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Chronic Job Insecurity Can Change Personality For the Worse

People who experience job insecurity for more than four years may undergo negative personality changes, according to a new study at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in Australia.

The findings show that individuals who face long-term unstable employment, or simply perceive that they are at risk of losing their job, are more likely to become less emotionally stable, less agreeable and less conscientious.

The study adds to a growing body of research demonstrating the negative consequences of prolonged job insecurity, say the authors.

“Traditionally, we’ve thought about the short-term consequences of job insecurity — that it hurts your well-being, physical health, sense of self-esteem,” said paper co-author Dr. Lena Wang from The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology’s University’s School of Management in Australia.

“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.”

For the study, the research team analyzed nationally representative data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey in relation to answers about job security and personality for 1,046 employees over a nine-year period.

The researchers applied a well-established personality framework known as the Big Five, which categorizes human personality into five broad traits: emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion and openness.

The study findings reveal that long-term job insecurity negatively affected the first three traits, which relate to a person’s tendency to reliably achieve goals, get along with others, and cope with stress.

Wang says the results stood in contrast to some common assumptions about job insecurity.

“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.”

Previous studies have shown that insecure work — including labor hire practices, contract and casual work, and underemployment — is on the rise in Australia (where the study was conducted) and globally.

The HILDA data drew on responses from employees from a broad cross-section of professions and jobs, who were asked about how secure they perceived their jobs to be.

Study lead author Professor Chia-Huei Wu from Leeds University Business School said types of job insecurity might include short-term contracts or casual work, jobs threatened by automation, and positions that could be in line for a redundancy.

The findings are published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Source: RMIT University

Chronic Job Insecurity Can Change Personality For the Worse

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2020). Chronic Job Insecurity Can Change Personality For the Worse. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 1 Mar 2020 (Originally: 1 Mar 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 1 Mar 2020
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