Special offer 

Jumpstart your hiring with a $75 credit to sponsor your first job.*

Sponsored Jobs are 2.6x times faster to first hire than non-sponsored jobs.**
  • Attract the talent you’re looking for
  • Get more visibility in search results
  • Appear to more candidates longer

Employers’ Guide to Understanding and Supporting BPD at Work

People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) often have difficulty regulating their emotions. It’s a complex condition that can impact how an individual perceives themselves and interacts with others. 

Below are some strategies to support employees with BPD and discover how to nurture a culture of empathy that benefits everyone. 

Post a Job
Create a Culture of Innovation
Download our free step-by-step guide for encouraging healthy risk-taking
Get the Guide

BPD facts

BPD is characterized by instability across various areas of the individual’s life. Typically, that includes an unstable sense of identity, relationships and emotions. However, the full scope of symptoms can vary from person to person. Some might experience symptoms so severe that they require hospitalization regularly and struggle to function, while others may integrate more easily into social settings like the workplace. 

What is BPD?

BPD is a type of personality disorder, an inflexible pattern of thinking, feeling and behaving that develops over a period of time. Studies reveal that many people with BPD experienced trauma and/or abuse in early childhood, but there are other environmental and genetic components. 

In adulthood, these individuals may experience intense emotions that they’re unable to manage effectively. If a situation becomes overwhelming for them, they may act out due to their emotional struggles. Unfortunately, this can apply to positive situations as well as distressing ones.  

People with BPD are often deeply afraid of being abandoned and can find maintaining close relationships challenging. They often project their fears and insecurities onto those they’re closest to and may sabotage positive situations to get ahead of being abandoned.  

What isn’t BPD?

BPD and other personality disorders are often misunderstood. This means people who suffer with them may face stigma and invalidation. As an employer, it’s important to create a supportive environment for employees with BPD. One way to do this is by demonstrating that you understand the science and don’t subscribe to the stigma.

Here are three things BPD isn’t:

  • A sign of weakness. Someone experiencing BPD has thoughts and feelings that can cause them intense distress. These rigid patterns develop while the brain is young and can’t just be undone through willpower or “toughening up.” 
  • Being difficult intentionally. It’s naturally jarring when someone behaves in a way that is outside of the cultural norm, which is what people with personality disorders sometimes do. Showing empathy and understanding is more helpful for both parties than judging them as difficult. 
  • Manipulation. Evidence shows that people with BPD may have an underdeveloped brain structure. If you employ someone who has BPD, there are times you might perceive their behavior as immature or childish, but keep in mind that this isn’t a manipulation tactic or an attempt to fool you. As far as scientists understand BPD, these individuals may only have access to the more primitive or childlike responses when emotionally triggered.  

5 things managers can do to support employees

Even if you don’t think you have employees with BPD, supporting individuals with mental health disorders is crucial to creating an inclusive workplace environment. Building mental health into your company’s culture can improve morale and reduce stress while also making employees feel safe to seek help. Here are five actionable tips that can help you support employees. 

1. Create a safe space

Creating a safe space for discussion is a first step toward supporting employees who may struggle with mental health disorders. By encouraging openness and communication, you can help reduce any stigma while also making employees feel secure in sharing their experiences. 

2. Understand a person’s needs

Mental health needs can vary from person to person and there’s no singular solution, but knowing and understanding an employee’s needs, including what can trigger them, allows you to offer better support. By doing this, you can offer more personalized accommodations, whether it’s flexible scheduling or adjusting workloads.

3. Provide clear goals and regular check-ins

By providing clear goals, employees will know exactly what’s expected of them. For all employees, this can help reduce anxiety and stress. For employees struggling with mental health disorders, clear goals can help them structure their days appropriately and focus on work without feeling overwhelmed. 

Adding regular check-ins also do more than build a connection. Through constructive feedback, you can let your employee know where they’re doing well and where they need to improve. Check-ins, when done regularly, can also help you identify potential changes in performance or attitude that may indicate a need for additional, or different, support.

4. Offer flexible work arrangements

When possible, consider offering flexible work arrangements to employees. Flexible scheduling, including offering breaks and time off, can allow employees to schedule therapy appointments. Remote work can also allow them to work in an environment they are familiar with and comfortable in, which may be less distracting than an office environment.

5. Provide a clear list of resources

If your company has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or provides any benefits or resources related to mental health, be sure to share them with employees. In some cases, an EAP or other resource can offer immediate access to mental health professionals on the phone or through an online platform.

BPD at Work: The importance of fostering a culture of empathy

See how a culture of empathy in the workplace benefits employers and employees, including those with BPD:

  • Improved retention. A culture of empathy creates an inclusive work environment where employees feel valued, understood and respected. When workers with BPD feel supported and appreciated, they’re more likely to be engaged in their work and committed to your organization. This can mean higher levels of employee retention and reduced turnover costs.
  • Enhanced performance. Empathetic leaders are better able to understand the unique needs and challenges of individuals with BPD. With those in mind, they can give the support necessary to help them thrive in their roles. 
  • Reduced conflict and miscommunication. Empathy promotes effective communication, active listening and understanding between coworkers and supervisors. In turn, encouraging open dialogue and empathy in the workplace helps employers mitigate conflict, misunderstandings and miscommunications that may arise, improving teamwork and morale.
  • Positive employer branding. A workplace culture that prioritizes empathy and mental health support sends a positive message to current and prospective employees, clients and stakeholders. Demonstrating a commitment to employee well-being and inclusivity enhances your reputation as an employer and helps you stand out in the competitive job market.

Prioritizing empathy and mental health support helps employers create a compassionate and effective work environment for all employees, including those with BPD.

Supportive and inclusive work environments benefit everyone

BPD awareness requires that you understand the condition and recognize the unique challenges individuals with BPD face in the workplace. By debunking misconceptions, fostering empathy and implementing individual accommodations, employers can create an inclusive environment where employees with BPD feel valued and empowered.  

Post a Job
Create a Culture of Innovation
Download our free step-by-step guide for encouraging healthy risk-taking
Get the Guide

Ready to get started?

Post a Job

*Indeed provides this information as a courtesy to users of this site. Please note that we are not your recruiting or legal advisor, we are not responsible for the content of your job descriptions, and none of the information provided herein guarantees performance.

Editorial Guidelines