Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
WORKPLACE / APR. 28, 2014
version 4, draft 4

How to Deal with a Colleague with OCD

People who live with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can take organisation to an entirely new level. They are often meticulous people who pay attention to detail, which makes for an excellent employee. However, because of their disorder, they may be inflexible and prefer a strict routine.

If you're working alongside someone with OCD, this person may repeatedly check in with you and ask the same questions over and over. And if the person is obsessed with cleanliness, he may panic when others invade his personal space.

This person may know his job well, but his obsessive tendencies might frustrate others in the office. There are, however, ways to deal with a colleague who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

#1 Be Patient and Understanding

The truth is, you can't change your colleague, nor should you try. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder likely caused by a biochemical imbalance. And although there is medication and natural remedies available, these may not eliminate all symptoms. The same way you have little (or no) control over the medical issues you face, these people are unable to control their behavior. 

#2 Don't Poke fun at Your Colleague

It might be challenging to work with someone who suffers from OCD, but this isn't an excuse to poke fun or alienate the individual. Making this person the butt of your jokes is not professional, nor kind. People with OCD often recognise their behaviors, and they often sense how their rituals affect others. Yet, it's difficult for them to break the pattern. Being insensitive and making rude comments can heighten their anxiety, and potentially fuel their obsessions.

#3 Educate Yourself

The more you know about obsessive-compulsive disorder, the easier it'll be to deal with your colleague. Sufferers cannot snap their fingers and stop rituals or obsessive thoughts. If you educate yourself and learn how their brains work, you'll receive a better understanding of the condition and it'll be easier to sympathise with them.

#4 Reduce Stressors or Reassign Tasks

The more stress and anxiety your colleague deals with on the job, the more likely he will deal with obsessive behavior. If possible, see how you can assist him. For example, maybe you can assume a greater role when working on team projects. This doesn't suggest carrying more than your weight. However, if you notice that a task seems particularly overwhelming and triggers anxiety in your colleague, you might offer to switch assignments. This is especially helpful if you work well under pressure. 

#5 Offer Support and Encouragement.

Offering reassurance and being accommodating doesn't make you an enabler. Quite the opposite, it demonstrates your support and willingness to understand your colleague better. For example, if a colleague with obsessive-compulsive disorder constantly uses hand sanitizer or washes his hands, respect that he may be uncomfortable with physical contact like shaking hands. In addition, he may avoid other seemingly simple activities, such as sharing a telephone.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a life-long battle for some people. And while it might be challenging working with sufferers, it doesn't compare to what they deal with on a daily basis.


Image Credit: [Flickr]

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