Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Borderline Personality Disordered Coworkers: CYA

You're in the work force and have a coworker that acts, let's say, different. Great in some ways, not so great in other ways.

This coworker can be your best friend; you've probably spent time bonding with this person and may have developed quite a liking for this person. They may be someone that you consider a friend. They've asked you questions about yourself that make you think that you trust them. They've volunteered parts of their life that have made you think that they're trustworthy.

However, there have been other signs about the person that you can't really explain. They like to tell you gossip about their lives, and about the lives of others. Their home life is in shambles, and they always seem to be talking about someone in the office; they are pretty much always having some type of conflict with someone in the office. There needs to be some type of drama, and they will make the drama into a full-blown scandal if they are able.

Of course, they are always the victim; everyone does all these things to them, while they go about their jobs and do what they are supposed to. They're treated poorly by everyone, misspoken to by everyone, made to feel terrible by everyone.

When they have unloaded on you and they leave the room, you feel absolutely exhausted. 

If you feel this way about one of your coworkers, you may be working with someone who is suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder.

BPD Coworkers Can Ruin Your Career

If you work with someone who is a true borderline, you will know it. They will constantly be battling with someone that you work with; hopefully that person is outside your office. You will feel like they literally suck the life out of you when they are unloading their anxiety on you about the office drama, or about their personal lives. 

Remember some of borderlines' habits: black and white thinking, splitting, dissociating, high anxiety...the list goes on, but I hope that you're getting the idea here. In the workplace, a person like this can truly ruin your career. 

Meet Missey
I worked with Missey while running a small office. She was a good worker, quite diligent and when she put her mind to the task would meet and exceed expectations. She had multiple office duties, some of them repetitive, where she would pick up magazines and distribute them to a number of places every week. 

Missey admitted to having family and personal issues where she had gone to outpatient treatment for psychological issues and was heavily  medicated for anxiety.

Missey was good at what she did when focused, but at other times, she would miss responsibilities because of other things in her life. Her husband abused her, her daughter had issues, she was fighting with people in the home office...the list went on.

Missey would come into the office in the afternoon after meetings on the road and would unload on myself and the office manager. After she would leave, the two of us would feel compelled to literally take a nap after she would drain us emotionally.

Overall, my relationship with Missey was decent, but it did have drama. Melissa had serious family issues, and she brought some of those issues to work. As her supervisor, there were times that I had to speak to her about these issues. Melissa did not do good for my career though.

Overall, I liked Missey and we worked well together. I created a nurturing environment where she did quite well. She had her issues, particularly her bulimic tendencies. We would go to the bathroom after lunch and find pieces of lettuce floating in the toilet on almost a daily basis. 

Looking back, I think that working with Missey primed me for accepting a relationship with a borderline, as I began the relationship with the borderline at the end of my job with Missey. Some of my boundaries had been broken by a borderline coworker.

When I was involved in moving the office and up for a promotion at the company, Missey snapped and spoke poorly about me to the executives at the office. It became such a big issue that I did not get the promotion and  ultimately left the company. My replacement and Missey did not get along either, and she eventually left the company and filed discrimination charges against the company because of this boss' behavior and treatment towards her.

Borderline coworkers can ruin your career.

Most borderlines will move from job to job as their attention wanes and waxes. They can be good working at big organizations that have the structure and rules that borderlines need, but smaller companies are too lean and mean for them to hide their disorder. Of course, there are exceptions, as some companies will simply tolerate borderline behaviors for years.

Borderline Volatility Requires Covering Yourself

When you are in a working relationship with a borderline coworker, be sure that you stay civil with the borderline, but do not cross any boundaries. Crossing boundaries will later be used against you by the borderline when times get tough, and they will get tough.

If you are able to keep things on decent, civil terms with the borderline, work will be okay, but be sure to document everything. Cover yourself at every turn, and be sure not to give the borderline ammunition against you.

You can survive a working environment with a borderline coworker. Just be sure to treat the borderline civilly, not do anything inappropriate with or in front of the borderline, document everything and cover yourself. Eventually, time will change the situation, but you can get through it. 


  1. Hello, I haven't read your blog for a lot of months, so I am late in commenting here. As much as I dislike your generalizations about "all BPDs are...", I have to say that I have gained more insight from your blog than from any mental health professionals in my isolated small town. Thank you for that. As a recently divorced 40ish woman with BPD, I have many challenges. The most pressing one currently is employment/retraining. Unlike "all the BPDs" you talk about, I know my faults and I don't like them either. I have to work with what I got and get the help I can (sparse in this ignorant, a@@-backwards town). I agree that I need to steer away from workplaces that will unwittingly unleash my aggressive, jealous-of-those-who-succeed-more-than-I behaviours, etc. My emotional lability also rules out the teaching and nursing that I had considered as careers - too much "unscheduled" personal interactions that leave me too open to volatility. What do you think of bank teller? It doesn't get any less personal - just dealing with accounts, funds, and one customer at a time. Despite my university degree, I have had to even rule out working at a convenience store because I will likely lash out at unruly customers. Never heard of an unruly client at a bank though - except the bank robbers and I know just what to do with them! I would love it (I know I am not your standard clientele on your blog), if you could suggest some other "BPD-friendly" work places. I value your insight, even if I don't like your generalizations. Thank you,

  2. It was a huge relief to read your opening blog a out working with a bpd colleague....I am trying to recover from the exact scenarios you have described!! It's been the hardest and most stressful time for me. From being a boss who almost worshipped me, she has turned all the other workers against me and has told all sorts of untruths about me. It started when I reported some very unprofessional behaviour and lies she had told about me. She had also lied to management about qualifications she had, almost believing the lies to be true herself.
    After management had discussed these allegations with her, she made up other stories to the colleagues so they all think I've been nasty. What they don't realise is that I have been supporting her in all sorts of ways for 2 years.
    Management sort of understand but say their hands are tied without evidence, so it will probably result in my leaving. Her previous 3 deputies have all left under strange circumstances too.
    It's so unfair and I am glad you have reminded me that I should not trust her...I know she will continue to cause scandal based on lies....really I should see it through and be brave, but it's so hard. She has everyone believing her and they are hugely protective...they don't know she has borderline pd. They are all aware she has bipolar,which is difficult enough to deal with.
    How common is it for people to have both disorders?


Please tell me your story and how it relates to Borderline Personality Disorder. I appreciate any and all comments that you leave on this blog, and as long as they do not contain inappropriate language or are not on-topic, will publish them. Please note that I cannot respond to blogs as this is an anonymous blog. However, I will publish all appropropriate comments.