A very long time ago in a distant and foreign land, I was told there lived a very dazed and confused business owner…one who was seriously challenged but inherently adept at what he, supposedly, did for a living….he was purported to spend hours working out at his local health club and make everyone in the office (when he went into the office) shake in their ‘shoes’ when his presence was noted. This person did not permit his subordinates to write with ‘blue’ ink. He also did not ‘permit’ anything left on one’s desk at the end of the day….some staff members would stuff piles in their desks when they knew he was going to be around so they would not have to deal with complaints and, most importantly, they could spend more time on necessary work rather than arbitrary organization…The owner had issues with the supply cabinet, file drawers, return addresses on envelopes, where a staple landed on a page, the copying of envelopes along with all correspondence and how emails were sent….but the biggest PIA was the PAPERCLIPS….
On another note, an attempt was made to bring the compulsive behavior to the attention of the business owner (Alas, there was only one other employee who had the courage to do so) and other ‘management’ personnel. The courageous employee was ‘reprimanded’ for approaching the owner and was told that everyone needed to recognize that the owner’s behavior was, well….the owner’s behavior. It was generally understood that other management personnel tried to justify the ‘behavior’ at the expense of their own mental health and the mental/physical health of those around them….as one employee noted, the management’s attitude toward the behavior was one of ‘entitlement'.....
This does not have to be the case because treatment can help control the symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). OCD is frequently unrecognized and untreated. Consequently, OCD can take its toll in the workplace, affecting attendance, productivity, judgment, ability to work with others and quality of work. For these reasons, proper treatment is generally in an employer’s and employee’s best interest.
People who suffer from OCD experience disturbing and intrusive thoughts, images or impulses that are temporarily relieved by performing rituals. For example, people obsessed with germs or dirt may wash their hands constantly. People who repeatedly rearrange things may be preoccupied by order and symmetry. You may notice an employee or an employer with the following behaviors that can interfere with the daily workday:
***being overly meticulous and needing to have things done ‘exactly’;
***excessive cleaning, checking or repeating;
***frequently seeking reassurances from others.
Morale problems, lack of cooperation, concentration and communication issues and increased absenteeism are other clues that OCD may exist. If such behaviors affect job performance or appear to threaten your employee’s health, one needs to take action.
Often, individuals with mental health issues are aware that something is wrong well before they seek professional help, but do not realize that their health problems also are affecting job performance. By bringing changes in work performance and behavior to your employee or employer’s attention, you may prompt your employee/employer to take the first step toward seeking a diagnosis and treatment.
A good and decent employer will be acquainted with company sponsored health benefits and employee assistance programs (EAP), if in place. For the employer, please make sure that your employee is aware of all available resources and suggest that the employee seek professional help if personal or health issues are a concern. If your employer has these issues, please do yourself and the remainder of the employees a big favor and find a way to bring this to the attention of the employer. It may be frustrating but you are dealing with a mental illness and you need to try to have this individual seek help.
Learn more about OCD and local help agencies. Doing so will prepare you should your employee/employer voluntarily disclose any health issues. Do not diagnose. Rather, encourage your employee/employer to seek professional help from a counselor or other health/mental health professional. It would be great if the employer could provide staff sensitivity training that includes information on mental illness and other disabilities. Doing so helps reduce stigmas.
Please also note that once OCD is disclosed and if the company is a certain size, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will protect the employee from being discriminated against because of mental illness. ADA law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations at the employee’s request. (Please see next BLOG the weekend of 1/2/15, on ADA)
***Eliminating minor job duties that challenge an employee’s condition – If your employee compulsively checks, reassign tasks requiring counting or verification, or get a job coach to help him/her;
***Offer flexible schedules – allow an employee with OCD to make up hours for Doctor’s appointments, etc., Or, if your employee’s medication causes drowsiness in the morning, allow the employee to come into the office later;
***Consider structural needs – an employee obsessed with having things ‘exactly’ may appreciate having an assigned parking spot;
***Make job performance expectations clear – help the employee set professional goals. Encourage the employee to continue with medication and treatment.
Work in an environment with an employer/employee that demonstrates any type of obsessive compulsive behavior can be an extremely, troubling experience. Employers/employees need to recognize their limitations, challenges, problems just as they need to identify the limitations, challenges, problems of those that work for them. Irreverent or not, OCD is not a whim, it is an anxiety disorder and an illness that affects not only the individual with the behavior, it can affect the individual’s family and those that work with them or depend on them.
For all of those employers out there who believe that their idiosyncrasies are ‘OK’ because they are the ‘boss’, please think again. The legacy you leave your employees is just as important as the legacy you leave your children/family; how you treat others is how you will be remembered…..as this BLOG testifies.
If you are an employer and would like assistance in how to identify Obsessive Compulsive type behaviors in your work environment, please contact me, Rosanne Bennett, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 484-798-1236. If you are an employee and would like help in dealing with a supervisor or coworker that demonstrates these behaviors or you believe that you may have OCD, please contact a local mental health professional or your primary care physician. As stated, my main objective is to encourage contented employees and profitable employers….it is a two (2) way street.....
*****Mental Illness, in any form, can be serious; please, please, please learn to address it. Please also note that the information above is for informational purposes and should not be treated as mental health care or behavioral advice. Only a Physician or mental health professional is qualified to do that….Mental Health descriptions taken from www.achievedsolutions.net
The above story is 'fictionalized', however, it is based on having worked with one particularly challenging individual, however, I have been granted ‘permission’ to utilize the personal information that is included...