Is your co-worker a jerk, or does he need a doctor?
Most Americans spend the bulk of their waking hours at work. Some say that Americans’ “best” hours are given to their employers. If workers like their jobs and/or workplace, they can accept that reality without a fight. Yet, when employees find themselves working with really difficult people, life at work can be extra trying or downright exasperating!
Why certain people are “really difficult” isn’t always clear. It’s true that some people are simply annoying or interpersonally inept. However, some difficult coworkers may be legitimately mentally ill and in need of professional intervention.
Consider that, according to the National Association of Mental Health, incidences of mental illness in the workplace are not uncommon. The NAMH reports that an estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. For example, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a mental illness that can be well managed when treated properly, occurs in 4% of American adults and mood disorders including Major Depression, Mania and Bi Polar Disorder occur in 9.5% of American adults, all of which can trigger undesirable behaviors in workers. Likewise, certain Personality Disorders, such as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), can cause the sufferers to demonstrate symptoms remarkably similar to the personal traits of someone who is simply obnoxious.
Based on the statistics above, it’s not at all unlikely that at some point we may find ourselves working side by side with a person who is clinically mentally ill. Differentiating between clinical symptoms and personal traits can be tricky; only a licensed therapist or a medical doctor should be diagnosing mental illness. Recognizing the difference between people with legitimate Personality Disorders and people with chronic “Jerk-itis” is a bit tougher; you have to know what you’re looking for.
How can workers tell the difference between someone who needs mental help and a garden variety jerk?
ADHD can cause sufferers to be irritable, careless, hyper, forgetful, disorganized, extremely talkative and distractible. A non-ADHD “jerk,” however, would not necessarily demonstrate all these symptoms simultaneously. She may talk your ear off when you need to get back to work. She may “forget” to do certain tasks because she’s lazy, rather than careless. She might keep her desk a mess because it doesn’t bother her to have it messy.
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