By Alan Yu, published on July 3, 2012 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016
Small studies have found a correlation between some pathological personality traits and success at work. Now, a study of 5,000 British workers shows that certain traits usually classified as dysfunctional actually predict employee accomplishment in certain roles. Here, a look at symptoms that can be leveraged for success.
Joanne Limburg, the author of a memoir about OCD, considers herself a perfectionist to the extreme. She donated drafts of her poems to the University of Cambridge, where librarians were pleased that she’d felt compelled to enclose each piece in its own transparent sleeve. When people with OCD indulge their urge to triple-check and to organize, they can be invaluable in auditing and other detail-oriented jobs.
People with schizotypy—who exhibit some combination of social withdrawal, strange beliefs, and cognitive disorganization—see patterns few others notice, says Scott Barry Kaufman, a cognitive psychologist at New York University. They often excel in the arts, and research by Adrian Furnham, lead author of the recent study, suggests that their out-of-the-box creativity could be a boon in fields like sales as well.
A CEO with grandiose self-regard will see himself not as a mere individual but as the personification of the company he leads. Peter Harms, a management professor at the University of Nebraska, points out that the desire to be better than others can motivate someone to learn and improve. A true narcissist will aim to produce work that goes beyond successful to be world-changing, notes Michael Maccoby, an Oxford University expert on leadership.