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Personality Disorder and the Workplace

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These individuals have trouble relaxing and allocating time to leisure. They display excessive devotion to work productivity to the exclusion of relaxation and friends. When they do take a vacation they are likely to take work along with them so they can feel productive. If they do engage in sports or hobbies they will approach them as serious tasks that require hard work and great attention to detail. Their emphasis will be on perfect performance versus fun and enjoyment. They are likely to be harsh with others and will tend to enforce rigid rules and follow inflexible moral standards and standards of performance. They can be ruthlessly critical of their own mistakes and those of others. They are also likely to be rigidly deferential to authority and rules. They will insist on exact compliance with no opportunity for contextual flexibility or extenuating circumstances.

This disorder is manifest by being unable to discard worn out or worthless objects. They can become hoarders of useless items.

These individuals are very reluctant to delegate responsibility to others. They feel everything must be perfect and they can do this alone. If responsibility is delegated, they will insist that it be done their way with no flexibility. They will become irritated with others who suggest alternative ways of doing things, even if these alternatives are clearly more efficient. They are so concerned about doing things the one correct way that they struggle to go along with the ideas of others. They struggle to deal with changes in the way work might need to get done to meet changing requirements. Co-workers are likely to become frustrated by this rigidity. The Obsessive Compulsive Disorder sufferer will often argue that “it is the principle of the thing” that it has to be done a certain way.

How the Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder may manifest in the workplace

The summary above sourced from the DSM-5 provides a vivid picture of this type of personality disorder in the workplace. Given my many years of work in a highly regulated banking environment, it is interesting to look back at how this personality disorder would likely be regarded as a high performer in many situations. However, in the rapidly changing work environment of today, at least in most industries, these individuals would likely struggle. I can imagine these individuals operating comfortably in many aspects of the military, but not in the creative, rapidly changing work environment of “knowledge work” ( for example, in software engineering and design) and particularly where there is intense pressure to “break the rules” to beat the competition and find innovative ways to shorten processes and procedures. Given their struggle to delegate responsibility, or to give recognition to others who may have succeeded by “breaking the rules”, they are likely to struggle in a dynamic team environment.

These individuals tend to be project themselves as overly serious, highly controlled or stilted and may appear uncomfortable in the presence of others, particularly in a work environment of “organized chaos”—where people are being innovative and are often engaged in brainstorming forums. Given their tendency to be stubborn, they are unlikely to be easily accepted into this kind of team environment. More and more, as the workplace is undergoing increasing levels of change in which the average individual is likely to struggle, those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are likely to seek out alternative work environments and opportunities.

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