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Is Your Underperforming Employee Incompetent or is it AADD.
By Rick Johnson
Sunday, 6th May 2007
 
AADD – Adult Attention Deficit Disorder is often difficult to understand -

This is especially true when it exists in one of your key employees. It may often be disguised as peer relationship problems, moodiness, forgetfulness, lack of commitment, complacency and even substance abuse.

Now for the disclaimer --- I am not a medical doctor nor do I profess to be an expert on AADD. The objective of this article is simply to bring to your attention that erratic, unusual and unacceptable behavior can sometimes be related to a medical condition that often is overlooked.

This condition is called Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. If this article suggests any familiarity of circumstance with any of your employees then seek a professional medical opinion.

It's Not Just For Kids

Mistakenly, people have believed that ADD was a childhood condition that often disappeared at the onset of adulthood. That is not always the case. It has been proven that ADD often persists into adulthood and can have a dramatic impact on an employee's performance at work. It has been reported that more than 50% of children diagnosed with ADD carry the condition well into their adult lives.

However, ADD in adults is difficult to recognize. Sometimes when an employee has difficulty starting a task, staying focused and following through it is simply considered poor performance or incompetence. The inability to pay attention for long periods of time is a common symptom of ADD. The inability to complete assignments, lack of organization and talking excessively are also common symptoms. It is easy to understand why this behavior is often interpreted as plain old poor performance.

However, other symptoms for ADD often occur in addition to those behaviors that may mislead us. Other symptoms include a lack of self control, poor memory, anxiety, depression, punctuality, poor attendance and inconsistent emotional behavior.

If one of your underperforming employees has ADD and it has not been recognized or treated, it is likely that this employee will also demonstrate a very low self esteem. They may seem to be lazy and feel like they are not as smart as everybody else.

Be careful of Assumptions

Don't make assumptions. If you have a valuable employee that you suspect is not living up to your expectations you might want to consider asking them to be tested. However, before you make that leap you might want to check with legal counsel.

For the individual employee, being diagnosed with ADD means finally having an explanation for many of the challenges your employee has been experiencing. You must be careful though, because an explanation is not an excuse.  An excuse can be defined as "a justification used to obtain forgiveness."  Employees still must perform and they must take responsibility for their performance.

A Matter of Choice and Treatment

Just because an employee has been diagnosed with AADD doesn't mean he is relieved of the responsibility to live up to the expectations of the job. On the contrary you now know the reason for past performance which allows the employee the opportunity to make the right choices regarding personal performance.

They are no longer simply victims. This means they must learn to manage their AADD through treatment, positive attitude and choice. It will take time, patience on your part and the employee's part and it will take persistence and practice.

There are medications available to treat AADD. Additionally, behavior modification principles administered through coaching and counseling can be very effective.

Seek professional advice. It is important to recognize that there is help available and treatment is easily attainable. The employee should find comfort in knowing that their problems are related to a medical condition and they are not incompetent, stupid or lazy.

Is It Really Worth It?  Why Not Just Terminate Employment?

Good question. The answer isn't simple. The answer is that it depends. It depends on your company values, your values, integrity, your moral convictions, the values and integrity of the employee and any number of other considerations.

So, if you find yourself in a situation that may lead you to believe you are facing a potential case of AADD, dig deep and look at your personal convictions because in the end only you can decide what the right thing to do is.

Rick Johnson, expert speaker, wholesale distribution's "Leadership Strategist", founder of CEO Strategist, LLC a firm that helps clients create and maintain competitive advantage. E-mail rick@ceostrategist.com  or visit www.ceostrategist.com
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