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Personality Disorder and the Workplace

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Schizoid Personality Disorder

DSM-5 describes this disorder as a pervasive pattern of detachment from social relationships and a restricted range of expression of emotions in interpersonal settings. They appear to be indifferent to any opportunities to develop close relationships and do not seem to obtain any satisfaction from being part of a family or other social group. They seem unaffected by the criticism or compliments from others—they do not appear to care what others think about them. They are oblivious to the normal subtleties of social interaction. They tend not to respond to subtle social cues, so they appear as inept or socially “bland”. For example, they will tend not to reciprocate socially expected smiles or nods that acknowledge social connectedness. They rarely experience emotions of joy or anger and can appear cold and aloof.  The Schizoid Personality Disorder is indicated by the manifestation of four or more of the following:

• Neither desires nor enjoys close relationships including family interaction

• Prefers solitary activities

• Has little interest in sexual experiences with another person

• Takes pleasure in few activities if any

• Lacks close friends other than first degree relatives

• Appears indifferent to praise or criticism from others

• Demonstrates emotional coldness and detachment

How the Schizoid Personality Disorder may manifest in the workplace

In most organizations today, social interactions are common. Companies invest huge amounts of time and money to energize and inspire their employees for the best possible performance. From minor “pats on the back” for a job well done to a more formal recognition for performance, the Schizoid Personality will likely fail to be inspired and will also be unlikely to display any form of positive reaction or pleasure. Similarly, the poor performing individual being coached or managed will also tend to be unaffected by strong criticism from their boss. This appearance of lack of caring could be interpreted as lack of commitment to their work and to the company’s goals and aspirations. Given that these individuals appear directionless and tend to “drift” in their goals, the likelihood of them being strongly focused high performers is low. DSM-5 notes that these individuals will likely operate best in work conditions of isolation. One can imagine that the workplace of the future, allowing work to be conducted remotely via the virtual technologies over the internet, with little need for direct interactions with others, provides opportunities for this personality type. Cavaiola and Lavender (2000) observe that the field of engineering appears to attract people with Schizoid Personality Disorder. They can be very successful in this field and as a result of this technical success be promoted to managerial levels. As the authors say, “this is where the problems begin”. Precisely the kind of factors that make these individuals good engineers, namely thinking, logic and analytical endeavors, but not the kind of people skills required of a management role. These individuals will tend to be entirely focused on the technical task at hand and will have little or no to emotional quotient.

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