Handling the demands of work can be tough for teens and young adults with executive functioning issues. With every job, they face new people, new routines and new responsibilities. And their old coping strategies may not work with the tasks at hand.
Here are some areas where weak executive functions might cause trouble at work:
Weak spots: Planning, prioritization, time management
Workplace reality: Employers may provide specific job training. But they assume employees know how to plan their time and get their tasks done.
How problems play out: Your child may not know how to attack his assigned projects. He may lose track of time—while working or on a break—and miss deadlines. He may also have a hard time figuring out what tasks should come before others.
For example, your child may be expected to update the company’s email list. But he may not realize that this task should take a backseat to more urgent ones, like printing out reports for the day’s big meeting.
Flexibility and Adaptability
Weak spots: Transitioning, organization, short-term memory
Workplace reality: Work isn’t always predictable. Responsibilities change. Work stations move. Schedules shift.
How problems play out: Your child may not be able to adapt easily. If he’s a kitchen worker, for instance, he may have trouble moving from the salad prep station to the appetizer station, even if both positions use similar skills. In a fast-paced workplace, supervisors might not have the time or patience to help.
Diligence and Detail
Weak spots: Attention, short-term memory, organization
Workplace reality: Employees are paid to be responsible and dependable. They’re expected to be on time, prepared and equipped to do their job.
How problems play out: Parents and teachers may cut some slack for “goof-ups” like losing a book or forgetting to bring a pencil. But a boss will probably be less tolerant. If your child leaves an important flash drive at home or forgets about a meeting, it can make him look bad. It can also reflect badly on his entire team.
Weak spots: Impulse control, self-monitoring
Workplace reality: Work can be frustrating. A boss may be difficult. Things can be rough at home. Still, employees are expected to control their emotions and check their private issues at the door.
How problems play out: Your child might think he’s doing just great on the job. When a supervisor or boss disagrees, however, he may become angry or defensive. Sharing too much or not filtering comments can also be a problem.
For example, he may tell other employees what his therapist said at his last session. Or he might be too blunt. That could mean telling a coworker, “The way you’re stacking those shelves looks ugly. You should do it my way.”
You can’t advocate for your child when he’s on the job the way you did when he was at school. But there’s still a lot you can do to help.
Take steps to help ease your child’s transition to work. Help him adjust the organizational skills he learned for school to his new job. And encourage him to make a list of supervisors and coworkers he can turn to for help.
You may also want to discuss with him the pros and cons of disclosing his executive functioning issues to his employer. She may be able to provide accommodations that can help him succeed.