How does work affect your personality?
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“What do you do?” is one of the first questions we ask people when we meet. It is believed that a person’s work can tell a lot about himself. However, much more can be learned about a person by asking what character traits and way of thinking his profession requires and how much work affects his ordinary life.
You can get significantly different answers when asked about what people have to deal with at work.
The dentist says he must constantly deal with excuses and weak character. Serious adults cancel appointments citing a lack of free time, and when they find themselves in the chair, they lie about how carefully they flossed and broke all their last-time promises. Raising “big kids” makes a dentist strict.
The legal adviser will answer that he faces daily aggression and impatience from his clients who want everything to be done yesterday. No one cares about the privacy of other people.
The sound engineer will say that problems arise unexpectedly and constantly, but a solution will be found if you are attentive and act methodically. If there are seven possible causes of the problem, you need to check each. Technology is generally good because everything in this area is arranged logically.
What does work change about us?
All professions can be classified according to what traits of human nature they strengthen and weaken.
- Patience and irritability. Does your job teach you to focus on what is happening here and now and consider what will happen in a few years to be unimportant (news editor, nurse-nurse)? Or does it make you think long-term (aeronautical engineer, power plant inspector)?
- Suspicion or trust. What feelings does your work exacerbate? Are you in an environment where people keep a lot to themselves or use outright lies (journalist, antique dealer)? Or do you work with people who do not hide what is bothering them (psychotherapist, air traffic controller)?
- Conjecture or specificity. Are you focused on how things could be or how they are at work? Do you pay attention to things that everyone else doesn’t care about (scientist, poet), or are you paid attention to purely practical details (roofer, fresh fruit vendor)?
- They are seeking consent or independence. Some professions teach the ability to come to a common opinion (teacher, organizer of holidays); others highlight personal opinion or a unique point of view on familiar things (coach, entrepreneur).
- Optimism or pessimism. Does the job encourage you to look for the positives and possibly iron out the negatives (marketing, personal coaching), or does it develop the habit of paying attention to the dangers and mistakes that can lead to trouble in the future (lawyers, accountants) first of all?
- Focus on profit or detachment from financial matters. Do the work environment and your status make you money and profit-focused (sales agent, CEO), or can it not matter daily (researcher, teacher)?
- Weak position or security status. Artists often fail: their work can be underestimated if not wholly ignored. Commercial success and public acceptance are guaranteed if they are good at what they do. A qualified IT specialist will find a well-paid job.
- The best or worst aspects of life. Some professions are constantly reminded of the value of life (obstetrics, nursing). In other areas, people are more exposed to the worst aspects of human nature (police, family law).
- Strict hierarchy or random promotion. In some professions, the conditions required for career advancement are known and logical in advance (pilot, teacher). In contrast, in others, career growth depends much more on chance and connections (television, politics).
- Work in a vanishing or growing industry. There are areas of activity, the golden age of which is already in the past. Working in such areas is probably not as attractive as before (book publishing, on-air television). And there are new industries with high profits and explosive growth (social media, technology). Are you working with people who feel like they can take over the world, or are you among those who realize that the world has already won them over?
The essence of change
Being in a specific psychological environment every day for many years dramatically impacts our habits and thinking. It affects how we accept people, determines our outlook on life, and gradually changes us. Everything we do in the workplace extends to the rest of our lives.
Usually, we think this happens somewhere far away and with anyone, but not with us. We understand that the views of a French aristocrat in the 15th century were predetermined by a strict social hierarchy and the ethics of a warrior. Hard work and constant struggle with the elements significantly influenced the worldview of the inhabitants of a Scottish fishing village in the 19th century.
However, we are not much different from them. It is much more difficult for us to notice what is happening to us because, for ourselves, our views seem entirely natural and the only true ones, although this is not so. A meeting with a foreigner or a person with a completely different occupation from your occupation will help to see this.
Sometimes, we can see the results of the impact of work on a person. If you ask a lawyer what cars will be like in 20 years, he will be surprised: why even think about something unattainable now? Technology can develop in unpredictable ways, but in 20 years, there will be courts, laws, and jurisprudence. And we’ll deal with all this when the time is right. And if you ask an academician how much he earns per hour or how much profit his latest discovery brought, he will consider your questions inappropriate.
We know that the way people think in the work environment is also reflected in their behavior in everyday life. An elementary school teacher sees his children as students, a teacher used to lecturing is usually the main talker at dinner parties, and a politician can hardly resist giving a speech at a wedding.
However, this is all just the tip of the iceberg. The influence of the work becomes noticeable in many other cases.
Technicians are very calm and perceive life’s problems in the same way as the technical problems they encounter at work. They believe most difficulties can be dealt with if you do not panic and methodically go through all possible solutions.
Television producers have fragile self-esteem. Producers are very aggressive when they feel they are on top but quickly change their behavior when they realize that the situation is not in their favor.
Dentists love to be bossy. They chastise people for their weaknesses so often that it becomes a habit.
Freelance writers, who constantly have to adjust to the demands of clients, get used to the feeling that they are misunderstood and underestimated.
Good and bad influence
Work can have a good effect on people. The worldview acquired in the working environment often fills in the gaps and cultivates qualities that a person could not develop on his own. A slow and frivolous person usually becomes more collected in an office where speed and punctuality are essential. And an environment where compromise is part of the workflow will be highly beneficial for people who consider their opinion extremely important.
However, work also has a negative impact. When a particular way of thinking and performing tasks is fixed in a person, everything different from this is gradually forced out. A school administrator can be very good at recruiting and solving organizational problems, but the question, “What is the global goal of education?” puts him in a rut.
Questions like these can be excruciating for many of us, as they only remind us of what we had to give up to focus on a particular job. Having devoted most of our lives to a specific cause, we cannot devote enough time to other, potentially no less intriguing things.
To be mindful of how work changes us is to be more forgiving of other people. Perhaps the job made them nervous, aggressive, or bored. Doing something else, they would probably be very different people. Try job crafting to restart your career without changing jobs.
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