Current projects

current-projects

Personality at Work

Personality at Work proposes to address the neglected yet vital issue of personality-related mental health challenges at work. Bringing this issue to the fore is likely to benefit organizations, their human resource (HR) professionals, and the workers that struggle with these personality-based challenges. There is a stark paucity of attention devoted to the issue of personality health and disorder in the workplace in both scholarly discourse and organizational practices, as though the issue of personality dysfunction is too complex to address or even too mysterious to discuss. Organizational decision-makers are often trained to identify specific personality traits (e.g., conscientiousness) in certain circumstances (e.g., during employee selection) that contribute to effective organizational functioning. However, little to no training is typically provided on how to deal with a broader range of personality issues that affect organizational life after the selection stage. This omission is especially striking considering the substantial distress, impairment, and cost associated with personality disorder for both individuals and organizations. Indeed, researchers note that “personality disorders…account for a substantial amount of workplace dysfunction” (Ettner, MacLean, & French, 2011, p. 167), and a recent editorial calls for “the recognition of personality disorder and its effective management at work [for] the benefit of both employee and employer” (Tyrer, 2014, p. 567). Personality at Work seeks to foster the interdisciplinary and cross-sector exploration necessary to illuminate and address the issue of personality dysfunction at work, as an issue that concerns organizations, men and women with mental health challenges, and the HR professionals tasked with promoting workplace wellness and productivity. This novel initiative will create and evaluate resources for workplace leaders, designed to translate evidence-based (1) knowledge and (2) intervention strategies from clinical mental health approaches into organizational practices, with a view to promote optimal responses to personality disorders (PDs) and personality dysfunction in the workplace.

Understanding pathological narcissism, health-risk behaviours, and suicidality

This project is intended to significantly advance knowledge regarding health-risk and life-endangering behaviours associated with pathological narcissism. Pathological narcissism (PN) is a serious mental health syndrome involving considerable dysfunction and impairment. PN is a dimensional form of personality dysfunction involving a fragile and distorted identity predicated on efforts to obtain admiration and sustain a positive self-image. Despite ongoing concerns about risk issues and clinical challenges associated with PN, empirically based understanding remains limited. Although narcissism is a source of popular fascination, those with narcissistic pathology tend to be maligned rather than addressed with concern for health and wellbeing. This has constrained efforts to understand the particular threats to health and self care – even life itself – faced by individuals with PN. Extant research links PN with substance abuse, impulsivity, and risk-taking behaviours. Moreover, PN is associated with repeated suicide attempts and greater suicide planning and lethality. Yet little is known beyond these associations. PN may elevate health and suicide risk in unique ways, with motivations for recklessness, self-harm, and suicidality thought to stem from maladaptive self-regulatory processes. This project will address this lack of knowledge, in order to improve health-risk prevention, suicide assessment, and interventions for personality dysfunction and self-harm behaviours.

Identity Matters

Establishing a sense of identity is an essential aspect of human development, involving the integration of personal goals, values, and capacities for self-regulation (Schwartz, Luyckx, & Vignoles, 2011). A considerable degree of the exploration and building of identity occurs during young adulthood, a transitional period involving “the monumental developmental tasks of integration, synthesis, and cohesion of multiple areas of personality” (Brockman, 2003, p. 257). Identity Matters is intended to advance knowledge regarding the application of possible selves in an identity-focused intervention for emerging adults. As a positive psychology (Seligman, 2000) intervention, Identity Matters is intended to enhance possible selves and positive future development, during a time of intense identity exploration, rather than address an area of psychopathology. The intervention is designed as a group-based experience in which young adults can participate in learning about factors related to identity, supporting co-participants’ exploration of possible selves, identifying potential barriers to desired trajectories, and developing motivation and insight regarding their own future self representations. A group-based intervention is appropriate given the importance of social relationships in identity development, as well as the power of a supportive interpersonal milieu within a cohesive group. As a forum for young adults’ consideration of positive possibilities and future self representations, the intervention is expected to result in increased hope, resilience, and personal growth initiative. The research regarding this intervention will help to inform further theorizing about emerging adults’ identity tasks and the malleability of possible selves, while adding to the literature on applied positive psychology interventions.