Working Alone

Imagine you are living in a different world that is much simpler than ours, where humans live only off of slabs of bread. Most of the inhabitants of this imaginary world are content with their plain food because they have never tasted anything better. But among them, there is one visionary who knows that the experience of eating can be greatly enhanced with the invention of “peanut butter and strawberry jam.” He looks for a team to help him find his ingredients. “No. I’m pretty content with my plain bread and I’m sure everyone else is too,” says one of his prospective business partners. “That sounds like too much work,” another complains. When the entrepreneur finally manages to find a few people that are on board with his mission, he soon discovers that they cannot even differentiate between good and bad strawberries. He tries to teach them but they are unable to pick things up as fast as he can. Out of frustration, he reviews his options: (1) give up, (2) spend more time and money on training the wrong people, (3) do everything himself until he finds the right people to work with. Since it is neither within his nature to give up nor compromise his standards for excellence, he decides on the third option and creates the best peanut butter and strawberry jam the world has ever tasted.

People with OCPD tend to work alone when their passion for excellence is combined with their preoccupation with the efficient use of time and money.

The third option in the above story is the option taken by most employers. There really is not much disagreement against that decision. It is a widely accepted labour practice to replace those who cannot deliver the expected results with those who can. It just so happens that it takes a much longer time for people with OCPD to find the right people to work with because their standards are so high.

The OCPD need to make efficient use of time can also greatly delay the process of finding the right people to work with. There may be plenty of people who just need a little bit more training to eventually be able to deliver the results required by those with OCPD. However, people with OCPD who are preoccupied with the efficient use of time often lack the patience to wait for others to become good enough for the job.

The OCPD need to make efficient use of money can delay the process of finding the right people to work with as well. There may be plenty of professionals who can deliver the results required by those with OCPD at a cost. But people with OCPD often feel guilty about paying for services that they can easily do themselves.

Finally, people with OCPD who are very critical of the efforts of others are more likely to avoid group work with people who can outperform them. After habitually judging “My gosh! You are terrible at your job!” every time others perform poorly, people with OCPD become convinced that others are thinking the same thing about them when they do not measure up to the level of excellence of the group. These people rather work alone than to put themselves in a position where they might disappoint others.

Does this mean that all people with OCPD are not team players in the workplace? No. Not all jobs give people the freedom to materialize their uncompromisable love for excellence. People with OCPD can definitely be team players.

This OCPD tendency to work alone does not just occur in the workplace. I tended to work alone when I used to make music. Although I am best at the songwriting (melody and lyrics) portion of the music making process, I was unable to focus all my attention on it because I could not find a composer to work with who could compose the accompanying instrumental better than I could. There were professionals, of course, but I felt like I did not have the proven track record of profitability to spark their interest in working with me. I settled with doing everything myself. You can hear some of my original compositions on the “About Me” page.

This OCPD tendency to work alone can be hurtful in a group setting when others are in a position to share their input. In the story that I mentioned above, the strawberry pickers are not in any position to say “No. I will just continue to pick bad strawberries because I want to.” But in other group settings, like the family setting, people want to feel that their input matters. No matter how much of a good job she does, an OCPD mother who rejects the input of every other member of the family in the “management” of the children will likely cause a lot of hurt and resentment. In these group settings, people with OCPD must show that they actually value the input of others.

SO WHAT NOW?

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OCPD):
Know which group you are in and conduct yourself accordingly. If you have been placed into a group with members that would like to feel that their input matters, give them that benefit so that they would not develop resentment towards you. When they share their input, respond to them with “Hmmmm, that is great idea!” Even if you feel that your way is better than theirs, be diplomatic and show your openness to their way of doing things. If you want others to adopt your way of doing things, help them decide for themselves by evaluating the pros and cons of all the proposed options together as a group and asking them to decide on the best option. This will only work, however, if excellence is the goal of every member of the group. You need to recognize that, in many cases, excellence is not everyone’s goal. Some people just want to do whatever requires the least effort.

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OTHERS):
Say something like this to an OCPDer whose pursuit for excellence forces you out of the picture: “I applaud you for your way of doing things. I can really see its effectiveness in producing great outcomes. However, I feel very excluded in the way that you are going about reaching those outcomes. I feel like you do not respect what I have to say. Even if my way of doing things happens to be less effective than yours, I would still appreciate having my input considered. Is this something we can work out?” If the OCPDer cares more about people than outcomes, he or she will try to change. If the OCPDer has no plans to change because he or she is the type to care more about outcomes than people, you have three options: (1) break the partnership (not recommended for family setting), (2) follow his or her way of doing things, (3) do your own thing in your own way. If you choose to go through with either of the last two options, prepare yourself for OCPD all-or-nothing criticism. Be confident in your performance and do not take any of their judgments personally.

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF PROMOTION AT WORK (OCPD):
If you are the type of OCPDer who cares more about outcomes than people, everyone you work with will sense it because your tunnel vision probably causes you to focus so much on the outcomes that you completely neglect the people altogether. This will greatly decrease your chances of getting promoted at work. You will become frustrated as you watch others who work less than you do get promoted instead. So if you want to improve your chances of promotion at work, be consistently excellent in how you deal with the people around you as well.

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3 thoughts on “Working Alone

  1. anonymous says:

    Wow, this is spot on in terms of what my OCPD friend is doing in his romantic relationship. I so want to ask him, “Would you rather be alone, or would you rather learn how to compromise?” This is the choice he seems unable to realize that he has. He’s been reluctant to do #1 (Give up), is afraid he’s been doing #2 (trying to change the wrong person, as the “right” person would have responded positively to his efforts to change her, of course…), and so he’s heading toward ending up with #3 (being alone). Very sad.

    • Linda says:

      I just left a relationship with an OCPD man after 10 yrs. many of his behaviors I found hard to understand. He always had control of how the house was run and I did very little chores while living with him. A lot of what I have read on this site applies to the man I was with. I wish I would’ve had this info sooner, it may have helped me to understand some of his behaviors.

  2. LaCoquette says:

    I just left a company where my boss had OCPD. This man systematically ruined our department through his lack of decision and need to overcomplicate tasks and waste our precious time. He started his career as a programmer. I’m sure having OCPD helped with that. However, he was now in charge of a compliance department that had federal fiscal responsibilities and he was causing audit findings.

    Due to his OCPD, he preferred manual tasks over automated tasks. He made our IT department go technologically backwards and do things manually. This resulted in tens of audit findings! We worked for a federal entity and we were the compliance department! Talk about embarrassing.

    I remember one day he took an automated 10 minute task and turned it into a 5 hour manual task. He told me and my colleagues to come in on the weekend to do the newly manual task. He also turned our 40 hr. /wk. jobs into 70 hr. / wk. jobs due to his mental illness.

    As a result, moral was low, employees were constantly sick, there was no work-life balance, and we still were not able to complete tasks. He would make tasks and projects so complicated and manual that we never completed them. Ugh. And don’t get me started on his communication issues! He never answered questions directly and lied at a drop of a hat. He spoke in vague circles and would lie to hide his OCPD tendencies. If his bad decisions were challenged or if you made a decisive decision without his knowledge; he would fly into a full on RAGE. Then he would find ways to stall the task’s completion.

    I remember being in a meeting with him. He kept over-analyzing every minute detail. It was painful. I feel for anyone who has this illness but please get help. You are not only ruining your lives but the lives of those around you. There is much more to life than perpetual indecision and incomplete tasks.

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