Sometimes co-dependents may be identified by their behavior in the workplace. You may think that is impossible, because co-dependents tend to be good employees. They work harder than anyone else, they anticipate the needs of management and the are very dependable. However, there are two types of behavior that often identify them. The first type of behavior may be identified by management and, in some instances, the referral to the Employee Assistance Program may be on a mandatory basis. The second type of behavior generally comes in as a self referral unless it is extreme.
The first type of behavior involves problems with co-workers. The co-workers may complain that the employee is always angry and very stressed. The employee may be bossy, withdrawn or very short with them.. This comes to the manager’s attention and he or she refers them to the Employee Assistance Program. Why does the co-dependent person behave this way? If you remember the first two articles describing how co-dependents are affected in adulthood, you’ll recall that they feel responsible for everybody and everything. They think that it is their job to make certain that everything gets accomplished even if they are not managers. In order to ensure that everything gets done, they over-function. Of course, they expect everybody else to do the same. When people do not, then the co-dependent becomes very resentful. The co-workers can sense the co-dependent’s annoyance. Sometimes, even though it is not their job, the co-dependent may give other workers suggestions. They may also constantly complain to management, implying that the manager is not doing their job. That may or may not be true, but managers do not want that to be implied, especially by someone who reports to them. Occasionally, with this type of problem, the employee may experience enough anxiety or anger, that they decide to seek help, before they are sent to EAP.
The second type of behavior involves a meltdown. This is when the co-dependent becomes extremely upset at work. They may start crying and not stop. They may get so angry that they shout at other people. It may be a co-worker, or it may even be the boss. The co-dependent may be sent home to recover. Sometimes the manager may say to the employee something like, “If you are having some personal issues, the company provides an Employee Assistance Program to help employees with things like that. Or, if the meltdown is severe enough, the co-dependent may finally realize that they could use a little help.
So, what causes such a meltdown? The answer is similar to the last paragraph. Remember that the co-dependent feels that it is their personal responsibility to ensure that everything gets done. If work is behind, they work faster and faster and try to get the impossible done. They may work through breaks and lunch or dinner and come early and stay late. Of course, they would never ask for help because they do not believe that it is okay to do so. They also constrict their anger, frustration and worry until it is coming out of their ears. Just like a pressure cooker or a volcano, they eventually explode. Out comes all the constricted feelings, and to someone who doesn’t know what is happening, it can look pretty scary. Occasionally, I have had managers bring the employee right to our offices, because they are afraid to send them home.
Generally, when the employee comes to see me, we are quickly able to identify that they comes from a dysfunctional family. We identify how they are affected. and try to work on some of their irrational beliefs. They try to figure out what is and what is not their responsibility. This gives them quite a sense of relief. Then we work on the fact that they are powerless over other people, places, and things. Then, we redirect some of the energy they expend trying futilely to control others into working on taking better care of themselves. In just a short period of time they feel dramatically better.
The next article will begin a workbook on healing the co-dependent within us.
Part I: How Co-Dependents Come into Therapy
Part II – How Co-Dependents Come to Therapy – Teens
© Copyright 2011 by Joyce Henley, MSW, LCSW, CEAP, SAP. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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