People: Roles vs. Personality

Something I’ve noticed many times over the years is how some people seem to slip into different personalities when they change or assume different roles in life, work or elsewhere.

It’s as if a dial in some imaginary control room is turned, switching the person to another completely different personality.

And in most cases it doesn’t feel natural at all, it’s just an act the person is putting up, just because he thinks he should be acting in a certain new way, because of their new status.

I’ve seen this in newly married friends, colleagues who got a work promotion, people who have just had a kid, and in various other instances; and the people just change, abruptly, without warning and unbelievably.

People change. That’s a fact. But normal change is mostly done over a period of time, naturally, with people barely feeling it. It only hits them after a long period when they look back and see what a big difference there is between what that person was and what he now is.

But, the change I’m talking about here is the kind that happens almost over-night, and when asked, a lot of these people simply reply that their new responsibilites or their new status in life require a new way of doing things and handling themselves.

Is that true?
Doesn’t it mean that the person isn’t doing it because he naturally progressed to it and because he wants to, but rather because he feels that he has to?
Doesn’t it imply that he wasn’t proud of or confident in what he was?
Plus didn’t he get to the place he is now because of how he was and what he was like? So why should he change it once he got there?

It’s true that certain things in life and certain responsibilities require some changes in how a person deals with things, but I think they’re more or less small targeted changes that touch on a specific area of that person’s life depending on whether it concerns his household, work, passions & hobbies or whatever else; but not a total flip of that person’s personality.

I think it’s very important to have a balance between a person’s roles and his personality, because it can be very tiresome and troublesome to act a personality for a role, or to bend a role for a personality.

Each and every one of us is unique in his own way, that shouldn’t be lost just to fit a certain stereotype of a role, but rather used to enrich it, all the while fulfilling the new obligations of the role.

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Mohamed Marwen Meddah is a web development director, amateur photographer and web enthusiast from Tunisia, currently living in Canada.

5 thoughts on “People: Roles vs. Personality”

  1. You said “I’ve seen this in newly married friends, colleagues who got a work promotion, people who have just had a kid”
    Are you talking about yourself ?

  2. Hmmm… Nope… I don’t think so… You’ve known me for over a year now, and over this time, there have been some big events in my life, the biggest of which was the birth of my son, but I don’t think it changed me one bit in the way I deal with my friends or colleagues for example. What do you think?

    I don’t think punctual events have had any direct effect on me or on how I act. There are added responsabilities that I have to take care of, but I do that my way, the way I’m comfortable doing them.

  3. Ah, the public persona, the guise one adapts to fit in, to be perceived of as a team player. People slip it on–or slip into it–often with some forethought and cold premeditation, confident that its not really them, that they can always cast it aside, or just be themselves when they get home or are with those who aren’t just mere “workfriends.”

    The problem is, to quote Dr. Bob, my old philosophy professor, that “a man becomes that which he does.” (Dr. Bob walked away from a lucrative career on Wall Street to become a sort of Marxist chicken farmer in northern New York state. He was horrified at his financial success as a chicken farmer and ended up happily teachng philosophy at Columbia.)

    The corporate persona over time, slowly, inexorably, becomes the person. What was thought a minor adaptation in response to environment becomes a major and often insidious change to one’s personality. Humans are ill-suited to compartmentalizing their personalities: one for work, one for home, perhaps one for the weekend soccer team. Therein lies madness. (The literature of borderline personality disorders are replete with examples.)

    All generalization fail at particulars, of course, and there are some with extremely strong personalities who can assume such a guise and remain unaffected. But they’re rare. And, in my experience, not someone you’d want to be trapped on a desert island with, especially if there are limited supplies of food and water and only one knife. 🙂

    If you feel you need a complete personality makeover to work within a particlar corporate environment, it’s time to define and examine your basic values and perhaps find a different environment or perhaps a whole new vocation. Life is short, death is long.



  4. Quote

    “All the worlds’ a stage,
    And all the men and women are merely actors.
    They have their exits and their entrances,
    and one man in his many times plays his parts,
    His acts being seven ages.”

    …Shakespeare, As You Like It.

    Most people find it a lot safer to keep their real self hidden and away for fear of being judged. Thus they wear different hats in every different situations. They feel if it makes everyone feels okay then there is no harm done. If the behaviour is a positive one, then its alright but the problem arises when its not.

    When one is principled centred, one operates directly from that core in every aspect of ones life. A person does not have to change all the time to suit other people’s agenda, but to guided by principles of effectiveness that will produce understanding, tolerance, esprit de corp, friendship, compassion, trust, etc. As a team member at work, when someone is slacking due to dealing with a difficult moment in his or her life, maybe due to a loss, for example, one can help by being a listener instead of threatening the guy with all the corporate punishments.

    However, when someone gets promoted and changes from being the regular guy to a pompous, insufferable creep, thats what i call hypocracy in gear 5.

    Really, people are just afraid of a lot of things that arent there. Sometimes, these roles are beyond the peoples control, and they switch masks or hats, so efficiently it has become automatic.

    Then are also those peoples, who operate from a principle guide or centre, who command respire and inspire others to become better human beings with exemplary characters.

  5. correction : Last paragraph, second line “command RESPECT” and not respire.

    Apologies for the typo.

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