Professional deformation: what it is, why it occurs and how to prevent it


Long-term work in one place without changing the form of activity can affect a person both positively and negatively. If we talk about positive changes, it is worth noting the increase in the speed of routine operations and the increase in overall efficiency against this background. And as a negative consequence, professional deformation appears.

In this article, I will tell you what kind of scourge it is, as it turns out, and whether it is so terrible.

What is professional deformation

This is a type of cognitive distortion that arises as a result of the constant influence of professional factors. In simple terms, when a person performs the same tasks at work for a long time, he develops a habit. It contributes to the formation of a specific type of personality, which perceives the surrounding world through the prism of professional duties and interests, even outside of work.

Changes can affect a person’s character, behavior, perception of surrounding events, values ​​and motivation.

Types of professional deformation

Professional deformation can be manifested psychologically and physiologically. In the first case, the effect is on the human psyche, and in the second, the human body undergoes changes. To make it clearer, it is worth remembering how people’s posture changes after several years of continuous sedentary work.

At the same time, depending on the specifics of the consequences, professional deformation is divided into several types:

  1. General professional. These are the qualities that gradually become characteristic of most representatives of a specific profession. Yes, in different schools, teachers remain similar regardless of the approach to learning and the technologies used.
  2. Individual. Here it is meant the sharpening of the qualities that a person had before. At first glance, they may not even be related to the profession, but appear only over time.
  3. Special. This is a deformation where the changes differ depending on the specific specialization. For example, everyone understands how to distinguish between a humanitarian and a technician, teachers of mathematics and the Russian language.
  4. Typological. This refers to the merging of personal and professional qualities. For example, managers develop leadership qualities and organizational skills more strongly.

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Why does professional deformation occur?

There are many reasons why a person may develop a professional deformity at work. Below I will list some of the most common:

  • Prolonged monotonous activity with the execution of the same type of mechanical processes taking into account clear algorithms.
  • Working in one place for many years without visible progress on the career ladder.
  • Frequent quarrels in the work team, lack or small amount of support, excessive criticism, stressful situations and revisions that plant the nervous system.
  • High level of responsibility and risk.
  • Investing a large amount of personal resources without proper evaluation of merit by managers or colleagues.
  • The volume of tasks is incompatible with the time plan, in other words, mediocre time management.
  • Overestimated expectations of the profession – people tend to give some activities more social significance, while their main essence is reduced to the daily performance of routine tasks.
  • Lack of opportunities for career growth.
  • Absence of training programs, replenishment of knowledge and self-realization.
  • Emotional, it is professional burnout.

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Main features

And yet, professional deformation may not manifest itself everywhere and not always. It all depends on how much you delve into your work lately and whether you allow yourself to abstract from it during your rest. But it is possible to determine whether a person has such a distortion by a number of signs:

  1. The communication circle consists of colleagues.
  2. Profession comes first.
  3. Lack of alternative interests and hobbies.
  4. Reduction of conversations to work topics and lack of interest in other directions.
  5. Evaluation of others from the point of view of their position.
  6. Fear of changing or losing a job.
  7. Exaggeration of abilities and work results.
  8. Difficulties in communicating with relatives due to the use of professional terminology.

These are really just the basic features. In some cases, they may differ, especially if it concerns specific types of activities.

Who more often undergoes professional deformation

It is believed that people whose professions are related to people are most prone to professional deformation. This should include teachers, psychologists and psychiatrists, military and law enforcement officers, deputies, managers, doctors, sellers, etc. In general, in the course of implementation in their field of activity, such employees begin to treat others formally and functionally. Here are some vivid examples:

  • After many years of practice, a psychologist begins to unconsciously analyze the behavior of even close people. Because of this, he automatically forms his own defense and distances himself.
  • In talking with family and friends, the teacher uses a supervisory tone of communication, tries to control them and live according to the schedule.
  • Writers, journalists and copywriters find errors of various kinds in any texts, correct people in written and spoken language.
  • Designers notice defects in signs, advertising posters and billboards, as well as other media.
  • Managers solve work tasks on their day off, the stress level practically does not decrease when leaving the office. In addition, it is characteristic of them to build a hierarchy at any convenient opportunity, to demand specific results and to take responsibility, and even where this is not necessary.
  • Lawyers become excessively pedantic, use strict regulations and clericalisms, often argue and sometimes give too many arguments in their favor. Also, such specialists become scrupulous and try to identify situations where they are somehow oppressed.
  • Actors overuse the role, so it becomes too difficult to separate it from yourself. For example, the same Joaquin Phoenix during the filming of the movie “Joker” began to behave like his character (which was associated with a drastic weight loss), and Kate Winslet, who learned a German accent during the filming of the movie “The Reader”, began to speak in it after even the house.
  • IT specialists can apply a rational and technical approach to everything in life, try to build everything according to a clear algorithm, and also reject everything that does not lend itself to logic and does not have regularity. This often leads to the development of obsessive-compulsive disorder, a decrease in empathy and emotional intelligence, therefore, and the deterioration of interpersonal relations.

In general, anyone who particularly carefully delve into the specifics of their profession and delve into the details can experience professional deformation. However, are these manifestations always negative. If we take the same doctors as an example, then they more diligently monitor hygiene, or journalists who apply fact-checking even in ordinary life. It is worth sounding the alarm only when these traits take on an obsessive form.

How to prevent professional deformation

To avoid professional deformation, in my opinion, is very difficult. It is possible to minimize its effect so that it does not have a strong impact on personal life and at the same time allows the employee to grow up the career ladder. To do this, you can use the following methods:

– Constant independent training or retraining. Namely, you can take all kinds of courses, lectures and master classes, even on a topic related to the profession.

– Playing sports and maintaining a regime. I will say from myself that proper nutrition, good sleep and frequent walks also have a positive effect on a person’s general well-being.

– Developing a new hobby. Everything that is not related to your profession will fit here. Going to theaters and movies, reading fiction (and only such) literature, needlework, cooking or travel. Everything your heart desires, just to be away from the office.

– Delegation and limitation of scope of duties. It is worth taking on those tasks that benefit you. With delegation, of course, the situation is controversial – at one point someone transfers responsibilities to you, then you will do it. But still, if there is an opportunity to transfer small work to someone like an assistant or an assistant, it is better to use it.

– Communication with people of other professions. This is something like a distraction to another topic and broadening one’s horizons. By the way, this method can sometimes be used to find new solutions to old problems.

– Changing the type of activity or moving to a new position. Ask your superiors to transfer you to another department or branch, or change companies. This way, you will not run away from the profession, but the range of tasks and the goals of their performance will definitely change.

– Participation in external projects. This will refresh your view and social connections, and will also bring additional experience in an alternative or related direction.

– Changing the workplace, i.e. moving from the office to another site. Apply for a freelance job, try to work from home, a co-working space or even a cafe for a while. The change in the situation also affects the perception of the work process.

– Vacation. What most employees, especially workaholics, neglect. And if you go on vacation, forget about work, abstract from it and really rest.

– Referral to a psychologist or psychotherapist. If nothing helps at all, this is a good reason to consult a specialist. He will assess your condition and, if necessary, draw up a treatment plan.

And I will remind you that professional deformity is not always a disadvantage. For example, after several years of work as an author and copywriter, I can say that the habit of at least correcting myself and finding mistakes has benefited me. However, when it is transferred to others, it becomes a lot of fun. The main thing is to realize the presence of such a distortion in oneself in a timely manner and to take measures independently.

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