Dopamine is a big deal for brains. It transmits important messages around the body like reward systems, movement, thinking and emotion. When the switchboard in our head has a faulty circuit, these messages glitch and don't always fulfill the intended purpose.
Like a rainstorm, stimulant medication is used to flood the brain with the missing dopamine it isn't producing naturally. This reduces fidgeting, impulsive behaviour and low attention spans but isn't a complete cure and should be paired with cognitive therapy/training.
Often my productivity is motivated by the novelty of task switching.
In theory, by switching tasks when the attention span has worn thin, a new shiny challenge will fire up the neurons again. Realistically this can lead to a trail of unfinished tasks.
To combat this I use alternative strategies like noise blocking head phones to ignore the lure of distractions, completing small tasks on days I know my reward system needs extra hits of 'achievement satisfaction' and deferring big tasks for days I can challenge myself.
As an employer, supervisor or peer your involvement is valuable, try;
- assisting with setting shorter deadlines than actually required
- creating a culture that fosters ‘focus periods’
- having regular workload check-ins
- reminding peers of your appreciation for the good work they put in
Thinking out loud
Ever had a hole in the clothes washing machine filter? There's always tiny specks of lint everywhere, impossible to remove! Reflecting on the amount of 'word vomit' my internal filter bypasses, there's always the internal cringe followed, 'why did I say THAT?'
Usually it's because processing information internally before formulating and executing logical responses is corrupted by my faulty switchboard. Once it escapes my mouth – just like the lint – it’s hard to take back.
This malfunction can lead to an alteration of perception, socially awkward moments, sloppy work and displays of out-of-character immaturity in between high functioning proficiency and no longer being viewed as the reliable, trustworthy person suitable for the job.
For neuro-divergent people on the receiving end, the alienation becomes unbearable and the demotivation triggers the urge to change jobs or search for a place to fit in.
Please take a minute to evaluate your own exchanges with colleagues for inclusivity;
- Do you favour conversations with particular people and not others because of common interests?
- Are you giving opportunities for all team members to have input of the discussion?
- Do you show non-dismissive body language (eye contact, engaged facial expressions)?
- Do you notice outliers and make effort to ensure they feel welcome?
- Lastly if you yourself struggle with speaking candidly to peers, are you prepared to work on developing assertive communication to voice uncomfortable topics for your needs to be met?
Performance reviews can be terrifying. For me they feel like school report day because of emotional dysregulation – the inability to control and execute appropriate cognitive functions. It’s a commonly occurring trait with ADHD. When triggered, a normal emotional response becomes an intense and uncontrolled outburst.
We've all sympathised with the parent in the restaurant with a toddler. Stubbornly refusing to eat or running between legs, boisterously shrieking, we accept this as normal behaviour.
As an adult, being sabotaged by emotional dysregulation can limit your professional capacity. I cannot emphasise how distressing and undignified it is fighting for control of emotions around peers.
It isn’t intended to cause drama or harm. It has taken me a long time to understand altercations can be revisited and repaired when I’m in a better position to manage my self-control.
At the heart
I could fill several more pages with experiences and challenges.
Mental illness/disability remains a systemic issue for inequality within workplaces because not all disabilities are physically visible and some yet to be diagnosed.
Please be open minded – some brains are on different operating systems to yours. They are no less valuable to the team and can often surprise with creative solutions to problems no one else thought of.
Being undiagnosed or diagnosed late in life can impact your professional life, including underperformance, motivation loss, micromanagement and lacking the confidence to apply for senior roles.
Education, awareness, and empathy are all key elements to improving company culture and encouraging tolerance towards employees with neurological disorders.
Hana Killoway is a Private Advice Assistant at ANZ