8 common ways people struggle at work — and why

Maybe you’re like me — often struggling to do the simplest things at work, which other people seem to have no trouble doing. Things like remembering what your upcoming meeting is about. Or having a new task to do and not knowing where to start. 

At my old job, I constantly thought my co-workers were better and smarter than I was, because they didn’t have the same difficulties. At least they didn’t appear to.

I now know that my struggles were related in some way to my and trouble with executive function. This is a group of skills that let us get things done. I also have dyslexia.

Here are eight common workplace struggles I’ve faced — and the challenges behind them. (If any of these resonate with you, scroll to the bottom to get more information on specific challenges.)

1. Often missing deadlines or feeling behind 

My previous job was in research, and there were always deadlines. It felt like no matter how many hours I worked (including overtime), I constantly needed extensions. I often got lost down a rabbit hole of researching random things and didn’t realize how much time it was taking up. I was always scrambling and feeling stressed. 

Now I know that I have trouble with time management. It’s related to difficulty with executive skills like organization, planning, and prioritizing.

2. Getting distracted  

I can tell myself that for the next hour, I’ll work on the project that’s due that afternoon. But then an email notification pops up, and I’ll find myself cleaning out my inbox for 15 minutes. Any disruption or distraction, from co-workers chatting next to me to a quick bathroom break, can really derail my work and make it hard to get back into it. 

This kind of distractibility is common for people with ADHD.

3. Not remembering key information 

Often, I’d be in a meeting, and someone would ask me to recall information from the previous meeting I’d been in. I’d just stare into space because I couldn’t remember the details. This is a problem with . It can also show up when someone brings supplies out of the stockroom and doesn’t remember what they’re supposed to do with them.

4. Starting tasks but struggling to complete them

The problem I was constantly fighting at work was boredom. Starting a new task was very exciting. I had fresh ideas and energy, and I’d put the hours into making it happen. But I could never finish the projects properly, because I didn’t want to do the boring parts of the work. I’d push myself through, but I often made sloppy mistakes. 

For other people, trouble starting and finishing tasks isn’t about getting bored. They may struggle with the skills needed to get through tasks. 

5. Having a hard time communicating or knowing what other people mean

I found it difficult to socialize with people at work. I often was confused about what they were talking about, especially if they were making sarcastic jokes or referring to topics that I didn’t understand.

My brain takes longer to process what I hear. But trouble communicating can also be caused by difficulty with language.

6. Being slower to get things done

I have slower processing speed than other people. Especially if I’m reading and listening to the information. Once, in a training, I couldn’t take in and make sense of all the information fast enough to complete a task. That was the start of my imposter syndrome and feeling like I wasn’t good enough for my job. 

Processing speed isn’t an executive function skill, but it’s related to executive function.

7. Easily getting upset when things don’t go well 

Managing emotions was very difficult for me at work. I remember once meeting with my performance manager. I thought I was doing well, but I found out I wasn’t up to the level that I needed to be. I cried so much that I had to leave the room, so we couldn’t have a constructive conversation. I’ve since learned that trouble managing emotions is common with ADHD. 

8. Being disorganized and often misplacing things 

My storage cabinets at work were always messy, with files and random letters dumped in a heap in the drawers. On my computer, files were never organized neatly, either. I could never locate anything quickly. Having trouble with organization meant using up a lot of valuable time looking for things.

I still have a hard time with some of these skills. But I’ve found strategies to help with many of them. Knowing that learning and thinking differences were behind my challenges made a big difference, too.

More information on what can cause workplace challenges

Many of the challenges I talked about are related in some way to ADHD — things like distraction and getting upset easily. If you can relate, see this list of signs of ADHD, and learn about the connection between ADHD and emotions.

I also talked a lot about executive function challenges, which all people with ADHD struggle with. Learn more about specific executive function difficulties, like:

And last, learn about other common causes of workplace challenges:

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