Employers are often at a loss with how to deal with an employee who is diagnosed with the Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) that is prevalent in an estimated 10 million Americans.
Many employers and co-workers are not prepared to handle someone who displays the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder. But a workplace environment can actually provide someone with BPD a degree of much-needed stability in their lives.
BPD Symptoms that Effect the Workplace
An employee with Borderline Personality Disorder may be a good worker when they are not overtaken by their symptoms, but their BPD symptoms may cause them to act inappropriately to various workplace situations.
According to the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI), people with Borderline Personality Disorder often exhibit many of the following BPD symptoms:
- Inappropriate, intense, or uncontrollable anger
- Mood swings with periods of intense depression, irritability, and/or anxiety lasting a few hours to a few days
- Impulsiveness in spending, sex, substance use, shoplifting, reckless driving, or binge eating
- Recurring suicidal threats or self-injurious behavior
- Unstable, intense personal relationships with extreme, black-and-white views of people and experiences
- Marked, persistent uncertainty about self-image, long-term goals, friendships, and values
- Chronic boredom or feelings of emptiness
- Frantic efforts to avoid abandonment, either real or imagined
Criticism by a co-worker or supervisor, professional detachment, or moodiness can trigger feelings of abandonment or rejection which can lead to outbursts of rage, self-injury, or other impulsive behaviors.
In some cases, employees with Borderline Personality Disorder may play co-workers against each other or spread gossip without considering the effects they have on their colleagues. Employees with BPD can create divisions in the workplace through their passionate expressions about how other people have been either always helpful or always harmful to them.
Helping an Employee with BPD
As an employer, providing an employee with Borderline Personality Disorder as much consistency as possible is important. You should try to value each employee’s quirks and personalities as potential strengths in the organization rather than discouraging specific behaviors.
On the other hand, you need to be sure to set limits and focus on proper workplace conduct, completion of assigned tasks, and consideration of co-worker feelings. You must also be prepared for angry protests and even tolerant of the possibility that the employee with BPD will be angry at you for unknown reasons.
Problems and complaints should be discussed specifically and with specific suggestions for improvement. Supervisory meetings should not deteriorate into arguments.
If efforts to manage an employee with Borderline Personality Disorder have not gotten you anywhere, there are ways to get help. According to the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder (NEA-BPD), you can contact the Employee Assistance Program coordinator at your company to assist the employee. You can convince your employee with Borderline Personality Disorder that talking with someone through the Employee Assistance Program might be helpful to get through a stressful period or to deal with an issue so that you aren’t left feeling helpless.
Many people think that if a person tries hard enough, they can control their moods or behaviors in certain areas of their daily lives. But that’s not always the case. People diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder may need professional BPD treatment to learn how to manage the symptoms that interfere with a productive work life. Be encouraging of your employee if they do decide to seek Borderline Personality Disorder treatment, as you may be investing in an employee who shines in the long-run.