Chronic job insecurity and personality changes

Professor Chia-huei Wu featured in an article for Forbes on Friday 19 March 2021, discussing his recent publication on the effects of chronic job insecurity on long-term personality changes.

The Forbes article discusses ‘Effects of chronic job insecurity on Big Five personality change’ published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, which found evidence that those who faced prolonged episodes of job insecurity were at risk of becoming less agreeable, more neurotic and less conscientious over time. 

The research, led by Professor Chia-Huei Wu along with co-authors Ying WangSharon K. Parker and Mark A. Griffin, found that chronic job insecurity over four or five preceding years led to prolonged periods of stress, which in turn predicted a small increase in neuroticism and a small descrease in agreeablesness. The research collaborators commented: 

“This study suggests that job insecurity has important implications for one’s personality when experienced over a long-term period.”

The article discusses the researchers’ predictions that the effects of job insecurity on mental health will grow with the rise of zero-hour contracts and expansion of the gig economy. They commented: 

Patterns of employment have become increasingly unstable and insecure, or precarious, with temporary and contract-based employment becoming mainstream... The growing prevalence of job insecurity is recognized as a key psycho-social risk of future work.

To alleviate work-related stress and associated personality changes over time, Professor Wu and his co-authors recommended practical steps that can be taken to support workers’s mental health and well-being, from the government offering stronger safety nets to protect citizens from labour market, to organisations doing more to to offer stable terms of employment and investing in employee engagement and well-being. 

The researchers commented that such steps would “alleviate employees’ negative emotional responses to their jobs, reduce withdrawal from work, and decrease self-focused attention, thereby preventing a downward spiral toward personality change.”

Read the full article in Forbes.