The threat of unemployment can change your personality, a new study finds
People become less agreeable and less conscientious, a nine-year study conducted in Australia has found.Updated: Oct 18, 2020, 13:50 IST
Job insecurity over a prolonged period can alter personality, suggests a study of 1,046 Australians. Conducted over nine years, from 2005 to 2013, by researchers from RMIT University, Melbourne, the study measured variables such as control over one’s time, work-related stress, and personality changes.
Over time, those who remained in positions that were perceived to be under threat reported changes in how they viewed their own lives and their reality; became less agreeable and also less conscientious, the study found. Findings were published in the Journal of Applied Psychology in February.
“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,” report co-author Lena Wang said in a statement.
As economies around the world slide amid the pandemic, coupled with greater automation across a larger number of fields, the study has implications for millions.
“This is as much about perceived job insecurity as actual insecure contracts,” study lead author Chia-Huei said in a statement. “Some people simply feel daunted by the changing nature of their roles or fear they’ll be replaced by automation. Employers have the ability to reduce that [fear], for example by investing in professional development, skills and training.”
For now, “young clients tell me they are waking up every morning with a cloud of anxiety over their heads, about what’s going to happen to their work,” says psychologist Seema Hingorrany. “They are under pressure to work longer hours, perform better and take no leave. This has resulted in chronic overthinking and still a near-constant state of anxiety about what is going to come next.”
Dhiraj Shetty, 25, an insurance coordinator, was laid off a few months ago. His boss at work had informed him that the layoffs would be coming, but nothing he knew about the company’s financials indicated they would be as widespread as they turned out. He now has a new job, as an insurance executive with a chemical factory, but has had to accept a pay cut.
“In the three months between jobs, I grew increasingly desperate. An experience like this destroys your confidence,” he says. “I have stopped hoping things will be smooth. There’s a sort of impermanence to every job, and I need to be spontaneous. I have learnt that the hard way.”