Many employers, and colleagues, are not well equipped to handle an employee who displays BPD behaviours. A workplace environment can be immensely helpful to someone living with BPD, giving them much-needed stability. It’s important for employers to have an understanding of Borderline Personality Disorder and its symptoms, in order to better work with what could be seen as a ‘difficult’ employee.
On a good day, the employee may excel at their job, performing well and achieveing their goals or targets. On a bad day, they may feel upset and overwhelmed, criticism can trigger insecurity or anger, and intense emotions can lead to innapropriate or impulsive behaviour.
How do I help an employee with BPD?
As an employer, providing your employee with stability is key. Try to see their individual quirks or personality traits as strengths in the organisation, rather than looking at individual behaviours.
Boundaries and clear goals are necessary, to set clear limits and stress proper conduct in the workplace, such as considering the feelings of colleagues or completed tasks assigned to them.
Avoiding conflict without invalidating their opinion – listen to their concerns, acknowledge their feelings, and stay civil. It may be better to set times for meetings rather than discussing at the time, allowing the employee to compose themselves before discussing the situation.
Encourage your employee to make use of any employee assistance programmes you have available, or discuss with them time off if they need to see someone.
Peopl with BPD live with very difficult symptoms that affect all aspects of their day to day lives, and it is important to be empathetic but also learn adaptive strategies to support your employee in managing their symptoms in the workplace.
How do I make reasonable adjustments for my employee?
Increasing your employees confidence in the workplace means providing a supportive, positive and inclusive environment that benefits everyone. There are many adjustments that can be made in the workplace to help support self-care, reduce workplace stress and encourage positive interactions with colleagues:
- ensure all work procedures are clear, and fair to all;
- encourage attending therapy or counselling, and allowing flexible work scheduling to fit the appointments;
- consider allowing employees to work from home for part of the week;
- allow employees to listen to quite and relaxing music at their workspaces;
- allow employees time to make calls to their support network (counsellors, medical staff, crisis staff, friends and family);
- encourage the full use of breaks, lunch breaks and holidays;
- provide a safe, quiet place for employees to isolate for short periods when they feel overwhelmed;
- offer praise and reinforcement as opposed to criticism;
- provide regular wellbeing meetings for staff to discuss concerns;
- provide regular one-to-one meetings with the employee to discuss any concerns or issues in the workplace;
- use shared calendars to allocate tasks and mark deadlines.
Resources for supporting mental health in the workplace
Mind have produced a series of free resources to help improve mental wellbeing in your workplace which you can read online or download. These include:
- People managers’ guide to mental health
- An introduction to mentally healthy workplaces
- How to support staff who are experiencing a mental health problem
- How to promote wellbeing and tackle the causes of work-related mental health problems
Mental Health at Work has a wide range of resources for employers supporting their employees with mental health issues. These include:
- Leaders: Looking after your teams
- Active wellbeing
- How can you have the right conversation to support an employee at work?
Time to Change has a section of their website full of workplace resources – activities, training, events and tools.