Ask The HR Expert: Dealing with obsessive and compulsive behaviour

Peninsula Team

September 30 2011

Q) “I have an employee who overly thinks every decision and is almost on the border of OCD. Whilst he has never been medically diagnosed it has been observed by other members of staff. As an employer what action should I take?” A) Carry out an objective observation on the employee’s work processes to assess whether any aspects of the job are causing him to feel excessive pressure. Pick up on any changes of mood or noticeable differences in performance and offer him the opportunity to discuss these openly. At a meeting describe what is taking place when a task is being carried out and ask if he has any work related issues he wishes to share with you. Ascertain whether or not he is overloaded with work. Work overload can occur when a person is allocated a great deal of work, but insufficient resources in terms of ability, staff, time, or equipment to cope with it. If he is a new employee or has recently moved to a new role, ascertain whether or not it is too difficult for him, because it is a new area and he has not received appropriate training; he does not have the intellectual or physical capacity to do the work; or because he has been set an impossible task regardless of resource or ability. If he has not received appropriate training you could offer training to help him develop the skills he needs. In the meantime, support him and continually monitor and review his workload. Many organisations have undergone significant changes over the last few years, adapting the way they work to accommodate new technology, competition and changing market conditions. Often this has resulted in restructuring, downsizing and adopting new ways of working. Poor management of change can lead to individuals feeling anxious about their employment status, and reporting work-related stress. Stress is the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or demands placed on them. There is a clear distinction between pressure, which can create a ‘buzz’ and be a motivating factor, and stress, which can occur when pressure becomes excessive. Work involving a fast pace and the need to resolve conflicting priorities is associated with a higher risk of psychiatric disorder. Whilst stress does not cause Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a stressful event can trigger the onset of obsessive and compulsive behaviour, which can get in the way of completing required duties of a particular job. Individuals with OCD have an over-inflated sense of responsibility, they over-estimate the degree to which they believe they can influence or prevent bad events from happening. If the employee has a non-work-related issue, and does not wish to share his concerns, you will have to respect his decision. You may be able to suggest other people he could speak to such as an Employee Assistance Programme. If he does share his concerns, try to listen and see if you can help. You may be able to make adjustments to his working life in the short term so he can spend more time resolving personal issues. If you make adjustments, avoid overloading other members of the team or yourself. Following a period of monitoring if his behaviour does not improve, speak to him about seeking his permission to obtain a medical report from either his GP or Occupational Health Therapist to help you to put in place appropriate reasonable adjustments to assist him in his role. For further information or advice please contact Peninsula’s Advice Service on 0844 892 2772

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