A People Leader’s Guide to Understanding Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. As a People Leader, it’s crucial to understand what OCD is, dispel common myths and misconceptions, and recognise the unique challenges individuals with OCD may face in the workplace. This guide will provide you with the knowledge you need to support your employees effectively.

What is OCD?

OCD is a mental health disorder characterised by the presence of obsessions and compulsions. It is considered part of the neurodiversity umbrella. Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that cause significant anxiety. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that a person feels driven to perform in response to their obsessions. OCD can vary widely in severity and impact on an individual’s life.

Common Myths and Misconceptions About OCD

Before we dive into understanding OCD in the workplace, let’s clear up some misconceptions:

1. “OCD is just about being clean and organised.”

  • While cleanliness and organisation can be part of OCD, it can manifest in many other ways, such as intrusive thoughts, fears, or even repetitive mental rituals.

2. “People with OCD just need to relax or stop overthinking.”

  • OCD is not a choice or a result of overthinking. It’s a medical condition that requires professional treatment.

3. “OCD is a minor issue and doesn’t affect daily life.”

  • OCD can significantly impact a person’s daily life, from relationships to work. It’s not a minor concern.

Challenges Faced by People with OCD in the Workplace

Understanding the challenges faced by employees with OCD can help create a supportive work environment. Here are some common challenges and examples:

1. Intrusive Thoughts Impacting Focus:

  • Example: An employee may struggle to concentrate on tasks due to recurring distressing thoughts about making mistakes or harming others.

2. Need for Repetition and Rituals:

  • Example: An employee might spend seemingly “excessive” time checking and rechecking their work, which can lead to decreased productivity.

3. Stigma and Misunderstanding:

  • Example: Co-workers may not understand why an employee needs to perform certain rituals and may label them as “quirky” or “difficult.”

4. Anxiety and Time-Consuming Behaviors:

  • Example: The constant need to perform rituals can result in increased stress, reduced efficiency, and difficulties meeting deadlines.

Practical Tips for People Leaders

Here are some practical tips to support employees with OCD in the workplace:

1. Create a Supportive Environment:

  • Foster an inclusive and understanding workplace culture where employees feel safe discussing their concerns.

2. Accommodate Needs:

  • Work with employees to identify reasonable accommodations, such as flexible schedules or providing a quiet workspace.

3. Encourage Open Communication:

  • Maintain open channels of communication and provide opportunities for employees to discuss their challenges and needs.

4. Offer Resources:

5. Promote a Balanced Workload:

  • Help employees manage their workload to prevent excessive stress and anxiety.


Understanding OCD, dispelling myths, and recognising the challenges individuals with OCD face in the workplace is essential for People Leaders. By creating a supportive and accommodating work environment, you can empower your employees with OCD to thrive and contribute effectively while reducing the stigma associated with this condition. Remember, a little empathy and flexibility can make a significant difference in the well-being of your team members.