Bipolar disorder is a condition that affects more people than you are probably aware of. As a matter of fact, if you are a human resources manager, it is likely that, no matter how small the business you work for, a segment of your employees have been diagnosed with some form of bipolar disorder. It goes without saying that you cannot, and should not, discriminate against people because of a mental health disorder; however, it is also obvious that handling issues that arise out of employee bipolar disorder will require sensitive handling on your part. Here is what you need to know about human resources and employees with bipolar disorder:
Employee privacy. Your employees’ medical information is private, and protected by law. It should never be kept in the same place as the general employee file (handbook, contract, payroll information, et cetera); instead, employee medical information should be filed away in a separate location that is locked and inaccessible to other employees and staff members.
Proof of diagnosis. In order to cater to your bipolar employee’s specific circumstances, should they arise, you will need to obtain proof of the diagnosis of bipolar before you can take any executive action. A signed doctor’s should be sufficient. Of course, this is to be filed away with the employee’s medical records.
Learn all you can about bipolar disorder. A lot of times, bipolar people are extremely creative, charismatic, and productive when they are on a high. Unfortunately, they can be quite the opposite when they crash. It is understandable that you should want to hang on to great talent that benefits your company, even if you have to accommodate the less than desirable aspects. One thing you can do to ease your burden is to learn as much as you can about bipolar disorder. The more you know, the more well equipped you will be to cope with the highs and lows, which must involve an individualized approach.
Bipolar-related work leave. Time off work due to the treatment of bipolar disorder, or an extreme manic or depressive episode, is covered by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). You must be sure to obtain the required documentation, and to protect your employee’s privacy, in the process.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme moods in either of two directions: good or bad. Both extremes can present obvious problems on the work front, for the affected person, coworkers, and those in management. As a human resources professional, you have an especially sensitive role in the handling of bipolar employees. Keep these things in mind to ensure that you are following appropriate and fair protocol.
About the Author: Cheree Kozma is a HR rep in charge of hiring, recruiting software maintenance, and monitoring employee leave and affiliated laws. Employees with medical conditions deserve respect and care.
Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/adohnes/1503226922/