by K. Finlayson, MA, LAC
In many ways, the schizoid personality in the workplace is one with the least maintenance. You can abuse them and they keep on working. This is the person that stays at their desk and does not mix well with the other staff. They avoid the holiday parties and rarely socialize with anyone. No one knows much about their personal history, whether they like “Grey’s Anatomy”, watch sports, read, or any other part of their personal life. They do their work without emotion, creativity, and they do it fairly well and on time. [According to Salman Akhtar, M.D., schizoids can be creative: ["[schizoids are] sometimes quite creative and may make unique and original contributions."]
The schizoid personality type is introverted (as opposed to a person with an introverted style who can express emotion). They avoid interpersonal relationships. As a result, they are immune from all the gossip and other negative interpersonal drama in the workplace. Interestingly, they do not enjoy and do not desire close relationships. Other staff sometimes think they are morose because they don’t have friends, quite the contrary, they like it that way. They are indifferent to both the praise and criticism of others. They show an unwavering absence of feeling. They don’t avoid people because that implies the negative side of attachment; they simply don’t care one way or another about attachment.
Future schizoid personality types as children are generally exposed to emotional deprivation and a lack of exposure to warmth and caring emotions. Together with a general family context of indirectness in thought and behavior, the schizoid child focuses on and is more sensitive to the more tangential aspects of interpersonal dynamics. In the workplace, they might notice the relationship between who re-fills the bottled water and those unhappy about a new policy on attendance. The schizoid’s family is interpersonally reserved, superficial, formal, and interrelate in a remote, disaffiliated way. The schizoid child’s withdrawal may have resulted from a lack of adequate nurturance (no nurturance then; no nurturance now). It may also be a result of avoiding expressing need that as a child caused conflict. Also, schizoid behavior is a way of avoiding anxiety caused by the vulnerability of interpersonal relationships.
One interesting example of a context ripe for schizoid development is a poor immigrant mother traumatized by the transition that projects her dependence and sets up a context with the child where her role is to make him/her to grow up and be a big boy or girl as fast as they can. This maternal connection with the child’s phantom grown up persona leaves the child in the present tense unattended to emotionally. An irritated “what do you want now?” from the mother is a typical response to the child’s needs. The schizoid adult learns that if something is going to get done, they have to do it themselves.
In the workplace, the schizoid is intelligent, gets things done, and they are unaffected by emotional events in the workplace; nothing bothers them much. As supervisors, they have the ability to handle all kinds of interpersonal workplace problems without being personally affected and can instill a sense of calm and security in the workplace. Ironically, they, to some extent, enjoy conflict because they are totally acclimated to it and it presents a recapitulated opportunity to attempt to resolve their original family issue. This, of course, is impossible. Evaluations or criticisms do not bother them at all. They enjoy their after-the-fact intellectual debriefing and rationalizing of any feedback. They do not take this personally. This is one reason that therapist with a schizoid personality trait enjoys working with clients with severe problems. While they can unconsciously avoid emotionality, they are very good at providing a secure base for clients with issues like trauma, attachment disorders, borderline personalities, etc.
One core issue for a schizoid personality type is affirmation. They never got it growing up and when they don’t get it in the workplace, they withdraw. Complicating things for them is the fact that they tend to be intellectual, conceptual, tangential, and indirect in their interpersonal communications so that lack of affirmation is somewhat self-fulfilling. In a planning meeting, they desperately try to explain some important nuisance no one else can see, only to be tuned out.
Their core strength to any organization is their ability to see and understand nuances. They are the “Jack Bower” (“24” on Fox) of an organization. Coupled with their comfort in very chaotic environments they thrive on being trusted (affirmation) with various change management challenges. Depending on the other psychological variables in individuals, there best fit can range from the lone accounts payable clerk to a merger specialist.