What do you do if all of a sudden you show up at work all ready for a great day, an you receive a text in which you are blasted, called names accused of things you didn’t do and wouldn’t think of doing? The text is from a friend. Well, not a friend exactly but from someone in the office who thought you were amazing. Maybe even a bit over the top amazing. That person would tell everyone what a great boss you were, how you’re really generous with your time and encouraging and supportive.
Today you’re lower than crap.
You try to call but she’s not taking calls. You text her back to see what’s wrong and you get a terse reply. Later in the day you see on Facebook that she has blasted your name all over her page saying “Some people you just can’t count on.” “Some people only care about themselves.” It feels a little creepy and you try to wrack your brain to remember if you said something or did something that might have offended her.
But the only thing you remember was that conversation about how you’d like to meet with her after her vacation to discuss the project you were working on.
What happened? Whatever it was, it happened in her mind and there’s nothing you can do to change it. You have moved from the pedestal to the petri dish, on a whim. Her interpretation of something you did or didn’t do already played out fully in her mind and she has no interest in talking it over. You have somehow betrayed her and been cast into the fire. You are left shaken up, a little creeped out because of some vague threats in the text and horrified that she is dragging your good name and reputation through the mud.
Your employee likely suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder.
Remember that she had all those stories about how she’s been terribly mistreated by old boyfriends? You felt sorry for her, but couldn’t understand how she could continue to sleep around so carelessly since she had been so mistreated. She fell in love so hard and fast and then was “cast aside like used clothing.” She was actually paranoid that she was being stalked by them from time to time. You spent many hours counseling her about how to stay safe and how she should contact the authorities. You even suggested she go to counseling and talk through this. Remember how she got a bit offended about that and didn’t talk to you for a few days? But she got over it and you became her confidant once again. You felt bad that her family was so dysfunctional that she could never go home for the holidays. A phone call with her parents could throw her into a rage, but you were her safe harbor, she said. You were the only one she could trust.
The problem is she got too close to you. She was beginning to trust you, so in her mind she created an event or an offense that you committed that justified her breaking away from you before you could abandon her. But as she is breaking away, she created havoc with your feelings and your reputation, so what do you do?
This kind of situation: out of the blue, knock-you-for-a-loop type event is one of the reasons why, as a leader, it’s vital for you to practice the principles of Zentivity™. There will be times when your reputation might be threatened for absolutely no reason; you may suffer false and severe accusations that have been created out of whole cloth. You might experience a co-worker turning on you. You might even, because of these things, begin to question yourself about what you did wrong. The answer may simply be nothing. You need to be able to hold onto that, hold onto your integrity, dig your roots deeply in and withstand the storm until it blows over, knowing that the reaction is coming from within the accuser.
There are people, some that you may work with, that have personality disorders, that make them difficult to be around and have you questioning your sanity. Don’t fight back with the same methods. Hold your ground. Speak your truth. Take a deep breath and detach from the drama. Reacting will only cause you to get sucked in to a drama that is not your show. Hold onto your integrity.
Know that people don’t act like that on purpose. Very likely there was considerable trauma in her early life. Chances of reasoning through the situation with her are very slim and quite likely the relationship will be severed harshly. People like this do not act like this in a vacuum, and probably others have observed her behavior in differing circumstances, so staying steady is your best bet and let time take it’s course. You may have to let her go. She may quit, or she may come back after vacation ready to be your best friend again. But this time you will be wiser, you will be direct but respectful and very clear about what the stakes are and what the conditions are of keeping her job.
- To help you detect Borderline Personality Disorder in the future, here are a few signs to watch for from the DSM-5™:
- Dramatic, emotional or erratic behavior (and 5 or more of the following)
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
- Pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
- Markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
- Impulsivity in potentially self damaging behaviors like spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating
- Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats or self mutilating behavior
- Affective instability in mood: dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety
- Chronic feelings of emptiness
- Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger
- Transient, stress related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms
It’s important to know what you are dealing with and have a plan, so you are not caught off guard. The things people do and say have more to do with them than you.