August 3, 2022

The Struggles of Leading & Thriving as a Neurodivergent Person at Work

Valentina Coco Website Profile Picture
Valentina Coco
min read

I am neurodivergent. 


I only found out in the last 3-years that my ‘condition’ (for want of a better word) is Hyper-Responsibility OCD. 

Before my diagnosis I didn’t know what was different about me, I just knew something was. Somehow I didn’t mould into the workplace expectations of how a ‘Harvard-extroverted’ leader needed to behave. 

I was someone who cared too much about the consequences of any action I took and any comments I made. I wasn’t interested in outcompeting my peers, which seemed to others like a particularly strange behaviour in the dog-eat-dog corporate world. And I worried a lot about how things impacted on the business and on my team.

My OCD was also one of the main reasons why I got a reputation for being the person that got stuff done! You see, no matter how hard things got for me, it’s part of my make up to still be helpful and caring, and I’ll work at something until I find a way to solve the issue. And my ability to juggle 15 priorities all at once became the stuff of legends!

Yet, even though my performance was always outstanding, and I was seen as a top talent and hi-potential person, I was never the “right” one. I was too emotional. Too anxious. Too hard working. Too worried about the small stuff. A drama queen. You name it, I’ve heard it!

So, to shed the “too” this, that, or the other, labels everyone put on me, I learnt to mask my behaviour instead, and act (within the limits of my own ethics and conscience) in ways that were expected of me.

The outcome though was there wasn’t any improvement in my performance when I acted in the way I was expected to. In fact, I was simply more tired, deflated, and demotivated by the prospect of a career spent negating who I really am.


It’s more common than you think

It’s estimated that around 15-20% of the world population is neurodivergent or have neurodivergent children.

The most common types of neurodivergence are:

  • Autism 
  • ADHD
  • Dyslexia
  • Tourette’s 
  • Dyspraxia 
  • Synesthesia
  • Dyscalculia
  • Down syndrome
  • Epilepsy


As well as chronic mental health illnesses such as bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), borderline personality disorder, anxiety, and depression. 

None of these are “new” conditions. Neurodivergence isn’t something that’s developed because of the advent of technology. It’s highly likely that we’ve always been stable, but we’re now simply more aware that we’re part of the 15-20%.

The reality is that us neurodivergent folk have always been performing in our roles, we’ve just also been hiding and masking our needs – and that really needs to stop! 

Neurodiversity is a gift

Every way in which our brains work differently, is a way to think outside of the box, and an incredible gift for workplaces to recognise and embrace. For example, an ADHD person will see things I don’t see, and my Hyper-Responsibility OCD will lead me to see risks and implications that most people don’t think of.

It’s time to stop paying lip service and actually come together to learn how to be genuinely inclusive in our language, work culture and policies, so that we can all work at our best.

Here are some simple ways to do that:

  • Look at the open space/home office vs in person/meeting requirements
  • Consider the type of communication medium you use
  • Create a psychologically safe environment where people can open up and tell you what they need
  • Don’t tolerate microaggressions – those jokes really aren’t funny!

With the ever-changing world we live in, this really is an important time for the business world to open its eyes to the incredible minds and talents that Neurodiverse people bring to the table. 

If you’d like some tips on how to find your voice and demonstrate your skills as a Neurodiverse person feel free to CLICK HERE and reach out to me directly. It would be a pleasure to support you.

And if your business is ready to embrace the exceptional and unique talents of your Neurodiverse team members and would like support with how to do that in an effective and inclusive way, feel free to CLICK HERE and let’s have a chat.

Valentina Coco Website Profile Picture
Valentina Coco
inclusive leader

I'm a connector, leader, change-maker, mother and coach. My experience of going through many burnouts motivated me to find solutions to improve the culture in the workplace and achieve more.

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