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Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Individual differences is a natural encounter at the work place, nevertheless, the job must still be done but when one is working with the odds, the person with obsessive-personality disorder exhibits, the question poses on how to deal and work effectively in the midst of a person with an Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) , an Axis II Personality disorder.

This paper is intended to help people to deal with an obsessive and compulsive person in their respective workplace, thus objective observation of the person with what seemingly an OCPD is necessary and critical to understand in order to move on to having proper response. The understanding definition of obsession and compulsion is a big piece to get to see the bigger picture of OCPD. Compulsion and obsession are both nouns. Compulsion is defined as an obsession like an irrational motive for performing trivial or repetitive actions, even against ones will, for example, "her compulsion to wash her hands repeatedly" , while obsession is a fixation which is an unhealthy and compulsive preoccupation with something or someone. Word Net Search (Word Net home page, 2009).

The book Synopsis of Psychiatry clarifies the difference between obsession and compulsion in simpler terms, wherein obsession is described as recurrent and intrusive thought, feeling, idea or sensation, while compulsion is a conscious, standardized, recurrent behavior. (Kaplan & Sadock 1991, p. 404)

It is also vital to have a precise differential diagnosis between OCD and OCPD which seemed to be very inter-related which may cause one to b confused because sometimes a person can be affected by both OCD and OCPD. In the book, Abnormal Psychology, compulsion is said to go together with obsession and what differentiates it from each other is that obsession has to do with on going thoughts, fancies or reaction to a specific situation while compulsions are rituals in action which may also take form in mental rituals. The book also reminds that OCPD is distinctive from obsessive-compulsive anxiety disorder (Halgin & Whitbourne, 1997, p. 219). Moreover, it should also be noted that the obsessions and the compulsions of OCPD differs the anxiety disorder, OCD.

Persons with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder are paralyzed with their over and unrealistic and detailed sense to strive to be clean, right and precise. Their lifestyle of perfection causes them to be indecisive, rigid and have a poor inter-personal relationship rather than being productive. (Halgin & Whitbourne, 1997, p.193).

Another research contends that obsessions and compulsions are not present in OCPD, contending that OCD’s use these tasks to reduce anxiety caused by obsessional thoughts like making lists over and over again in consequence of something bad which is said to be in contrast, with an OCPD who might justify list-making as a good strategy to improve efficiency. People with obsessive compulsive disorder are often aware that their obsessions are abnormal, but are compelled to perform them anyway. People with obsessive compulsive personality disorder, however, believe their need for strict order and rules is perfectly normal. Furthermore, the study observed that OCD’s spend majority of their time doing their rituals than people with OCPD (Owen, 2009).

The mentioned views of differentiating OCPD and OCD maybe helpful but OCPD is also usually mistaken with a dependent personality, schizoid personality and paranoid personality disorders, this then leads us to the refer to the Diagnostic Criteria Manual provides the scope and limitation of diagnosing a person with an OCPD. (DSM-IV-TR,. 2000, p. 296).

Where is summarizes that OCPD is characterized with marked inflexibility and preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, mental and interpersonal control, as indicated by at least four of the following:

1) Marked preoccupation with details, lists, order, organization, rules, or schedules.
2) Marked perfectionism that interferes with the completion of the task.
3) Excessive devotion to work.
4) Excessive devotion and inflexible when it comes to ethics, morals, or values.
5) Can not throw out worn-out, useless, or worthless objects, with no sentimental value.
6) Insist others work or do task exactly as they would.
7) View money as something to hoard.
8) Stubborn and rigid.


In this section, the effects of OCPD’s to the people in their workplace will be discussed, considering a well their position or level and how the person with OCPD relates to them. Based on what has characterized an OCPD, my hypothesis is that the person with OCPD will be submissive to his/her boss as what seemed to be right as an employee and might tend to enhance his/her symptoms and actually become a deficit in the company. Then, as a boss, the person with OCPD may cause pressure for his subordinates to comply with his/her standards. While as a co-worker, he/she would find it difficult to be a team player since his/her OCPD symptoms limits the capacity for having a healthy relationship.

According to the study found in the web of psychiatric disorders, OCPD’s usually practice their routines at work where their position seemed to be putting up on their symptoms which may be superficially beneficial. It has also been noted in the study that OCPD’s are respectful on their superiors as long as they are someone in authority and receives positive affirmations in return in contrast with their indifference with the people under them. The study observes also that the OCPD’s preoccupation with details, lists, order, organization, rules, or schedules usually slows them down to reach the goal of the goal for the company, which is marked to be on of the most frequent problem they cause in the workplace. Next to that is their excessive devotion and inflexibility that result usually in disagreement with their colleagues according to (psychiatric-disorders, no date)

Few writers seemed to echo vast research about the effects of OCPD’s to people, one good write up is entitled tightrope groping where the author termed OCPD’s as tightrope walkers because of the observation that they have a “terrible balancing to do.” (Daniel, 2008, p. iii) The author cited that TR walkers may be found to be good soldiers, policemen, doctors, lawyers, politicians, engineer, teacher, and actually, they are found in places where their qualities are useful (Daniel, 2008, p. 61). The author also took some post from msn OCPD support group to gather insights on people with OCPD are observed by others and how they affect people. (Daniel, 2008, p. 50-63)


The OCPD’s sees the best of themselves however people around them sees their negative implications. Like for example, the person with OCPD sees himself/herself as orderly, punctual and reliable while others see a picture of rigidity, dullness and arrogance. OCPD’s fantasy of perfection makes it difficult for them to experience positive emotions for others because of their fear of being vulnerable or making mistake and be embarrassed (MacKinnon, Michels& Buckley, 2006, p. 110).

An article has found evidence that a person with OCPD subconsciously wanted to be free from their qualities but they fear the result of having negative consequences. Moreover, majority of people with OCPD rarely acknowledges the conflict between outer conformity and subconscious desire to break free but whenever their symptoms takes its physiological form like stress, muscle tension, anxiety or impotence, this becomes the presenting problem in seeking help. They are also said to be susceptible to major depression and outburst of anger whenever they face failure. (Psychiatric-disorders, no date).

Based on these explorations, it is noticeable that OCPD’s are like an uncooked egg, the shell makes it look strong on the outside yet so vulnerable on the inside. What makes things complicated is that, for OCPD’s their pursuits are all good and by consequence people who are affected by their symptoms find it difficult to deal with them.


OCPD’s are observed to be resistant to the therapist, they could defend their actions in good sense and doesn’t easily shares personal things about themselves, which could also result in fighting with counselor in what seems to be just and rational. In case that the counselor leads the client to the exploration of the affect, the counselee would feel the change and indecision about what emotions to feel and resist the vulnerability (Millon, Meagher, Grossman, & Ramnath,, 2004, p. 256)

Taking these matters seemed to be all negative for them to be dealt with, but an open hole in order to get through them is, though they want to control, they also wanted to be controlled at times, they could be interested when there is logic and steps in the presentation also when dealing with them but criticisms must be done in precaution since that could lead to their depression. Such finding would provide the glimpse on how to help the OCPD’s co-workers, boss and subordinates in relating to a person with OCPD.

Being in the same level of the position, though may not be necessarily similar in function, the co-worker of a person with OCPD, may be effective when the approach is logical, setting the purpose for the need on teamwork, coordination about a task or project. As a co-worker, giving criticism in a constructive way may help the OCPD develop good, inter-personal relationship. Here are some principles based from the book, Be a People Person provides hints on giving criticism (Maxwell, 2000 p. 125-129).

First is to check your motive, what do you want to do to the person? Is it to help or embarrass? OCPD’s may be threatened and would either thicken their defense or become depressed, so a good presentation of specific reason that creates an atmosphere of safety and care would open a door for a good conversation.

Second, Make sure the issue is worthy of criticism, is would be considerable for an OCPD to take issues that concerns the work and not something personally against them, this principle speaks the same of attacking not the person but the problem.

Third, don’t undermine the person’s self confidence, remember that OCPD’s sees best of themselves, it would be seen acceptable if you would cite first what you appreciate about them and also avoid over generalizations like “you are always or you never...”

Fourth is to confront when the time is right, when it isn’t past too long and when you are prepared and lastly, end confrontation with encouragement, always give an OCPD the grace to stand on, because they are afraid of making mistake and getting shamed, it would be helpful for them to be encouraged.

The Boss:
The person with OCPD, relates to the boss with conformity and submission, the Boss is seen to have the most opportunity be listened to by the person with OCPD.
As observed, OCPD’s prefers task in black and white, they see their perfection as a mirror on what an observer would see and sees to it that possible criticisms are justifiable. This thought pattern seemed to echo the early explorations of the social development of personality by Erich Fromm, which asserts that compulsive pattern results from the rigid upbringing by the parent or the guardian (Millon, Meagher, Grossman, & Ramnath,, 2004, p. 243). In the same way, the boss is seen as a person in authority, so it would help the client to know that the boss isn’t rigid and when mistakes are committed the behavior of the boss is not the same as that modelled by the social influence that triggered the person to have an obsessive-compulsive personality.
As a boss, he or she is seen as capable coach the person with OCPD. In line with that, I have developed an acronym for the words TEACH:
T- Tell them that failures are stepping stones on learning to decide promptly. OCPD’s are self condemning; he/ she feels that every mistake committed are being counted by the superior. By giving them a sense of safety whenever they commit mistake would lessen their shame and guilt.
E- Equip them on effective inter-personal relationships. This could be done through group dynamics, seminars, inspirational talks or teambuilding for the purpose of enhancing the client’s social skills. Though this may contribute a little on the person’s advantage but nevertheless, it give positive impact for the OCPD to adapt in teamwork.
A- Avoid feeding the OCPD’s ruminative tendencies. Their drive is beneficial in a short while but as time goes by, their rigidity, indecision and high standards hinders the development of the company task, at some point, they are to be…
C- Challenged to honestly evaluate themselves, how their behavior affects their performance, the task and the people she works with in the company.
H- Hook them by encouraging them to talk with a professional counselor about the result of the challenge given to seek guidance. It is likely that an OCPD would seek treatment on their own about their problems but the therapy would take longer due to counter transference that come about often in the session.

To the subordinate:
OCPD’s relational style with the people working under them is a picture of high expectation from them to meet up with his/her standards and mistrust for the subordinates. In order to build up a good working relational style, a need for change seems to be the answer but would seem to be improbable or in case of the OCPD learns to acknowledge his or her symptoms that would take a longer process according to the previous research. Change for them is being vulnerable and only for those who are of low standard. At this point, the subordinate seems to be caught in pressure to either endure him or her as the boss or to keep pushing against a wall that quits feeling for others.

The subordinate, they may react in silence yet, deep inside there is aggression, anger, indifference shame and other negative emotions but chooses not to reveal them. Or they may also cry to release the burden. The subordinate would tend to say “Yes” to the boss, but doesn’t necessarily mean it which could lead to increase the mistrust and annoyance of an OCPD, but a good Filipino value of Euphemism (Andres, 2001, p. 75) or the creative art of addressing someone in a gentle manner may help an OCPD understand the situation if properly explained.

Looking at how OCPD perceives God, he/ she tends to see God as a superior boss, his treatment is mostly, similar to how he relates to a boss in the company, he is dogmatic in following the doctrine he holds on to, tends to be extremely legalistic to the point of looking down on others who couldn’t seem have the passion he exerts. He sees Biblical perfection as a must to do with all of his/her effort. He may hold on to the passages that focus on perfection such as:

"You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect"
- (New International Version, Matt. 5:48)
"When the perfect comes, the partial will be done away"
- (New International Version, I Cor. 13:10)
"Not that I have already become perfect, but I press on..."
- (New International Version, Phil. 3:12)
"Let us...as many as are perfect, have this attitude..."
- (New International Version, Phil. 3:15)
"That we may present every man mature in Christ"
- (New International Version, Col. 1:28)
"Stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God"
- (New International Version, Col. 4:12)

But without understanding what Truth and Grace means, they push to obey to the letter and later finds themselves in disappointment and self-condemnation. In the same way they expect religious people to devote on high standards such as like the law or Christian practices like attending the Church regularly. Their theological perfectionism results in extremes of becoming legalistic on God’s perfect standards; hold to monasticism that is hating the world and sinfulness; or Gnosticism the assumption that God wants man to have perfect knowledge.
To turn their devotion to healthier beliefs, they are to be helped to understand sound Biblical doctrine that would give them the freedom In Christ. Like explaining to them that law does not make man perfect

"Law made nothing perfect" (New International Version, Heb. 7:19)
"Sacrifices cannot make worshiper perfect" (New International Version, Heb. 9:9)
"The law can never make perfect" (New International Version, Heb. 10:1)
And In fact, no one is perfect but were made perfect or righteous not in the standards of men but of God’s sanctification by the Grace of God.
"He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified"
- (New International Version, Heb. 10:14)
"My grace is sufficient, for power is perfected in weakness"
- (New International Version, II Cor. 12:9)
"He who began a good work in you will perfect it..."
- (New International Version, Phil. 1:6)
"Jesus is the author and perfecter of faith"
- (New International Version, Heb. 12:2)

Once they understood clearly the unconditional love of God, his sanctification, grace and forgiveness their symptoms won’t be fed up and may attain good mental health.

One of the reasons for job dissatisfaction among Filipino employees is said to be the social acceptance (Andres, 2001, p. 131) as he quote Fr. Jaime Bulatao’s study on the values of the Filipino’s in the 1960’s. Praise or commendation from a higher authority meant acceptance to a Filipino worker, however, this could hardly be received from a superior with an OCPD, because their symptoms have been a long standing practice and has become part of their personality.

Moreover, the principle of the Filipino sociostat (Andres, 2001, p.75), is to pull down whoever makes a higher space noting them to be “mayabang, pumapapel, akala mo kung sino…” and this is how most likely a typical Filipino would deal with an OCPD but pulls up those who are down, like sick co-employee or boss, or when they are in a difficult situation, the typical Filipino tendency is to reach out. No wonder that the way Filipinos work is better off with collective teamwork than of individualism.

Filipinos prefer indirect dialogue when one has a grudge, using a “Tulay” or intermediary (Andres, 2001, p.75), this is purposed to reduce shame of confrontation which may come to the form of having an Industrial counselor in the workplace, when an OCPD understands well the nature of work of the Industrial counselor which is to boost up the company’s motivation to attain the company goals by reinforcing the employees and knowing that everyone is subject to the counselor’s program, he or she may well react in it positively, and as the employees counseling needs has been diagnosed then, a referral to a psychotherapist could be arranged.

In case, a person encounters a seemingly an OCPD in his or her workplace, judgement must not be rushed rather, get a clear understanding about OCPD along with their inner world and help out instead of labelling the person. Apply what seems best as the way of dealing with them depending on your position or situation. And finally, look at oneself because, the subtle desire of helping people could be, wanting to fix them just like a person with OCPD.

1. Andres, T., (2001). Filipino Behavior at work: Human Relations & Organizational
behavior in the Philippine setting. Quezon City: Giraffe Books
2. Daniel, G., (2008). Tight Rope Walking: Everything you need to know about OCPD and
perfection, United Kingdom: Willows Books
3. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (2000) Diagnostic Criteria from
DSM-IV-TR, Washington: American Psychiatric Association
4. Halgin, R., & Whitbourne, S., (1997). Abnormal Psychology: The Human Experience of
Psychological disorders. Illinois: Brown and Benchmark.
5. Kaplan, H., & Sadock, B., (1991) Synopsis of Psychiatry: Behavioral Sciences and
Clinical Psychiatry. Manila: Merriam and Webster
6. MacKinnon, R., Michels, R., & Buckley, J., (2006). The Psychiatric Interview in Clinical
Practice, (2nd ed.). American Psychiatric
8. Maxwell, J., (2000) Be a People person: Effective Leadership Through Effective
Relationships, Quezon City, GCM.
7. Millon,T., Millon,C., Meagher,S., Grossman, S.,& Ramnath,R., (2004) Personality
Disorders in Modern Life, John Wiley & Sons
9. Owen, K. (2009) Telling the Difference Between OCD and Obsessive-Compulsive
Personality Disorder Retrieved March 24, 2009 from
10. Psychiatric Disorders Homepage. Retrieved from March 24, 2009
From http://www.psychiatric-disorders.com/articles/personality-disorders/
11. Word Net home page. Retrieved March 22, 2009, from

By: Sarah Millamena
April 3, 2009
Alliance Graduate School
Counseling and Psychopathology

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