While having a job is meant to help you earn a living and pay the bills, doing work you find meaningful makes each workday more gratifying. Regardless of your salary, benefits, or position, working at an organization that aligns with your identity and values is ideal. While you may spend a lot of time trying to have an impact at work, have you ever considered what impact your work has on you?
Your Workplace Can and Will Change You
Our environment has an impact on us. Given the amount of time you spend at work, your projects, company culture, and team dynamics play a huge role in influencing who you are today and the person you’re becoming. Influence can come in the form of your boss promoting certain ways of working or your teammates behaving in certain ways. Company manifestoes, behaviors consistently encouraged, meetings being run in certain ways, or even company social events can influence your own beliefs, attitudes, and actions.
Never underestimate the impact the people around you can have on your own personality, perceptions of acceptable norms, and ways of working. As CS Lewis says, “day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different.”
Your surroundings can have a positive or negative impact on you. It’s up to you to ask yourself whether your workplace is or is not moving you toward the person you want to become.
Recognize the Impact of Your Surroundings
I wouldn’t describe myself as someone easily affected by external influences, peer pressure, or societal norms, but when you spend most of your waking hours in any work environment, influence is almost inevitable. My time as a senior brand manager at a start-up luxury desserts company was one of the more intense chapters of my marketing career. I was working on a small team under tremendous pressure to grow rapidly after being recently acquired by a larger company, which is not unusual in any early-stage company with ambitions for global growth.
The changes to my personality happened in small increments, creating changes in me that were gradual but consistent. I had always prided myself on being someone patient, calm, diplomatic, and friendly. I went from being patient to impatient. Calm to intense. Diplomatic to more impulsive. Friendly to hardened.
I found myself having to be aggressive, ruthless, and unforgiving at times to achieve results, which deviated quite significantly from my usual personality and approach to managing work and people. My behavior helped to drive more of the results we wanted on teams, projects, and performance, so I genuinely started to believe my new way of working was actually more effective.
Work Affects Your Personality Outside of Work Too
Whether any specific way of working is truly effective is always debatable, as there certainly is a time and place for a wide range of approaches. You could argue that more intense cultures demand more intense behaviors to achieve success. However, what became crystal clear to me was that the person I was becoming was not the person I wanted to be. Outside of work, I caught myself snapping at friends, being impatient at the grocery store, or getting annoyed by anything that moved slowly.
I was fortunate to have had some friends candidly point out that I was turning into someone I never used to be. One friend asked me why I was so annoyed all the time. Another said I seemed to suddenly have a shorter-than-usual temper. Hearing these outside perspectives was a much-needed wake-up call.
When I took a good look at myself and realized I didn’t like or recognize the person I was becoming, I resigned from that job even before I had another one lined up. I wasn’t changing for the better, and I didn’t want to work in an environment where I felt I had to compromise on who I was just to fit in and achieve results. I quickly landed at another organization where I felt the culture, people, and ways of working were more in line with who I was and who I wanted to be, and that literally helped me sleep better at night.
Make a Change For the Better
Even if you consider yourself an independently-minded person impervious to outside influences, the reality is that spending a significant number of hours in any environment will inevitably have an impact on who you are, no matter how much you try to resist it.
My challenge is for you to find a way to take a step back and reflect. As you look at where things stand right now, do you like the person you’re becoming? Do you want to be more like the people you see around you at work? If not, what are some specific changes you could make to get yourself back on track toward becoming the person you want to be?
For the sake of your own identity, values, personality, and priorities, you really owe it to yourself to decide which compromises you’re no longer willing to make and most importantly, what proactive steps you’ll take right now to move your career in a direction that makes you feel at peace the person you see in the mirror each day.
Hear more about this topic as I discuss “How Work Changes You” in more detail on Career Relaunch® podcast episode 12 with lawyer turned psychologist Vicky Dain.
This article was originally posted on Forbes.
Did you enjoy reading this?
Get more free career change and useful personal branding resources like this sent straight to your inbox. After registering, you’ll also gain exclusive access to my Career Resource Hub, get the latest episodes of my Career Relaunch® podcast, and hear my perspectives on current career transition topics.