If you’re concerned your job might be changing you as a person, you could be right.
University of Illinois researchers looked at how chronic workplace stress can fundamentally change people’s personalities in both the short and long term. They assessed this through the Big Five model of personality traits: conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, and extroversion. Researcher Jarvis Smallfield explains, “Among these, the most notable that is prone to change is neuroticism […] Neuroticism is related to issues such as employee burnout and clinical depression and may downwardly spiral.” In other words, if you’re stressed at work you may become more neurotic, which makes you more sensitive to stress.
Smallfield adds that the data shows the personality changes can occur in as little as four weeks, and says that not all workplace stressors have such a damaging effect. A positive stressor, for example, would be when you “believe you can overcome a stressor and overcoming that stressor will get you something you want” such as meeting a difficult deadline that will help you earn a promotion if you hit it. You can help protect yourself from the bad stress by viewing problems as surmountable obstacles that are rewarding to overcome. Smallfield says, “Work is naturally stressful, and there’s really no way to avoid that, nor would we want to. We need those challenges to thrive. The problem comes in when the stresses stop being healthy challenges and become overwhelming, out of our control, or without purpose.”