Can a Job Change your Personality? (A complete guide)

In this brief guide, we will look at whether a job can change your personality, and try to find out some other information about personality theories and recent personality theories.

Can a job change your personality?

Your job can fundamentally change your personality, recent research shows, and sometimes the ill-effects of a bad job may not be limited to just your day to day functioning, they may change and alter your personality and your brain forever, which is all the more reason to quite a job that you are not happy at if you don’t want your personality to change in drastic ways.

The effects of job-related stress on people’s brains and their mental health has happened for years now, and more and more studies have found that people in the united states as well as all over the world are constantly way too stressed out and most of them are stuck in jobs they are not happy with, but they find it impossible to leave thee situations for monetary or other reasons.

Some people find it hard to change jobs because of their personality as well, they may be dependent or not know what the might want to do if they had to quit, and this fear of having a security net might keep them from changing a job that may be changing their personality and making them miserable.

In addition, the kind of job you are at may also change your personality, as some research has indicated that people who are in more high-pressure job may actually find themselves changing into people who thrive on that kind of pressure and may even crave it if it were taken away.

It has also been seen that a job can change your personality if you have more job responsibilities in your position than others around you or others your age, and also if you tend to have more control over how you carry out these responsibilities, you may find yourself changing into a more proactive person, and this change usually happens over time.

Research on How a Job can Change your Personality

There has been researching on how your job can change your personality as well, and the results indicate that yes, a job can indeed change your personality over time, and this research has opened the doors to a lot of further investigation into personality changes over time, especially due to one’s job or career.

This research was done keeping in mind a particular theory of personality which is actually quite famous and is used often in research regarding personality, and it is known as the Big Five-Factor Model, and this has become one of the most validated and researched personality theories in the world, which also has a very reliable and valid personality test based on it.

The Big Five model talks about 5 main domains of the personality, and the person is said to fall on the spectrum between two opposing poles on these five factors.

These 5 factors in the Big Five personality are Emotional stability (Neuroticism), Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, and Openness.

This model has inspired many other personality tests as well, but in this study, it was used as a measure to see how much people’s personalities changed over time due to their jobs.

The population studied in this research was a nationally representative sample from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey and they answered questions about job security and personality for 1,046 employees over a nine-year period.

The co-author of this study, Dr. Lena Wang talked in an interview about all the new evidence that had developed in recent years about the negative consequences of job insecurity as well as how much a job can change someone’s personality after a long period of time.

Dr. Wang explained about the reports of why they thought it was necessary to conduct this study on how much a job can change someone’s personality, “Traditionally, we’ve thought about the short-term consequences of job insecurity — that it hurts your well-being, physical health, sense of self-esteem, but now we are looking at how that actually changes who you are as a person over time, a long-term consequence that you may not even be aware of.”

Because this study took place over a period of nine years, it accurately measures how much a job can change someone’s personality, as it did not depend on the person’s memory of how they used t be to measure the changes in their personality, as a cross-sectional study might do.

The study showed that long-term job insecurity affected the Big Five traits of Neuroticism, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness in a negative way, and these traits are usually positively related to the achievement of goals, which mens that long term job-related problems can usually affect people in very serious ways, so much so that they may lose their achievement motivation.

These traits are also highly correlated with the coping resources one has for stress and Neuroticism in particular has been found as being an indicator of depression in a lot of populations.

Dr. Wang discusses the results of the study in the following manner:

“Some might believe that insecure work increases productivity because workers will work harder to keep their jobs, but our research suggests this may not be the case if job insecurity persists,” Wang said.

“We found that those chronically exposed to job insecurity are in fact more likely to withdraw their effort and shy away from building strong, positive working relationships, which can undermine their productivity in the long run.”

The study lead author, Dr. Wu, talks about the study further and how the job insecurity, in this case, may pertain to a fear of losing one’s job or the pressure and demands of the job, and how t changes someone’s personality in such major ways.

“This is as much about perceived job insecurity as actual insecure contracts.”

“Some people simply feel daunted by the changing nature of their roles or fear they’ll be replaced by automation.

“But while some existing jobs can be replaced by automation, new jobs will be created.

“So employers have the ability to reduce that perception, for example by investing in professional development, skills, and training, or by giving career guidance.”

This study leads the way to a lot of other studies in the context of just how much a job can change someone’s personality, but in order to understand personality, let us first take a look at some major psychological personality theories that may be used to study personality in the context of work or career.

Psychological Personality Theories 

The very first significant psychological personality theory was a “Type” theory, given by Hippocrates, and he thought that personality was a result of Four Humors in the body, which basically was something he called the four types of main fluids found in the human body.

He said, that there were 4 main temperaments in the people’s personalities, and their dominance was dependent on which fluid they had more of in their body.

According to this 4 humor psychological personality theory, the personality types were as follows:

Sanguine: Blood

The sanguine personality was said to have a predominance of blood, and they tended to be more energetic and volatile, and perhaps more emotionally responsive than other people.

The sanguine personality was also thought to be more pleasure-seeking and it was assumed based on the prevalence of blood that these people might struggle with addictions. 

This kind of thinking can actually still be seen, in how people talk of emotionally responsive people as hot-blooded, and while the theory was discredited long ago, there are some branches of treatment that follow the humor approach.

Phlegmatic: Phlegm

This type of personality was said to have more Phlegm and was known as the phlegmatic personality.

This type of personality was assumed as being what we call extroverts today, that is, these people were meant to be a type of people person.

It was assumed that this personality liked and sought interpersonal harmony and close relationships, and thereby these personality types would make loyal spouses and loving parents. 

It was also assumed that this personality type would likely want to avoid conflict.

Choleric: Yellow Bile

The choleric personality was supposed to have an abundance of yellow bile and it was assumed that these people were usually goal-oriented and ambitious.

Choleric people were thought to be very savvy, analytical, and logical, as well as extremely practical and straightforward, and it was also thought that these people were likely not very good to have around.

Melancholic: Black Bile

People with melancholic personalities were supposed to have more black bile and they were said to love traditions. 

It was also said that while these people would be very friendly and conforming, they could also be rather prone to depression.

In the current psychological personality research and area, there are 2 main types of theories that are used in assessment, although there are many schools of thought and many personality theories to venture through.

The two main schools of personality theories are Trait theories and Type theories.

Trait Theories 

The trait theories of personality suggest that personality is made up of main traits or individual dispositions, which then form the majority of the personality’s belief system and other parts.

There are many theories and personality tests that ascribe to this school of thought, and they seek to identify which attributes are key components in personality, and they tend to be more open-ended and less reductive because they leave a lot more margin for there to be variations between people.

Gordon Allport may be thought of as one of the fathers of the trait theories of personality, and his theory that talks about common, central, and cardinal traits in individuals are still considered to be one of the most influential theories there is.

Type Theories

Type theories are much more common because people tend to like being told where their personality fits perfectly, which is perhaps why the Myers-Briggs theory is so famous, or why Jung’s theory of cognitive functions, upon which MBTI is based, was so famous.

Type theories, as the name suggests, are all about constellations of personality in which there are many traits, and people are assumed to fit into any of these constellations.

An example was given above, MBTI, which tells people what type they are, but it is not as validated and one of its criticisms is that it can be reductive, and usually the words used to describe people in type theories tend to be very common and vague.

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we looked at whether a job can change your personality, and tried to find out some other information about personality theories and recent personality theories. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have about this subject.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Can a job change your personality

Can you completely change your personality?

No, you cannot completely change your personality, as some traits are hard-wired into your brain, however, if you have maladaptive ways of dealing with your situations, those aspects of your personality can be changed with psychotherapy.

How do you know if it’s time to change jobs?

You may know if it is time to change your job by these few things:

You feel stressed out every day
You find yourself watching the clock
You keep thinking of work when you are not at work
You can’t get out of bed in the morning to go to work
You don’t have friends at work
You feel that you have exhausted what you could learn here
You find yourself googling reasons you should leave your job.

Is changing jobs a good thing?

Changing jobs can be a very good thing if you are suffering from problems in your current job.

A career and life coach, Joanne Meehl, says “You’ll be working for a new manager who will present you with new challenges about how to work with them.”

Citations

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200226151958.htm#:~:text=agreeableness%20and%20conscientiousness.-,New%20research%20shows%20that%20experiencing%20chronic%20job%20insecurity%20can%20change,less%20agreeable%2C%20and%20less%20conscientious.

Divya is currently a Clinical Psychology Trainee in a Master of Philosophy program and holds a Master’s in clinical psychology. She has a special interest in Personality studies and disorders, having researched the subject before, and Neuropsychology; with an additional interest being Mood disorders. She likes to write about Psychiatric issues, having worked in multiple specialty setups during her time as a clinical psychology student, and in her free time she likes to cook and read.

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