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Tips for Interacting with a Coworker with BPD

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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.


  1. Pingback: Tips for Better Communication with Someone who Has BPD | Borderline Personality Treatment

  2. 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?

  3. Pingback: Does My Coworker Have Borderline Personality Disorder? | Borderline Personality Treatment

  4. 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.

  5. As someone with traits of borderline personality disorder, life is incredibly difficult for me. Both inside and outside of work. For the people who have replied to this article, try and imagine the high emotion that the person with bpd goes through on a regular basis. BPD is a debilitating illness and people who have it just want to be loved and cared for just like everyone else. I’m not saying it excuses the behaviour. We are completely responsible for our actions, but instead of just jumping to the conclusion that people with BPD are bad people, just educate yourselves a little first and learn how to assist them like you would assist someone with a visible disability if and when they needed it.

  6. I have mental illness but the world doesn’t change to accommodate me. The rules don’t change because life is emotionally harder for me. Why should the world change everything to suit someone with BPD? Why should a worker go out of their way to do all this for someone with BPD? They’re just a coworker. Why waste all that time and energy on them when there are closer, more important people in your life that need that energy. Sounds like another personality disorder that just wants all the time and attention of everyone in the world all the time.

  7. Heather Curran

    Way to perpetuate the stigma of BPD. I was a police dispatcher for 27 years and was kind and compassionate, especially to victims of crime. This article does a disservice to people who work hard to regulate their emotions. I never had disputes with coworkers more than the average “normal” person.

  8. Mona your comments back in 2011 are exactly what i have been dealing with since then. I just wanted you to know that your words are exactly how I feel when I’ve been going through and just reading your experience gave me comfort. We’ve been told everything that you’ve been told and it does seem unfair and I’m just trying to do my best. In my case, unfortunately it’s just me and this other person and other people that see don’t have to deal with it directly or have left but I’ve had to stay and deal with it to keep my job! People say it’s because I’m more rational but feels like a backhanded compliment.

  9. People saying that its the people with BPD that should change don’t understand the nature of personality disorders. They can not change…it is impossible for them. The vast majority don’t recognize they have a problem because their entire world view is warped by their disorder.

    Imagine if someone tried convincing you the ocean is pink while you are standing there looking at a blue ocean. You see it as blue, nothing would convince you otherwise.

  10. a lone employee

    I work with a BPD co worker who is just a nasty and manipulative BPD person. I worked in social services for 15 years before transferring to my non social services position over a year ago. I am familiar with the BPD in a psych inpatient setting .The BPD co worker has sabotaged 3 other co workers work that resulted in the coworkers getting a write up and no raise. She tried to sabotage me but I kept a file with evidence and went to personnel and filed a complaint. She received a write up but is still sabotaging the work setting. She is constantly fishing for compliments, taking credit for other people’s work, etc.. I like my job but I am job hunting to escape her drama and manipulation. She flirts with my male boss ( who seems to enjoy it) and buys other staff a lot of gifts. I’ve seen her angry side. My self and another coworker has seen her remove important mailings from the outgoing mail bin, delete electronic docs from our computers and go through coworkers desks and shred bins. She is not stable and I am afraid of her. I don’t know why my employer has not terminated her or referred her to employee assistance program. How does a stable person deal with this in a work setting?

  11. As someone who has BPD researching better ways to interact with my colleagues, I found this article brutal. It doesn’t take into account the variety of ways this can affect people, both suffers and people who have to deal with us. While I am erratic with my emotions, I don’t self harm, I’m not manipulative, and I manage to keep my emotions well hidden most of the time. I have taken professional help, and changed my lifestyle to ensure that I can function in the normal world with the minimum of impact. We are not all the rampaging, out of control arsewipes this article makes us out to be. Yes, we have problems. Yes, we would ask that you please take our condition into account at those times when our real emotions pop out from under our camouflage. But we try really hard to be ‘normal’, as upsetting those around us is our worst nightmare which would trigger days, if not weeks of guilt.

  12. Nurse counselor

    I found this article enlightening. For those who found it brutal or uncaring, I’m sorry. I’m sure BPD is hell to live with. However, i have a coworker in a counseling/educational setting, who has weekly fits. He’s elated, then quite with his head hung low, then slamming things or screaming. He has MS, and uses this as an excuse. He drinks energy drinks, and coffee all day. He smokes, is 100# overweight, and we teach nutrition. We work on a timely schedule. He takes longer than the others, because he gets off subject and taljs about himself. Hes awesome at everything…guitar, trivia, his jjob, gardening, cooking, sex, fatherhood….we hear it all! Weve tried to include him, entertain him, encourage him. But at any moment, if his wife texts him wrong or if hes too warm or sleepy or….if the assistant tells him to try to hurry because we are getting busy….Boom! He is screaming, spit flying, belittling others. Im sick of it!
    He gives me the shakes, and makes me walk on eggshells. What about OUR happiness? I’m m tired of going out of my way d/t his illnesses. Anyway, he’s been there for 2 years. Nobody does anything. They are afraid of being sued…or so they say. Indiana can fire anyone for any reason at any time. I don’t get it.

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