Working Trap

With summer comes the ability for me to get a job, to start saving for college which is going to be scary expensive. Working in retail is a fast-paced and high customer interaction environment which is great for me, but my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is finding ways to make my working life difficult. With life eventually transitioning from work to school, I know the issues I face now at my job aren’t going away anytime soon.

Despite being absolutely terrible at small talk, I have no issues helping customers or talking to them about the merchandise. There are occasions where small talk is required and I am gradually improving. I still struggle with initiating small talk, but once it gets started I can sometimes keep a conversation going, which is a small victory.

The biggest issue I’m having is not taking breaks, even though they are legally required and the employees are encouraged to take them. I care about the company I work for and I want it to do well, so my OCD twists taking a break as hurting the company by not being available to help customers or return clothing to their appropriate rack. It tells me that I don’t physically need a break, and I’m not mentally drained like I was frequently at school, so the break isn’t needed.

The few times I’ve taken a break (at the urging of a coworker) I felt like a horrible person. I just sat in the break room and thought about all of the things that I could be doing to help and that I’m costing the store money because something that I could have returned back to the rack now won’t get bought or I’m not able to help someone. Naturally I conclude that I’m a terrible person that will cause the store to fail.

Another issue I have is that I constantly feel like I’m not working hard enough. I could always be more efficient or provide better service to customers. I try so hard to be better but the anxiety that I’m not performing well enough comes in, and I justify skipping the break to make up for not doing as well as I should. My mind tells me that if I take a break I deserve to get fired.

While working, a large source of anxiety is that I can’t fix everything. The clothing on the racks isn’t always in size order, clothing isn’t always centered on the hanger the right way. However, I don’t have the time to stop and fix every little imperfection, since getting clothing out of the fitting rooms and processing returns takes priority. I just feel so torn inside leaving it to continue what I’m doing instead of stopping to fix the issue. It further feeds the cycle that I’m not doing enough, but my fear of low productivity keeps me from stopping, but it doesn’t help the rising anxiety.

I know I’m going to have to discuss my OCD with my supervisors and have their support in order to fight against this set of obsessions and compulsions. I happen to be terrified of this, since I’m unsure of how it will be received in a business setting. I don’t want to be viewed as a liability or be treated like I’m made of glass. I don’t know how the business environment versus school changes the reception of what I go through. Basically, the unknowns are stressing me out so I’ve been avoiding it.

Despite the difficulties, I still enjoy my job and don’t regret starting to work for the company one bit. I know that I will soon have to have a discussion about my OCD in the workplace, and even if it goes badly is will all work out in the end. I am gaining quality work experience, and getting a head start facing issues that will be present all throughout my career after college.