My boss has Borderline Personality Disorder – Part 2

Every month the amount of people coming to the blog to find out how to deal with their BPD boss grows. For every one of you coming here to try to find out how to deal with someone that has BPD I want to hug you! Part of that may be my overly sensitive emotions and tendency towards inappropriate relationships, but more so it’s because I can see you’re going through a difficult time with someone you’re stuck with all day. That is an extremely difficult thing to deal with.

Something I mention in my first post about this topic is that you can’t change the person. That if it gets too bad then maybe look for a new job. Which is entirely unfair. I can hear the “that’s ridiculous!” and “That’s unfair!” and “Why should I be the one to change?!” screams coming through as I read my own words. And to these I respond, “yes” and “it is” and “you shouldn’t”. So why then do I leave that advice there?

The fact is we can’t control other people. We can only control ourselves. I’m not saying that the tough manager shouldn’t be held responsible. Everyone should be held responsible for their actions. But you can’t control your boss any more than I can control you. So then the question may come up of why their manager isn’t doing something about it. Maybe you can’t control them, but certainly their boss can hold them responsible, right? To which I argue, who says they’re not?

I recently fired someone, and ya know what? It took over a year. In a large corporation an HR department needs strong documentation of what the issue is, how it effects the team, how it effects the business, and proof that the employee has been made aware and given all necessary tools to change. If that can be proven and the changes have not been made, then the person can be let go. I was stuck in a situation where the employee did not work in the same office as me and I had to rely on others to provide feedback. If they didn’t then I had nothing to go off of. I needed proof that the employee was not improving despite the additional discussions, warnings, and trainings she had received. There were people who wondered why I wasn’t doing anything, but refused to provide feedback at the same time. I was doing site visits, asking for feedback, documenting everything possible. I was assigning training classes, following up, and more. I was stuck with a system that needed people to speak to me and people that refused to speak.

The manager of your BPD manager might be doing things that you aren’t aware of. Maybe they’re tying to document and people aren’t speaking up. Maybe they don’t know. Maybe they’re in process providing new trainings and looking to see if it helps. We don’t know what’s happening behind closed doors. We can’t assume.

So along with taking ownership of your actions, make sure to document things and speak to your bosses boss when needed. Do so tactfully and in detail. Don’t speak on mental illness, that will make things far messier. Instead speak on specific examples of things that took place. It may take time to see improvement, but that doesn’t mean that the person isn’t being held responsible for their actions.

Here’s some examples of how to provide feedback:

Instead of “She just doesn’t understand boundaries” say “I stated last week that I am uncomfortable with her hugging, and yet she has continued to hug me.” Notice how the first statement is vague and could mean she walked past you too close for all we know. That will barely get a reaction from the big boss. The second statement, however, is an ethics violation and potentially sexual harassment. The person you report that to has to immediately follow up with some form of action.

Instead of “She has a bad temper” say “She began yelling at me in front of the team yesterday. I felt embarrassed and struggled to focus on my work the rest of the day.” The first statement could be her temper or your thin skin, no way for an outside party to know. The second statement is clearly her reacting poorly to a situation in a way that negatively impacted your work and employee moral. The first statement makes a manger want to say “work it out” while the second is likely to prompt a verbal warning if it’s the first documented offense or written warning if it’s been documented before.

Sometimes this still won’t make things change. I don’t know why, I’m not there. And it may still come to a point where you have to leave because the environment isn’t getting better. I get that. I’ve been there. I had a boss that had extremely high turnover and had a way of making her boss believe that it was because she had developed them for great things, when everyone who worked for her knew it’s because we’re all trying to get away from her. I attempted to provide feedback, my manager knew I might so never had anything in email. It was my word against hers and hers always won. I tried to switch teams and was told that I needed to learn how to work with others, and would not be allowed to work for anyone else. Meanwhile this boss was treating me and many others horribly. I left the company. They lost my skills and experience because of her. I was not the first, nor will I be the last. Last I heard from a previous coworker, her relationship with her boss doesn’t seem to be quite the same. She’s not on such a high pedestal, she’s not getting to run her team however she wants anymore, and her work is being more closely monitored. Enough people provided enough similar, and constructive, feedback that it’s finally being looked into. But not until after I had to get out.

Also keep in mind the potential for your boss to change. I recently called an employee “sweetie”. A habit of mine outside the office that accidentally slipped at the office. He reported it to my boss who mentioned it to me. Not only am I being more careful what I say to him, I am more careful what I say in general. I need to change to ensure my team feels comfortable at work. Whether the change is before or after an employee leaves, it is possible.

I’m wishing you all the best in your career! Please remember that things can get better and less stressful even if it requires tough choices to be made.

Questions about your boss with BPD?

From day one the most common search term for this site has been “my boss has borderline personality disorder.” That hasn’t changed. In fact it’s become even more frequent. I spoke on this once before, but am not sure it actually answers anything you want to know. If you are coming to this blog trying to figure out how to work with a boss who may have BPD please feel free to post a question in the comments section. I will do my best to answer.

Scheduling sucks

So I got chewed out by my boss this morning for not properly documenting something that I scheduled (technically just approved to be scheduled) back in April. Than I realize I scheduled something else wrong, went in to correct it, and got hit with 20 questions on "why are you making changes?" Maybe I'm making changes to make you stop bitching at me! Clearly my mind is adjusting well to my third new manager in a year.

Then I realize I forgot to schedule a time to stop by the pharmacy, but not to worry, I'll be in that area tomorrow for my psych follow up, I can get them on the way there. But if she changes my meds that's a waste, so I should get them on the way back. But if I do that I'll be late coming home and I have to get my son to Karate class. Why did I schedule an appointment on the other side of town immediately before Karate class?

Of course at this point of my scheduling nightmare of a day I decided to stop dwelling and instead take some notes on what to mention to the psych since it's a follow up from a recent med change. My attempt to think of notes went as follows "it made me constantly exhausted which was not insomnia, but still sucked, but then it got better, but than worse, but I can't tell cause I've been exhausted all day, but it's past midnight and I'm still awake, but the dreams are better, but not last night, but I've been feeling, um, better? Same? Um, I don't know, but BREATH DAMMIT. So I decided not to write that down for her.

What I did notice was that I have no idea how the new med is effecting me, and mostly that is because I'm hormonal. Because apparently I thought it would be a good idea to follow up with my psych during my period. Because of course that would give me a great understanding of my body chemistry from the new med!

So I suck at scheduling, and my new boss already hates me, and I'm exhausted… again.

Good night y'all. Wish me a night of dreamless sleep 😴

To my employees – what I wish I could explain

I’m sorry. I should be a better leader. I need to always be there to serve you, train you, help you. I should be able to make decisions, and help you make decisions so you can grow and learn. I should be patient, and answer your questions, and listen quietly when you speak. I should be more for you. You deserve more.

But I’m human. And a broken one at that. Most days I can push my broken brain aside long enough to be who you need. But some days, like today, I just don’t have the strength. Some days I’m barely keeping it together. Some days we’re lucky I even got out of bed.

I’m sorry for those days. The days where I snap, I cut off your question, and fail to make any decision. I’m so sorry. You deserve better, and I want to serve you and lead you better. But today I can’t. Today I’m exhausted, emotional, and broken. Please don’t hate me, just remember that I have my bad days. Those days that the brokenness shows through.

My boss has Borderline Personality Disorder

The most common search term that brings people to my page is some variation of “my boss has borderline”. If that is what brought you here, this post is for you.

I don’t know what exactly brought you to search this, maybe curiosity, maybe struggles working with your boss, maybe seeking advice, maybe one of 10thousand other reasons. I’m going to do my best to give a good overview for everyone, but please feel free to post questions or comments if there is something I missed.

First, what is Borderline? There are plenty of medical explanations online so I won’t bore you with those. Best way for me to explain it is to say it’s like having an emotional paper cut in your brain. You know how you get a papercut on your finger at it’s so tiny? Then you put on hand sanitizer and holy crap that hurts! And it’s strange how something so tiny and common can hurt so bad. That is BPD. Every emotion is extreme to the point of terrible pain. Something so small can have a huge impact. Every emotion you have, a person with BPD has far stronger. And this isn’t now and again, it is 24/7, it doesn’t stop, ever.

So how do you deal with someone who has borderline, and has such an impact on your life like a manager does? Best advice I can give is to remember that everyone has something that makes work more difficult. Maybe a physical condition, maybe a mental condition, maybe family issues, maybe a learning style that is difficult to accommodate, there are so many things that can impact the way someone works. We all have something. Be patient with that persons something just as you want others to be patient with your something.

Something that is typically a question friends and family ask, but that can also apply to coworkers, is “how can I encourage them to get help?” And the answer is, you can’t. Treatment is a personal choice that cannot be forced by someone else. And BPD messes with the brain when it comes to relationships. So for many of us, having someone push for us to get treatment translates to something like “they hate me, I should give up”. Inaccurate, I know, but that’s mental illness for you. Welcome to my world.

Worst case scenario. You tried being patient, you’ve tried working things out, your exhausted and your work is less productive and less enjoyable from the stress. What do you do? Get a new job. It sucks to be put in that position, yes. But a company cannot fire on the basis of mental illness, so unless your boss quits or transfers, it’s up to you to find a team you fit better. And if you were doing really well at being patient and understanding then chances are you can transfer internally rather than moving companies if that is what you want. Also, most HR departments will do an exit interview. When asked why you left, explain that it is because of a wrong fit with your managers work style. It’s honest and helps them to consider that. If this happens frequently than the company may look at that manager to see if maybe they should be moved to a different position to avoid this in the future. But again, don’t mention mental illness. This opens up the company for a potential discrimination lawsuit, therefore making it more difficult to look into possible changes in position for that manager.

I hope this helps at least a little bit. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, I am open to helping you understand this from the point of view of a Borderline as best as I can.

Update: I go into a little more detail in a second post. Please remember that you can always ask questions, and there should be the option to post them here anonymously.

Coping with BPD – Work

 I was training a new hire once and half way through his shift I asked how he was liking the job so far, to which he responded “Honestly, I’m just glad you’re not crazy like my last boss.” I laughed and said “Maybe I am and I’m just better at hiding it”. His response “no, you don’t understand, she had something called Borderline Personality Disorder. She was crazy, and really difficult to work for.” 

I realized 2 things that day. First, that I’ll never tell my team or manager my diagnosis. And second, that it is not about the diagnosis, it’s about how you work through it. He worked for me for nearly two years and never thought of me as crazy, or unstable, or difficult to work for. When he left it was because he had to move out of state for personal reasons, and he admitted that if ever returning he would love to work for me again. I had the same disorder as his past manager, so why was the experience under me so different for him?

One thing I’ve learned is that everyone has something they are trying to overcome at work. It’s different for everyone, but we all have something. As an employee I’ve learned to not let it get me down, but fight through. I’m honestly a stubborn bitch and refuse to let any disorder dictate how I live my life. Sometimes being a bitch is good. 

As a manager I remember this and look to help my team overcome whatever it is that they are fighting. My disorder does not make me a bad manager, but instead allows me to better understand their struggles. When an employee is struggling with a task I look for the underlying cause and adapt. Maybe I’m using the wrong teaching method, maybe they need to learn a different task first, maybe it’s just not the right timing. I look for that and help them to overcome. 

Personally I find it harder to be a good employee than a good manager when it comes to BPD. I can adjust to help others far easier than I can adjust to help myself. I can get highly emotional when my boss and I meet seperatly and it’s something he really just does not understand. This fact has held me back from multiple promotions and that does nothing but increase the stress and frustration that comes with my BPD.

But when things get tough I remind myself of the “key to staffing” that I once learned at a seminar. It’s about putting the right person in the right position. Everyone is the right person, but that does not mean it is the right position. If my BPD is getting in the way of a future position it is not because I am wrong for it, it is because it is wrong for me. My BPD is frustrating and stressful and makes me feel crazy, but it also makes me think fast, plan more long term, and better understand others struggles. So I will focus on my strengths and work positions that fit me.

Here are some little tips to get through the tough days. I hope these help as you fight to find your fit.

  1. Take breaks. Do not skip them and “power through”, it will aggravate your symptoms, and cause you to loose focus.
  2. Meditate. I meditate during my lunch break cause there’s no way in hell I’m waking up early enough in the morning to do so before work. But find the schedule that works for you and just be sure to fit it in.
  3. Wear items that make you feel confident. Maybe it’s heals, or a tie, or your favorite necklace. Whatever it is, make sure it’s ready to be worn on your roughest days to give you that extra boost.
  4. Schedule an extra therapy appointment during more triggering seasons. I recently started doing this and it has been very effective at helping me not get all the way to my breaking point.
  5. Remove” work at the end of the day. Find a symbolic way to remove work so you can set it aside when you get home. For me it’s removing my makeup. I put on my “managers mask” each morning as a mental task of making me feel strong and prepared for the day to come. I take it off each evening allowing the stress of the day and the tasks yet to be accomplished to wipe away with it so I can focus on the natural joy of my family and my home.