Can work change our personality?
Personality is generally relatively stable, but it is not static – it can and often changes over time. Work environments can contribute significantly to personality changes, both in positive and negative directions. Job insecurity, for example, can help increase stress.
Researchers in social and personality psychology have draw the inference that personality is less stable than previously thought and is probably much more malleable. A wide range of factors can affect our personality changes over time, such as experiencing important events – a new job, a family, a divorce, or retirement.
Why does our personality change?
Academics have come up with various theoretical perspectives over the years to understand this phenomenon.
A perspective suggests that people grow and develop, experiencing changes in their personality. For example: As people get older, they begins to become more conscientious, responsible, and discreet. Another similar perspective suggests that investing in social roles – such as being parents, employees or leaders – can make us behave in ways that meet the expectations of those roles.
Ultimately, humans are an adaptive species, developing and changing their personality according to the environment in which they live. Thus, the relationship between personality and environment can be considered reciprocal.
How does work change who we are?
We all know that work plays an essential role in our lives, and we dedicate significant time to it. Thus, what we experience can significantly affect the development of our personality. Research in personality and psychology has revealed that a wide range of factors related to the workplace affects our personality over the last decade.
Studies have shown that high levels of work autonomy – that is, positions that give employees the liberty to decide what, when and how to do their jobs – allow them to develop their personality by offering a sense of control.
On the other hand, high demands – time-consuming jobs and job insecurity – tend to increase stress over time.
So it seems that “good quality” jobs – such as those that offer autonomy and security – tend to shape the development of employees’ personalities positively.
In addition, career choices also affect who we are. Studies have shown that taking leadership positions is associated with increased awareness. However, taking leadership positions can also harm personality development. It can, for example, lead to an increase in narcissism.
In short, our work environment and the career choices we make can significantly impact our personality.
But this does not denote that we are just pawns in our professional environments. Instead, we can shape our character as we wish, if we want to.
Indeed, research shows that many people intend to change certain aspects of their personality, such as reducing stress levels to achieve their goals. However, simply achieving goals is not enough to change the character, as we must also make conscious efforts and work hard to achieve these goals.
So if we embrace the fact that our personality is flexible, we will be able to become more open-minded to new experiences and find strategies that will help us become who we want to be.