top workplace struggles of people with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD)

I like to start out OCPD content not with a fun anecdote but with its definition.

OCPD is not OCD although they can be easily confused. OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by obsessions and compulsions. People with OCD are largely aware of their Os and Cs. People with OCPD don’t necessarily have that repetitive behavior but instead a certain rigid mindset of “right” and “wrong” and ways to do things. A key marker is trying to control.

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is a personality disorder “characterized by perfectionism…caused by an underlying desire for the need to control their environment and complete things to an unreasonably high, (self-determined) ‘standard’. Often the behavior of individuals with OCPD is driven by their fear of being perceived by others as imperfect, incompetent, or unsuccessful – leading them to engage in compulsive behaviors, such as adhering to a stringent set of rules, routines, or ideals about the way things ‘should be done’.”

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s start with a second intro to today’s topic:

We spend a ton of our lives in the workplace, and it’s only natural for all employees to experience workplace struggles. Yes, even the people who have their shit together. As people with OCPD, we see your struggles and raise you some more. We’re talking struggles in meetings, with burnout, being surprised and not finishing things.

Let’s get started.


Meetings is an entire category of frustrations. We’ve got:

  • meetings without agendas
  • meetings that don’t follow the agreed-upon agenda
  • meetings that don’t start or end on time
  • meetings… everything about them

Unless we’re the ones running a tight ship while leading the meeting, meetings are one area in the workplace of which we have very little control and ability to predict. When we can’t control or try to control but are unsuccessful, we feel triggered. When we try to control, regardless of our “success,” we spend way too much energy. Therefore meetings are exhausting and unproductive for us and our healing.

Burnout—and here’s why

We, people with OCPD, have impossibly high standards for ourselves and our quality of work. We don’t trust others to do the same. And perhaps rightfully so. We may have evidence of others not doing great work, or work that’s at least not up-to-par with ours.

So what happens? Unable to delegate tasks, we take on as much work as (im)possible. We operate under the workplace motto “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

This plays a serious role in our burnout and can also trigger growing resentment toward others.

Being surprised by criticism or feedback

In the past I did a video about coping with criticism, especially for people with OCPD. In the video I explain why feedback and criticism can be particularly hard to receive.

What I hadn’t yet discovered at the time is what I now consider the crux of the problem: being surprised—in general and by criticism and feedback.

It’s not always the criticism and feedback itself that’s the trigger point. It’s when we can’t predict what’s coming or what the other person is going to say, so we are caught off guard.

I haven’t read literature on the intersection of being surprised and OCPD, but maybe this is a start. I would LOVE to know if you have the same experience being caught off guard with criticism or feedback.

Not finishing things

Finally (for this post), we have a few things in common with people with ADHD, including the struggle to finish things. Simply put, finishing things is not where it is. There will always be more we can do to make the work better quality, and we know that.

Finishing also means either showing others or seeing your work live in the world, which is scary and could bring on surprises (see: previous point).

Remember that OCPD has a lot to do with control: We can control doing the work. We can control not finishing the work. But we can’t control what happens once it’s out in the world. This makes logical sense and it’s helpful to think of it in these terms.

In fact, recognizing all four of these struggles will help you better understand yourself and your OCPD. Proud of ya! Take good care, friend.

P.S. in case we haven’t met…

you seem normal is a mental health medium run by 24-year-old communication professional (hello!) who… well, seems normal.  Turns out, my roommate is mental illness. Actually more like my unborn, and non-conceived baby. Because it’s like, inside of me. This is getting weird already. Topics of focus: self-awareness (we love it), mood, anger management, perfectionism, relationships & boundaries.

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