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Personality Disorder and the Workplace

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People with this disorder have a style of speech that is excessively impressionistic or lacking in substance.  For example, strong opinions are expressed with emotionality suggesting a deep connection with the topic, but they are often unable to provide detail when questioned by others. Individuals with this disorder are easily influenced by others or by current fads. They may be overly trusting and gullible especially when interacting with people in positions of power who they see as being able to solve their problems and provide them with some sense of attention and importance. They often consider relationships stronger that they really are, and can present themselves as being overly familiar with people whom they barely know.

How the Histrionic Personality Disorder may manifest in the workplace

These individuals will tend to visibly pay more attention to themselves versus the work for which they are accountable. They are likely to be dramatic and attention getting in what they say they can do in order to get attention versus what they actually produce in the long run. Their initial, but superficial charm can become irritating to managers and supervisors when their need for attention is excessive and when they lack delivery on goals. These individuals may be inappropriately flirtatious and to the point of overstepping company policy. Co-workers may feel uncomfortable and may lodge formal complaints about inappropriate comments about their appearance. They will tend to demand excessive attention from managers and constantly seek approval and public comments that make them look good. They may also easily latch onto and will be easily influenced by senior leaders who are able to manipulate them by providing the attention they crave. These are the personalities that are overly dramatic in meetings and other group work settings, but make little meaningful contribution.

Cavaiola and  Lavender (2000) note that it would seem unlikely that someone suffering from Histrionic Personality Disorder would rise to positions of leadership given their lack of emotional control; however,  given their assertive and outgoing personality and high energy levels, they often chose and are at least quite successful in careers involving sales, marketing, or politics. The authors comment that when these individuals do rise to leadership positions, it can “spell disaster” for those working for them. The authors suggest being fully aware that these individuals will likely take credit for your work at every opportunity and because they are such blatant sales people, will likely get away with it. Be cautious not to get caught up in their drama, storytelling and gossip. Given their tendency to be in crisis mode all the time, getting caught up in their emotional roller coaster can be draining. Rather keep your distance. HPDs are excessive in their needs for you to get involved in their drama, and given their charm, this can be quite easy in the early stages of knowing these individuals.

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