bipolar excuses or explanationsMy wife, Cecie, has bipolar disorder. Recently, she got into some trouble at work over a policy she violated. Not that it’s anyone’s business, but I’d better explain what she did (with her permission, of course), so you don’t imagine something worse than it is. Cecie is a teacher. She brought her new puppy to school for a couple days and had two (high school) students take it outside the school building (located in a very safe area) without signing out. She received a written reprimand over the incident, which I personally think was a little over the top, but so be it.

Cecie wonders why she did something like that knowing that she should’ve asked permission first, and she wondered this out loud as she related the story to her psychiatrist. The doctor explained to Cecie that “defiance” seems to be part of her personality and it is probably part of her “bipolar spectrum.” The doctor didn’t offer to go to bat for Cecie or write a letter to the administration. She seemed to think that Cecie needed to learn from the incident and not repeat similar mistakes.

The incident brings up some interesting questions. If bipolar, an illness, caused or contributed to the behavior, how can Cecie be expected to control such behavior beyond the great efforts she exerts to manage the illness? If an illness causes an employee to violate a workplace policy, should the person be disciplined? If the violation is serious enough, should the employer have the right to fire the person? Does the fact that somebody has an illness, such as bipolar disorder, really matter when it comes to workplace policies? And if it doesn’t, do we really have any hope of ever destigmatizing mental illness?

I’d like to know what you think. Please post a comment to share your thoughts.

Puppy photo available from Shutterstock