The Histrionic Personality On The Job

All of us have met the person who lives in an exaggerated, overblown emotional world. These are the emotionally flamboyant managers and co-workers who will do anything they can to draw attention to themselves, because without the attention and adulation of others they are nothing—or so they feel.

Columns From: 10/1/2000 Modern Machine Shop,

All of us have met the person who lives in an exaggerated, overblown emotional world. These are the emotionally flamboyant managers and co-workers who will do anything they can to draw attention to themselves, because without the attention and adulation of others they are nothing—or so they feel. They are on the prowl for reassurance, approval and praise. They actually obtain their identity from others, for in their heart of hearts they are full of self-doubt. They feel powerless and unworthy and uncomfortable when they are not the center of attention. They experience life garishly and expansively.

These people are so involved in their own emotional dramas that everything is a full-scale, staged production: A minor interruption becomes a major catastrophe; a small thrill becomes the most significant event they have ever experienced.

Their emotionality can be vicious, cruel and destructive at times, and they are rarely apologetic about their outbursts and flare-ups. They act conceited, pretentious and arrogant. Their feelings change frequently and without warning. They can't stomach letdowns or frustration. They can't postpone satisfaction of their needs. They become greatly distraught and wounded when they do not get what they want. In the end, others become skeptical about their authenticity and genuineness, and, sooner or later, do not take them seriously because their emotions often seem infantile.

Ironically, these people are dependent on others for self-fulfillment and self-worth. One of the consequences of being intensely other-directed and emotionally reactive is that the histrionic individual will, to varying degrees, lack a calm, consistent, centered sense of self. They require reassurance (approval) and feedback (applause) from others in order to maintain their theatrical self-confidence. Yet despite their intense dependency on other people, their behavior invites rejection and disapproval.

In the workplace they can dazzle others with their instincts and uncanny sixth sense. They can easily persuade others to back their plans and projects. What they often fail to do, however, is follow through with the particulars, specifics and details of the game plan.

The best coping mechanism for dealing with the histrionic individual is this: Don't overreact to their overreactions!

Don't get swallowed up by their behind-your-back manipulations and their in-your-face maneuvers. Don't quarrel or wrangle with them. Don't sulk. Don't pout. Don't dawdle. Later, when things have settled down, be gracious but firm about what you need from them. It's not easy to stay close to or team up with histrionic people. And it's never stress-less or hassle-free to be in a working relationship with them, even though they can sometimes be captivating and affable. It is important to remember that the exaggerated emotional behavior of the histrionic individual is calculated for effect.

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