer classes during the academic year. Also, some of my clients worked in a highly structured institution such as the military, where severe external consequences existed for noncompliance of organizational rules and regulations.
As these same men leave the stability and predictability of these institutions, problems slowly take shape though. In the professional corporate world of work, one is expected to be highly organized, self-motivated and above all: consistent. Men who struggle with EF issues cannot maintain consistency and have trouble with unpredictability (such as scheduling and keeping last minute appointments). A professional can spot these issues by asking various questions about a person’s work history (e.g. multiple positions in a short period of time), relationships at work (i.e. is he highly respected for his work product), as well as his relationship with his supervisor (again, well respected or turbulent). Many times, these professional clients of mine will externalize for a while, blaming the company, co-workers or supervisors for issues around their tardiness, inability to complete a work project, forgetting appointments or just plain procrastinating. At some point, many of these of professionals realize that something is amiss with their way of doing things and need help.
The good news is that help does indeed exist for issues around poor EF. Many times what these professionals need is effective organizational skills, time management aids, and a neutral third party to hold them accountable for their actions, as well as encourage positive change. Men with these issues should look for a counselor or coach with specific ADHD clinical treatment experience. CHADD (Children and Adults with ADHD), a national non-profit organization dedicated to the understanding of ADHD list resources and local treatment providers who can help, their website is: http://www.chadd.org