Light Already Defines the Darkness: Understanding Normal and Maladaptive Personality in the Workplace
Christiansen, Neil D.; Quirk, Stuart W.; Robie, Chet; Oswald, Frederick L.
In the focal article, Guenole (2014) calls for the psychology of work to embrace a new trait model that more directly incorporates maladaptive tendencies found in contemporary research on psychopathology, namely the traits assessed in the Personality Inventory for DSM5 (PID-5). Although this proposition has merit in the abstract, a number of issues arise for industrial–organizational (I–O) psychologists who might consider this model in the context of staffing efforts such as development or selection. For example, how can such maladaptive traits be linked to essential job functions and incorporated into personality-based job analysis? Certainly, maladaptive traits might be damaging to any occupation at their clinical extremes (such people may not be capable of even applying for a job), but in terms of applicants and employees with subclinical levels of maladaptive traits, determining their implications for the occupation is critical. Or as another practical example, how might current employees or applicants react when given an assessment of maladaptive traits or feedback on the results of such an assessment? We know that reactions to personality inventories are generally negative (McFarland, 2013) and we can only imagine that using more clinically oriented items or scale names might exacerbate the problem. To offer a third example, what ethical and legal concerns might arise when scores on maladaptive traits are used for staffing? These challenges to implementation (and likely others) are important to address, but in the end the benefits of maladaptive trait assessment must be worth the potential costs incurred. As far as benefits, it is important to determine whether scores on maladaptive trait assessments explain incremental variance in important work outcomes beyond scores on assessments of normal personality that are better understood and already in standard use. Although such incremental validity for clinical measures has been demonstrated when predicting diagnoses of abnormal personality types (Thimm, 2011), there is very little supportive evidence for incremental validity for predicting work behavior and outcomes.