Okay, times are tough. And good jobs are hard to come by. But you’re working with a bipolar boss. You know this because you’ve seen the mood swings from overly giddy and excited to irritable and angry. The highs often last from several days to several weeks, and the lows last longer. It can be a real challenge to predict his or her mood, and every day you’re walking on eggshells. Well, you can take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone.
Nearly one in every 25 Americans is bipolar. If your boss is in the manic stage, he or she will feel they can do things few others can do. They may not get enough sleep, yet still beam with energy, talk faster, be easily distracted and act impulsively with unrealistic ideas. In their “down” stage, they may be extremely sad, irritable or anxious, lose interest in work and subordinates and generally suffer from low energy.
Regrettably, bi-polar disorder often occurs in creative individuals and active problem-solvers. Some of the most talented leaders suffer from this condition. Bipolar people are usually the life of the party, outgoing, and frequently be champions of causes and social events. Unfortunately, they may also be binge drinkers, as many people who are bipolar-- and not properly diagnosed and treated--will try to treat themselves with alcohol. Those treated for the condition are almost impossible to spot, since they suffer no symptoms other than mood swings.
So how do you deal? Some suggestions:
Keep your distance. Don’t engage, respond to, or provoke your bipolar boss during his extreme mood swings. Tactfully extract yourself from his or her presence the minute you notice bipolar activity.
Take notes. Document the extreme incident in as much detail as possible as soon as it occurs. Include any witnesses, the time, date and sequence of events.
Report if serious. If the bipolar behavior is so extreme as to threaten, demean or cause a disruption in the office, report the event to your HR department. Refer to your notes to document your claim. Ask your HR manager what you should do going forward and take notes.
Bipolar disorder affects millions in the workplace—including managers, supervisors and top-level company “brass.” If you want to keep your job, you’ll have to be the one to keep your cool. At least until you get a better boss or you can land a better job.