Bipolar Employee - Disruptive or Productive?

Submitted by Douglas Colbeth

The answer can be BOTH. Managers have often asked me how to deal with an employee who is disruptive (that does not necessarily mean all disrupters have a bipolar condition). I ask them two questions; Is the employee often extremely productive? Have you had a private discussion with them to see if there is some event in their life causing a high stress level or anxiety? Anxiety disorder has become one of the most common mental health conditions. 

Managers often tell me the disrupter is extremely productive. Many times the manager has not reached out to the employee to see if there is something in their life causing high stress or anxiety.

Reaching out to a disruptive employee can actually yield tremendous benefits for them and your organization. You are showing an interest in the person - which can build trust and loyalty. This can then lead to behavior modification by the employee which benefits all. Sometimes we want to avoid these kinds of difficult conversations, but they usually work out well for everyone. Try it someday! 

I have found "disrupters" to often provide real value to our companies. They challenge the status quo - which can be really beneficial to companies. However, if they are disruptive only for the sake of disruption - I may ask them to go home and think about a few things. You also have to think about the other employees and sometimes lay down some reasonable rules. However, don't first think about terminating someone who can continue to be a productive employee. Most employees have their highly productive and less productive periods - regardless of their personality or health condition.


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