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1 in 7 neurodivergent project managers are not telling employers about their condition – APM research reveals

One in seven project managers who consider themselves to be neurodivergent have not informed their employer about their condition, according to a new survey by the Association for Project Management (APM), the chartered membership organisation for the project profession.

The research also found that 40% have not disclosed their neurodivergence to their managers because they would feel uncomfortable doing so.

APM surveyed over 1,000 project professionals working in various sectors across the UK in the poll carried out by national research company Censuswide.

Over 300 (31%) considered themselves to be neurodivergent which includes conditions such as autism, ADHD and dyslexia.

Of these, when asked if their employer was aware of their neurodivergence, almost 50 respondents (15%) answered no. Another 78% said yes and 7% did not wish to disclose this information.

Women were more likely than men to have not informed their employer (23% and 14% respectively) and respondents aged 45-54 were the least likely age group to disclose their condition (19%).

When asked for their reasons why they had not notified their employer about their neurodivergence, 40% agreed with the statement:

‘I’ve chosen not to tell them because I don’t feel comfortable’. Another 23% said ‘I don’t see the point in doing so’, 25% said ‘I haven’t got around to it, but I intend to’, and 12% said ‘I don’t have an official diagnosis’.

Meanwhile, the survey also found that 81% of employers have made changes to the workplace or ways of working to accommodate the individual’s neurodivergence after being informed, but one in eight (11.5%) have not. Another 7% preferred not to say and 0.5% said they did not know.

Professor Adam Boddison OBE, Chief Executive of APM, said:

“Organisations which embrace neurodivergence not only foster a culture of inclusivity and send out a powerful message that people with neurological differences are valued, but also benefit from unique strengths and perspectives that contribute to creativity, problem-solving and increased productivity. It can also unlock valuable insights into customers and stakeholders, leading to improved services and outcomes. Diversity in all its guises adds value to organisations.

“Our research shows one in three project professionals are considered to be neurodivergent, which is a significant proportion, but of slight concern is that 15% have not told their employer yet. ‘Feeling uncomfortable’ and ‘not seeing the point’ are common barriers that need to be overcome but most employers do make suitable changes once informed, which is a positive sign.

“Overall, the importance of encouraging a neurodivergent workforce cannot be overstated. Individuals must feel empowered and supported to do their best work, and once employers have created optimal conditions, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated, leading to higher levels of job satisfaction, retention rates and overall success.”

The survey also found that business owners (63%) were also far more likely to have neurodivergence than any other job title, compared to 17% of middle managers/professionals, 19% of junior managers/professionals and 37% of directors.

Jenny McLaughlin, a Project Manager at Heathrow Airport, who has ADHD and dyslexia, described the survey’s findings as being a helpful snapshot of neurodiversity for the project profession to help shape workplace considerations and attitudes, and to ensure equity within project management.

“Many neurodivergent individuals have experienced barriers and discrimination in some form. But as a project professional, you can provide the mandate to create a more systematic inclusive world – it is a challenge to relish,” said Jenny, who leads on ‘systematic inclusion’ for Heathrow Airport’s solutions function.

“I believe it is important to demonstrate the strengths I have are because of my ADHD and dyslexia, not despite them. Being given the right conditions to work in is critical to bringing the best out of everyone.”

Jenny said that neurodiversity represents “the fact that all of our brains are wired differently, as unique as a fingerprint”.

“There is no one right way to be wired, but society has been constructed to favour the majority, or neurotypical, which creates barriers to those of us who think differently,” she added.

“The fact that neurodivergent brains think differently means that often we approach projects through a variety of lenses. And this can go beyond the workplace, and project team. We can start to think about the actual projects we’re working on – do they consider neurodiversity?”

Read more about Jenny’s experience and reflections on neurodiversity in her APM blogs:

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