Compassion in the Workplace - How to Work with Someone who Suffers from OCPD
written by: N Nayab
• edited by: Diana Cooper
• updated: 11/24/2010
Suffering from a boss or colleague obsessed with perfection, rules, and organization? How can I work with someone with obsessive compulsive personality disorder? Read on to find out how.
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Most workplace has its share of employees with obsessive-compulsive personality disorders (OCPD). Such people usually remain obsessive about details, rules and regulations, lists, order, and organization. They seek or demand perfection, and remain inflexible. They also have few grey areas, considering actions and beliefs as either right or wrong. While such traits has its advantages in certain situations, it usually causes serious problems.
People with OCPD remain obsessed with perfection and strict adherence to the rules to the extent that they fail to see the bigger picture, and “miss the forest for the tress." Such obsession impedes their ability to get things done. They devote excessive time to ensure perfection, tend to do things themselves and refuse to delegate fearing that others will not be able to do the work right.
A middle manager with OCPD might make everyone miss deadlines to double-check even the most minute detail of the report to collating the document. A boss may similarly refuse to condone a minor error in the report that makes no difference to anything and make the subordinate redo the whole process of printing out and binding the report all over again. The leader may insist on doing everything himself and in the process cause delays when the staff under him remains idle. Similarly, a subordinate may refuse to do away with the official process of drafting a covering letter, seeking approval, and printing the fair copy and just print a fair copy straightaway when a check has to be signed and dispatched post haste to avoid missing the mail carrier, and along with it an important deadline.
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Interactions with OCPD Employees
The entire corporate machinery may halt owing to the inflexible nature of the OCPD worker, or when other employees realize that they cannot work with the person with OCPD.
Employees with OCPD insist on being in charge and consider themselves as the only one who knows who is right. This makes them autocratic leaders if such people happen to be the boss, or difficult subordinates or co-workers to manage if they are not the boss.
Co-workers tend to ignore or keep distance from their OCPD colleagues, but when forced to interact with such people, the result is usually confrontations or conflicts. This aggravates the situation, leading to dysfunctional organization.
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How can I work with someone with obsessive compulsive personality disorder?
The biggest challenge when working with OCPD co-workers is remaining professional.
Most people with personality-disorders such as OCPD consider the symptoms of the disorder as their strengths, and as such changing such behavior is very difficult. The best way to approach co-workers with OCPD is to change the way of dealing with them.
Perfectionism, when not carried to extremes, can be a good trait in certain jobs such as accounting, engineering, and others. The key is to place the co-worker with OCPD in such jobs, which are independent in nature, and does not require much interaction with others.
Trying to help the person with OCPD relax and encouraging them to see the bigger picture or other perspective may help at times. Therapy sometimes reduces the symptoms, and making the person with OCPD agree to visit the therapist is a big progress.
The biggest difficulty is when the co-worker with the OCPD is the supervisor or boss. Meeting the demands of perfection raised by people with OCPD is next to impossible. The solution is to negotiate with such superiors on the little space they allow, and constantly seek the guidance and follow-up of them when performing tasks. Seek a deadline from them and remind them of such deadlines.
The underlying approach when working with OCPD co-workers needs to be the understanding that it is not possible to control another person's behavior, and that the only thing possible is to establish and communicate clear boundaries with consequences and allow the person with OCPD to make a choice of whether to respect the boundary.
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O'Fanell, Peggy. "Coping with 'toxic co-workers'." http://www.enquirer.com/editions/2001/02/27/tem_coping_with.html. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
Steele-Pucci, Cynthia. "Nightmare Employees. How to deal with difficult personalities." http://www.career-intelligence.com/management/NightmareEmployees.asp. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
HealthTree,com. "Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder: Don’t Break the Rules!" http://www.healthtree.com/articles/personality-disorders/obsessive-compulsive/. Retrieved 21 November 2010.