Personality Disorders At Work Cause Performance Variations

personality disorders

Of the many different responsibilities which managers must attend to, one of the key responsibilities deals with ensuring that employees perform effectively in the workplace. The manager must ensure that performance is increased over time, or at the very least, that it is maintained over time. As performance can vary among employees, it would be helpful to understand the root causes of performance variations. Understanding personality disorders can enhance effective decision making.

With such an understanding, a manager can then adapt their management style so as to take into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of the employees when making decisions. An insightful manager will make better decisions that will lead the employees towards achieving optimum performance. In short, there are root causes that affect employee performance in the workplace. Of these root causes, some may include personality disorders. The rest of this post describes a few personality disorders. To understand personality disorders, we need to start the discussion with traits.

There are many different personality traits that one can have. The list is too exhaustive to go through, but to give you an idea, here are a few; compassionate, agreeable, spontaneous, trusting, and so forth. If these traits lead to harm, or if they interfere with someone’s progress, or if they cause unsuccessful interactions across different situations, we can refer to this as personality disorders. There are many individuals working in society, who show such dysfunctional behaviours, but they are still able to get by. Many times, a person with a personality disorder could have great skill and show great performance, and this is often enough rationale for the employer to overlook any dysfunctional behaviour. They key is, in having compensating factors, a person with a personality disorder is able to contribute to society and have success in the workforce. So let’s take a look at a few types of personality disorders that can occur to employees in the workplace.

Avoidant Employees – Avoidant employees can be inhibited socially, show a stronger sensitivity to negative criticism, and they can feel inadequate. They fear people, and try to avoid situations where interaction is required with others. A good way to manage such an employee, is to keep them from being the center of attention, providing them with specific things to work on, and managing “lightly”.

Dependent Employees – As the name implies, dependent employees depend on others. Their behaviour is characterized by that of a “needy person”, “someone that is submissive”, or an attitude where “one wishes to be taken care of”. In the workplace, they may constantly seek out advice or guidance. If you find that the same questions are asked over and over, the person may already know the answers to the questions, but the dependent personality takes over in their need to be directed. That is an important issue, that dependent employees do not like independent decision-making. The goal of managing such an employee, is to train the employee to become secure in their own work. To accomplish this, a lower stress environment will need to be created where gradual and ongoing corrective management will need to happen..

Histrionic Employees – Histrionic employees have a need for excitement. They are in favour of emotionality rather than the use of logic in their approach. Rather than seeking out facts and using objectivity in their approach to work, they are more interested in the interpersonal aspects and in people. Consequently, these employees find things such as data analysis, file organization, and document management to be boring and challenging. On these “boring tasks”, the performance levels can decline, and as such, the manager will need to supervise more during such activities.

Borderline Employees – It is difficult for a borderline personality to have stable interpersonal relationships. The wild emotional swings and the change in moods can affect their perceptions and beliefs. Others may not know how to interpret this type of personality, and may actually misinterpret them to be manipulative, liars or assign other negative views. The simple truth is, that these personalities may simply believe in different truths at different times. The best way to manage such a personality is to be dependable at all times, which will allow them a foundation upon which to form a trusting relationship.

Narcissistic Employees – People with a narcissistic personality feel entitled and they want to be admired. Unfortunately, they are also indifferent to the feelings of others and lack empathy. As a manager, it may be difficult to find someone the employee respects enough to listen to, but if you do, then you will be able to keep their attention.

Paranoid Employees – Paranoid employees may do a little too much reflection for their own good. Often, the paranoid employee will not be relaxed, but instead, will stay focused on their suspicions of others. Though they are very perceptive, and intuitive, often their interpretations come with a bias or negative emphasis. These employees see others are hostile, duplicitous, and deceptive. When managing such an employee, it is important to not confront them, but to provide honest and factual reality checks. This approach will help to remove any misconceptions. The best approach is to use logic, as it will allow the manager to restrict and control any tangents or out of control theories that may arise.

Schizoid Employees – The schizoid employee can be a tough one to understand. This is because the characteristics which are displayed are diverse. Some examples of the possible behaviours include; withdrawal, avoidance, perceptual abnormalities, thought abnormalities, and restricted emotionality. Though this type of personality faces some challenges and difficulties, they are able to function effectively at work when they have relevant skills and abilities to offer. However, this type of personality can get distracted and go in other directions. As such, the manager should check the work progress periodically so as to ensure the employee’s focus remains on the tasks that need to be accomplished.

Passive Aggressive Employees – Passive aggressive employees need to be monitored a bit more closely than other types of employees. This is because the  nature of their activities may seem positive, but in fact they could be negative. Though they may seem to follow the rules, they may actually break the intent or spirit of the rules. This can be difficult to spot! While coaching and counselling may seem like an appropriate response, it may not be effective for this personality type. The best way to approach and handle this type of employee is to focus on getting them to adhere to work standards, to achieve objectives, to achieve goals, and generally, to keep them accountable. Another appropriate practice, is to keep a detailed history for the employee, in terms of evidence, logs, critical incidents and other documents. This information will come in handy if there is ever a dispute.

Antisocial Employees – Antisocial personalities are not concerned with the rules of society, and in fact, violate those rules. They do this because they do not respect the rights or the feelings of other people. Generally, people expect others to have a conscience. When the antisocial colleague shows themselves not to have this, this can come as a nasty surprise to the worker. Additionally, antisocial personalities can be a big problem for new employees entering the workforce, who can be naive. These potentially naive workers do not expect that others have antisocial attitudes that could be of harm or pose a problem to them, but sometimes the new workers find that they face a threat from these types of individuals. As a manager, it is important to document everything systematically when dealing with an antisocial employee.

Obsessive Compulsive Employees – Obsessive-compulsive employees are detail-oriented, perfectionistic, and are concerned with control and organization. These may seem like good things, and they can be, but in excess they can also be bad news for an organization. Imagine someone working on a project at such a high level of quality that they never get the project done. The obsessive-compulsive qualities, in excess, can be a danger to the success of work. The manager should assist the employee to direct their focus to where it’s needed.


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