Episode 44: OCD in the Workplace

Episode 44

OCD in the Workplace

In this episode of Purely OCD, Lauren Rosen, LMFT and Kelley Franke, LMFT, discuss OCD in the Workplace.  To begin with, they cover common obsessions and compulsions as it relates to the work environment.  They also answer questions from viewers about sharing their disorder with a boss and tackling time consuming rituals that slow people down.

1:11 But first…

Happy Birthday to Kelley.  

Lauren is super glad Kelley was born.….just saying.  Lauren also notes that it is Chrissie Hodges’ of OCD Gamechangers birthday.  It’s a birthday fest filled with very special people.  

2:05 Another big piece of news…

Kelley is entering into her own private practice, The Center for OCD.

Lauren takes a moment to celebrate Kelley’s milestone. Ironically Lauren opened her private practice, The Center for the Obsessive Mind, just after her birthday. Check out their websites: https://centerforocd.com and https://theobsessivemind.com.  

3:11 Now down to the purpose of this episode:

OCD in the Workplace

3:22 Lauren asks Kelley, “What are the ways that you see it showing up most frequently in terms of obsessions and compulsions in the workplace?” 

3:30 Kelley says she sees it a lot with:

– What if I do the wrong thing? 

– What if I do the task wrong? 

– Am I typing this email appropriately? 

– What if I accidentally write an obscenity or I offend people?

It’s endless.

Lauren adds:

“You could have any variant in the workplace.”

You could have harm obsessions about your boss. Or if you work with kids, and you have POCD, you might have obsessions around that.”

4:20 Kelley continues, “The daily task stuff can be a bit overwhelming, too.  If you’re having intrusive thoughts and your OCD is saying, ‘hey, every time we get a thought that we don’t like, you’re going to have to redo what you were just doing.’ It can really slow down your progress.”

5:05 Lauren tells a personal story about her time in film and television.

“Many of you probably don’t know this. I used to work in film and television, and I worked in post-production.  One of my jobs was to do the credits, like the end title credits, and that involves spelling and checking of names and making sure that everything is right. Boy oh boy, did I have fun with that. Well, I should say my OCD had fun. That’s an example of a very random workplace task that most people don’t have. But Holy Cannoli!” 

– Lauren Rosen, LMFT

6:25 Examples that Kelley and Lauren give of OCD running amok in the workplace are:

– Fears about dropping really aggressive comments to somebody in a meeting.

– Concerns about doing something inappropriate. 

– Concerns about having blacked out and forgotten doing something inappropriate. 

– Worries that you’re staring at people’s crotches. 

“That [last one’s] a fun one. Especially in the workplace where it’s like another level of inappropriate. [And that can lead to] obsessions around cancel culture. ‘What if I’m staring, and that’s taken as some sort of sexual harassment and then fill in the blank?’ It’s a ‘choose your own adventure’ kind of a situation.”

Lauren Rosen, LMFT

7:45 A viewer asks, “Is it normal to check emails compulsively, like rereading them?”

7:55 Kelley answers:

“I think that there is a line of what’s the normal or the appropriate amount? I think you have to be really honest and do a really honest inventory and say, ‘I kind of know when things are getting a little compulsive.’ If it’s an email that’s going out to a bunch of people that is relatively important, you might take a second gander. 

– Kelley Franke, LMFT

8:49 Lauren piggybacks off of what Kelley said: 

“I think it’s funny because I don’t even think about it. I check my emails once, like just a quick read through unless it’s a super long email, and it doesn’t really matter. But yeah, I think that if you catch yourself checking, likelihood is it’s probably already gotten a little excessive.” 

– Lauren Rosen, LMFT

9:20 Kelley laughingly finishes with, “So we covered everything from staring at crotches to emails to saying obscenities. 

9:45 Lauren laughs, “I love our job.”

The ladies segue into a discussion of compulsivity:

“You might also find yourself reading and rereading. This compulsion is one that comes up a lot in the context of school as well. If you have to read something for your job, and it’s important that you understand it, and you’re maybe reporting it to other people, you might read through something and then think, “oh, my gosh, did I read that correctly? Maybe I should read it again.” It’s especially hard if you have any job that deals in legal documents. 

– Lauren Rosen, LMFT

10:35 Speaking of legal documents, both Kelley and Lauren can relate to this, as there are a number of important legal documents associated with starting a private practice.  They commiserate, “if you’re not a lawyer, it can, first of all, make you cross-eyed and make you want to fall asleep, but it also really Jacks up that urge to check and recheck.” They’ve been in the midst of holding each other accountable and telling each other, “Walk away”. “Don’t let it win.” 

11:20 They do a shout out to Stuart Ralph of The OCD Stories who tuned in. If you haven’t already, check out The OCD Stories

11:56 Continuing their discussion of compulsions, Kelley and Lauren identify ruminating and confessing as compulsions. 

12:05 Lauren asks Kelley, “How would you see that coming up?” and Kelley responds:

“I’ve seen it come up with moral stuff, and the fear that a person thinks they’ve maybe done something wrong. That kind of behavior really can get in the way directly and faster, because it’s a direct hit to your supervisor or your boss, and they’re thinking, “Everything’s fine”.” 

– Kelley Franke, LMFT

12:54 Lauren agrees: 

“I’ve worked with somebody, and one of their main compulsions was asking for reassurance from their boss, and it did start to interfere. It’s one of those things that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I don’t want to mess up. And so I’m going to run every single small tiny thing past my boss, but then my boss starts to get overwhelmed with all of my questions…so maybe my fear is that I’m going to get fired just for making a mistake. And now maybe my job is on the line, because I’ve asked for insane amounts of reassurance and people are getting pretty tired.” 

– Lauren Rosen, LMFT

13:36 They conclude, “If we’re looking at reassurance from a family or loved one, there is a quick burnout that happens. In a job, it’s no different. Any sort of relationship is going to potentially suffer because of that excessive reassurance seeking.” 

14:50 Another viewer asks, “How do you deal with unpleasant thoughts around your boss?”

15:00 Lauren adds a little levity by asking: “Has anyone ever in the history of the world who’s had a boss not had an intrusive thought about their boss or just an unpleasant thought? She continues more seriously:

“It depends on what our definition of unpleasant is, but when it comes to OCD, people could think, ‘Oh, I’m bad, because I had a negative thought about that person, or I had a harm, thought.’ 

I think it’s probably pretty common.  Kind of like driving on the freeway, not to be totally reassuring, but you’re on the freeway and somebody cuts you off in traffic…  You are likely to have a little moment of road rage in your head. And so, likewise, bosses tend to piss people off, because that’s kind of part of the job…

It’s like saying, has anyone in the history of ever, never had a negative thought about their parent? Right? Well, probably not.”

– Lauren Rosen, LMFT

16:57 Taking another question from a listener, “Is it normal to tell your boss or colleagues that you have OCD?” 

17:19 Lauren begins, 

“I think in some instances, especially if your compulsions are coming up at work and/or you’re in treatment and trying to navigate that, it can be helpful to let people at work in. Obviously not anyone or everyone and being thoughtful about how you’re telling somebody and in what context. But I can certainly see where it might be useful, if you’re really, really struggling, to put that into context for somebody.” 

– Lauren Rosen, LMFT

17:58 Kelley adds: 

“And also not doing it in a compulsive way, like you’re confessing and almost like you’re getting their consent: “Hey, I am a person who lives with OCD, and I have intrusive thoughts about harming children. Are you okay with me working here? 

– Kelley Franke, LMFT

18:35 Another question from the audience, “How do you deal with the thoughts you will be fired?” 

18:47 Kelley lays it out:

“Let me tell you something, my friend. I will always have those thoughts. Every time Tom (my boss) calls, I’m getting fired. Today is the day. Oh, my, today’s the day. He’s calling. Today’s the day.“

– Kelley Franke, LMFT

20:33 Taking the last question, “OCD often slows me down with tasks. How do I keep this from interfering with job performance?”

20:46 Kelley begins,

“Obviously we can’t speak to your case specifically, and we don’t know the specifics, but I can tell you, in the last ten years as a therapist, I would often get stuck in “I have to feel right” before I can open the door to see my next patient, because if I didn’t “feel right”, I wouldn’t be in the “right head space” to help them appropriately. That doesn’t go well when you have clients hourly back to back, back, you’ve got to move quick. So the thing that helped me the most was just moving really fast.” 

– Kelley Franke, LMFT

21:40 Lauren continues:

“And I think that, ultimately, the best thing that one can do to help themselves is to get into treatment and start doing Exposure and Ritual Prevention (ERP), because the ritual prevention, when you’re taking a long time doing compulsions, is going to help reign in the amount of time that you’re spending and is going to support your job performance as well as your ability to engage in your life in a meaningful and fulfilling way.”

– Lauren Rosen, LMFT

22:18 Kelley adds:

“It doesn’t matter what the task is. If it’s slowing you down, move faster. You need to be in treatment in order to create what is your “fast” and how to do it in a way that’s built in with intentional exposures.” 

– Kelley Franke, LMFT

22:40 Lauren finishes: 

“And I think one part of speeding up is being willing to do it imperfectly. If you’re willing to go out and get your client when you don’t feel “just right,” then you’re not going to be slowed down. And if you’re willing to do the “good enough” job writing that email and sending it off, and you’re willing to accept that maybe you’re going to write something profane in there, then you’re freed up.”

– Lauren Rosen, LMFT


Like what you’ve heard? We’d love to hear your feedback. Head over to your podcast app of choice where you can comment and like the podcast in order to help build our audience and spread awareness about OCD. While you’re there, subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Listen to the Purely OCD Podcast on Spotify.
Listen to the Purely OCD Podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Listen to the Purely OCD Podcast on Google Podcasts.
Listen to the Purely OCD Podcast on Podbean.

Sign Up for Updates from Us

Subscribe below to receive info on our latest news and episodes

Disclaimer: This information is meant to be general information not unique to any individual. Before following any guidance or advice found on this site or in the Purely OCD Podcast a visitor or listener should always consult with their own licensed healthcare practitioner. The Purely OCD Podcast and Website are not therapy or intended as a replacement for therapy. They are for educational purposes only.

Leave a Reply