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Personality Disorder and the Workplace

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Individuals with this disorder will tend to volunteer or agree to do tasks that are unpleasant or disagreeable to them simply in order to maintain approval and support from others. This makes them easily manipulated or taken advantage of. They will tend to urgently and indiscriminately seek other dependent relationships when another ends.

How the Dependent Personality Disorder may manifest in the workplace

The individual with Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) will predictably struggle in a normal work environment in which employees are expected to take the initiative and complete tasks without much supervision. It is likely that these individuals would struggle even in the initial hiring process of a career search given that they present themselves as helpless and incapable. They are only likely to function in work situations in which they have clear and ongoing nurturing and support. They are also likely to need work that is more predictable and repetitive versus any projects that require initiative and risk. It is likely that these individuals could be taken advantage of in the workplace by unscrupulous bosses, who gain their confidences and then require them to do work that is unpleasant or even dangerous or unethical.

Cavaiola and Lavender (2000) note that it is unlikely that these individuals will reach leadership or managerial positions, but if they do it is more likely that they move into these positions because they have pleased their bosses rather than basic managerial competence. They make better followers than leaders. If they do rise to these positions, they are likely to strive to create harmonious work environments in which there is not confrontation with anyone. They are likely to be consensus builders to the extreme, avoiding making difficult decisions. The DPD will want to talk things through endlessly and avoid making decisions in isolation. However, for team members who want to get their ideas recognized, and can work with the DPD in an understanding way, there is the opportunity to shine and to be recognized. In these cases, one can receive a lot of support from the DPD boss, because it can be viewed as win-win. There is the potential for successful outcomes with these individuals, however frustrating the process may be at times.

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

The primary feature of this disorder is a preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism and interpersonal control at the expense of openness and efficiency. These individuals attempt to maintain a sense of control through painstaking attention to rules, trivial details, procedures, lists, schedules or formats to the degree that the primary objective of whatever exercise they are involved in is lost or forgotten. They are excessively careful and prone to repeatedly check for possible mistakes and recheck that everything they are doing is correct or perfect, without adequate focus on the intended outcome and timelines. Their allocation to tasks is poor, and they will tend to invest time on trivial detail versus keeping the point of the exercise or project at the top of their mind. Deadlines will tend to be missed and important aspects of the individual’s life that are not the current focus can fall into disarray.

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