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How to Deal with Co-workers who have Histrionic Personality Disorder

written by: N Nayab • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 11/25/2010

Co-workers with histrionic personality disorder are definitely difficult to deal with. Read on to find out the implications for working with such people and possible solutions.

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    Co-Workers with Histrionic Personality Disorder Histrionic personality disorder is a type of dramatic personality disorder where people have intense and unstable emotions and distorted self-images.

    People suffering from histrionic personality disorder usually display any combination of the following traits:

    • self-dramatization or exaggerated expression of emotions, combined with failure to see the situation realistically
    • constant seeking of reassurance or approval, and remaining easily influenced by others
    • demonstrating shallow and labile affectivity, with rapidly shifting emotional states that may appear superficial or exaggerated to others
    • indulging in attention seeking tactics through activities that make the person the center of attention
    • displaying inappropriate seductiveness in appearance or behavior, including but not limited to making themselves physical attractive to others

    Image Credit: flickr.com/Andy Armstrong

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    Implications for the Workplace

    Although many people with histrionic personality disorder excel socially and at work, it is also common for people with this disorder to create problems for their colleagues and for the organization for which they work.

    The exaggerated emotions displayed by the someone with this disorder, as well as other traits, can bother other employees, and contribute to workplace discord.

    People suffering from histrionic personality disorder are uncomfortable when not in the center of attention. They usually have low tolerance for frustration or delayed gratification, and are extremely sensitive to criticism or disapproval. This makes them poor team players and it can be difficult for co-workers to strike a rapport with them, or even have a healthy working relationship with them. The biggest problem comes in teamwork that requires close co-ordination.

    The problem becomes accentuated if the affected person is the boss, a leader, or someone involved in the decision making process. People with histrionic personality disorder usually get bored of routine, begin projects without finishing them or skip from one event to another. Their speech remains impressionistic, but lacks detail. They tend to make rash decisions, not thinking before acting. Their desire for novelty and excitement cause themselves to make risky decisions. They typically have poor people skills, are unable to show empathy or concern towards others, and are self-centered. Such traits make it difficult for most people to work under such bosses.

    A major issue of co-workers with histrionic personality disorders is their inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative behavior. They believe relations to be more intimate that they actually are, but at the same time also find it difficult to maintain relationships, faltering when the need for depth and durability to maintain the relationship comes.

    All these traits can have far-reaching ramifications in the workplace, and can cause serious controversy, professional rivalry or jealousy, serious conflicts or outright violence.

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    Possible Solutions

    Employees with histrionic personality disorders almost certainly have some positive personality traits and characteristics, and work related skills, for if not they would not have been hired in the first place. Problems surface when maladaptive and inflexible patterns of work cause stress to the employee. People with the disorder consider the problem as residing with the other person and rarely with themselves. They also tend to utilize their good social skills to manipulate others and become the center of attraction.

    The best workplace solution is to place such employees in jobs that suit them well and where stress remains minimal, and the scope and need for constant interactions with others remain minimal, while providing them with due visible recognition for their efforts.

    Such an appropriate job placement needs reinforcement by the management setting limits or boundaries for the employee, providing him or her with clear rules, expectations, feedback, and modeling that focus on proper workplace conduct, completion of assigned tasks, adherence to policies and procedures, and considerations for coworker feelings. The supervisor needs to cope with angry protests, and rather than argue, need to counter them by providing specific details of the inappropriate behavior or the like and providing clear and specific suggestions for improvement.

    The role of management might be limited in issues such as inappropriate relationships, personal dress, or seductive style. The onus remains on the coworkers of the affected employee to resist all attempts made by co-workers with histrionic personality disorder, and refrain from engaging them. Whatever work related interactions takes place need to be as minimal and as unemotional as possible.

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    References

    1. Cleveland Clinic. Histrionic Personality Disorder. Retrieved September 25, 2010
    2. Bienenfeld, David. Personality Disorders. Retrieved September 25, 2010
    3. Unterberg, Mark, P. Personality Disorders in the Workplace. Retrieved September 25, 2010