How to handle an Employee With Bipolar Disorder

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It’s not surprising that work can bring special challenges for those with bipolar disorder. The stress and unpredictable challenges in the workplace can take a big toll. Managing bipolar at work — with the highs of mania and the lows of depression — is no small feat.

So the first step is:
Research the type of bipolar your employee has. A variety of online resources exist to provide information to people who know someone with bipolar. Find out what types of behaviors to expect and how to approach the specific type of bipolar.

Secondly, Accommodate your employee. Before assuming what he needs, ask him. The employee might request an office with a window, a later starting time, several short breaks throughout the day instead of one long lunch break. If the requests are reasonable and won’t affect productivity, meet as many needs as you can.

However, Offer broad encouragement, but don’t be a therapist. Employers often think their position of power gives them the right to bring up the disorder in the workplace, but it doesn’t. If your employee wants to talk about it, he will. However, always be positive around the employee, offering encouragement and asking if he needs anything from time to time.

Then again, watch employee progress. Despite being compassionate and encouraging to employees who suffer from bipolar, supervisors must still be concerned and watchful for the company. Take note of how your employee works with others, productivity, absences and special needs. If an area of concern arises, confront it directly and work with your employee to take care of it.

Okay, you should then give promotions objectively. Think of your best employee, regardless of mental disorders, and promote based on skill. If your top employee is a person with bipolar, gauge his performance, absences, relationships with coworkers and how much you’ve actually noticed the bipolar affecting his performance. If you avoid promoting a person with mental illness because of “what might happen” without proper evidence, you don’t have good enough reason. Promote fairly.

Useful Tip

  • Never disclose information about an employee’s mental illness to coworkers. If the employee wants people to know, he will tell them.
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