Question: I have been struggling with this issue for ... well, years.
I am an administrative secretary to the director of my department. A
few months after I was hired (five years ago), they opened up a
position for a receptionist. We hired a woman who seemed bubbly and
friendly: no problem with answering the phones and handling the mail.
After hiring her, the director decided that I would be her supervisor
(without any change in title or increase in pay).
Within the next year, she started having crying jags because her
grandmother was sick. By the second year into her service, she got much
worse. She was acting very oddly -- manic -- and then, she started
becoming adversarial and started making claims that people were
following her ... including helicopters. She was having hallucinations.
Within a month, she seemed to have a complete breakdown and collapsed on the floor, writhing and crying and begging for help.
One of the assistant directors helped get her to a psychiatric
hospital. She was hospitalized and out on leave for about four or five
months. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She had been
prescribed medication previous to her breakdown, but we suspect that
she stopped taking her medication.
She came back to work part time and gradually increased her schedule
back to full time. And we accommodated her, allowing her to take the
time off for all of her doctor appointments.
I feel for her, tremendously. I have friends who have had serious
mental health problems. I understand how debilitating it can be and how
important it is for her to have stability and a steady paycheck. I have
wanted to help her.
Within the year after she came back from her leave, she seemed to be
doing better. But then, slowly, she started sliding back to that
unstable place. She comes to work dressed totally inappropriately: in
flip-flops, sweat pants and t-shirts, many times. She walks around
barefoot more and more frequently. He mannerisms and voice become very
exaggerated and, well, odd.
She is constantly up and down from her desk, going into the kitchen,
asking to use the bathroom eight to 15 times a day. (She does get an
hour for lunch and two 15-minute breaks, as well). She has been in the
negative for her sick time for several months now. She doesn't have any
vacation or sick time left because of all the time that she has taken
off (not doctor-related; I let her make up that time). A number of
times, she come into work hours late, without getting an OK beforehand
and with no plausible explanation.
I have spoken to her several times. I have written her up and had
her sign the letter. I have kept records of all the problem behavior. I
have contacted our employee assistance program on several occasions.
She went to see them (at my request) on numerous occasions. I have
talked to my boss; she basically doesn't want to have anything to do
with the situation. I have researched the issues of bipolar disorders
and the workplace on the internet, but it is mostly from the
perspective of the person afflicted with the illness.
I am trying very hard to work with this situation. I can see,
though, that it is unlikely to get any better. And it is really
frustrating me and wearing me down.
To top it off, my boss has me cover for this receptionist whenever
she is away from her desk or out for the day. So, not only do I have to
deal with this very frustrating and delicate situation, but I am the
one who has to compensate for her shortcomings by covering for her all
of the time.
Frankly, I find all of this very unfair.
Even if I asked my boss to take over supervising this employee, it
would not help me. My boss has a reputation for NOT dealing with
anything. She is the proverbial head in the sand. If I was no longer
this employee's supervisor, I am guessing it would just get worse and
then I wouldn't be able to do anything to improve the situation.
It seems as though my only option is to continue to deal with this on a day-to-day basis or look for a new job.
I know this is a mouthful, but perhaps someone has experienced something similar.
Keep in mind, though, that this is not just another difficult
employee who can be disciplined and eventually fired if they don't
comply. It is not that simple. She has a mental illness and she is a
union employee on top of that. It isn't that I want to fire her, but it
has been literally years that this is going on now. I can't take it
Any suggestions? -- Susan