Tips for Interacting with a Coworker with BPD

coworker with bpdDealing with coworkers can be difficult enough with the variety of personalities thrown together in a single space. Add a coworker with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) into the mix and it becomes even more complicated.

You may find a coworker with Borderline Personality Disorder to be manipulative, dishonest, unethical, and willing to cause harm to other employees to achieve their employment goals. While this type of behavior may occur with or without the presence of BPD, it’s good to be aware of the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder and how to best interact with your follow employee.

Symptoms of BPD

Coworkers with Borderline Personality Disorder are often easy to spot. They are the coworkers who are constantly battling with someone in the workplace or they are constantly unloading their anxiety on you or others about office drama or their stressful personal lives.

How do you know if your coworker has Borderline Personality Disorder? Your coworker may have BPD if they show the following symptoms, according to the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI):

  • Inappropriate, intense, or uncontrolled anger
  • Intense mood swings
  • Compulsive behaviors, such as substance use or binge eating
  • Recurring suicidal threats or self-harmful behavior
  • Unstable, intense personal relationships, including those at home and at work

Coworkers with Borderline Personality Disorder can easily feel rejected by others. Someone with BPD may feel rejected if you appear to be better friends with someone else or disagree with his or her opinion. You may find yourself in an awkward position as you compete for recognition or have to work on a project with someone with BPD, which also can trigger feelings of rejection.

Interacting with a Coworker with BPD

A workplace can be a positive thing in the lives of people with Borderline Personality Disorder. It can provide stability, socialization, financial compensation, and professional development for its employees. 

But for people with BPD, a workplace can also be a source of stress and tension that aggravates BPD symptoms. While at times a workplace feels like a great supportive environment where everyone cares for each other, it can just as easily feel rejecting and isolating. One comment or action from a coworker can throw off the stable environment for a person with Borderline Personality Disorder.

If your coworker has Borderline Personality Disorder, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Coworkers with Borderline Personality Disorder aren’t going to change, so you need to change the way you respond to them.
  • Stay civil but do not cross any boundaries. Crossing boundaries could later be used against you.
  • Be as consistent with your behavior toward them as you can.
  • Try to keep things on decent, civil terms and document everything. Cover yourself at every turn.
  • Learn as much as you can about Borderline Personality Disorder and try not to take any irrational actions personally.

If you are managing an employee with BPD, follow the link for ways to more effectively do so.

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4 Responses to “Tips for Interacting with a Coworker with BPD”

  1. Mona Nov 10, 2011 at 10:36 pm #

    RE the tips to keep in mind at the end of this article: I find these “tips” (ie. they’re not going to change, so you have to) hard to accept. I work with a very difficult person who seems to fit the BPD profile. Although she can be sweet and caring sometimes, more often she is very selfish and over-emotional, and tries to dominate the environment. She also tends to lie when she feels cornered. She is very disruptive but is oblivious. She is in a senior position of sorts, and well-respected by other units (who don’t work directly with her) of our department.

    I know that all members of our group have suffered because of her actions. It is incredibly frustrating to be told that WE have to LEARN how to deal with HER! It would make more sense for the person who is the problem, to be the one that has to LEARN how to deal with THE REAL WORLD. Well, of course we should all learn to deal with each other, but I do believe the responsibility should lie with the BDP person for the most part, if they wish to thrive in this world.

    Our director is not aware of the severity of the problem, and we are as a team sort of like a (dysfuntional) family, so I know that he doesn’t have it in him to show her the door (she would be devastated, and the boss would feel guilty about that). Also, our jobs are contract positions, so I think he thinks he can just stick it out, but it is making the rest of the team crazy. I can trace 99% of the problems that we have had to something that she did, even if the problem in question appears to have nothing to do with her. It is amazing how much havoc one person can cause… but also how much dislike/contempt/frustration/annoyance/(I won’t say hatred, because we (coworkers) do have compassion for her, but sometimes it comes close to hate) one person can inspire in others, even those not normally prone to such negative emotions!!!

    So, I don’t mean to be insensitive, but I would like all BDP people to take responsibility for their behaviour, like the rest of us have to do. I am no psychologist, but this is the opinion of an everyday-person who has to deal with this situation… What I would like my colleague (and other BPD people) to know is that she needs to be less selfish and more tolerant and cooperative. Why is this so hard for people with BPD?

  2. Ted Nov 29, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    I have an employee who I suspect to have BPD. I have tried to be very accomodating but he has been very difficult to work with. He takes most attempts at feedback and direction as personal critisicm and has had unprovoked emotional outbursts during which he has made accusations against me which are baseless, and which I have proven are such. I am considering letting him go.

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