You Reach Your ‘True Self’ at This Age, According to Science

It is an undeniable fact that when we show up to work, we bring our personalities with us. It is also true that, as we grow older, our personalities change. We feel it happening, and science tells us that it’s so.

Our personalities don’t just change though. There seems to be a specific age at which we become our ‘truest selves’ – when our personalities are at their most stable. According to recent research, this happens at around age 50. Researchers used to think it was in our 30s. But not the case, according to this latest research.

As we approach the ripe-old age of 50, we get an increasingly clearer idea of ​​who we are and what matters to us. As a result, we gradually only choose those environments and social roles which fit and reinforce who we believe we are. Taking into account our entire employment journeys, our work environments at age 50 are likely the closest reflection of ourselves.

What does this mean for you as a business leader? It means you can harness the power of your employees’ changing personalities to heal a working environment that, not only is more suited to their psychological priorities at any given time, but also (as a result) beneficial to your bottom line.

Here’s how to do it, backed by science.

Find your ambassadors

Because they’ll have been optimally self-selecting into their ideal work environments for longer than most of your other employees, employees in their late 40s and early 50s will be operating at their most stable.

This means they are secure in who they are, have built stable internal and external networks, and are well-informed on what your business is all about. They are your greatest ambassadors, and are best-positioned to represent and advertise your company’s ethos.

Meaningfully celebrate their knowledge and life experience. Offer them incentives that show you actively value the potential and mentorship they can provide to the rest of your team. Feeling appreciated will increase their motivation, initiative, and loyalty.

Listen to the newcomers

According to the niche-picking principle, we strategically favor and pick aspects of our environments that are advantageous to us.

Applying this to the workplace, junior employees (the Gen Zers entering the workforce) will seek out environments, tasks, and promotions that most closely align with their most natural skillset. In this way, they are selecting towards future stability in their roles – and in their personalities.

Pay attention to the kind of opportunities they seek out. This will offer foresight into the kind of employee they will become and allow you as their employer to curate an optimally engaging employee experience.

The result is increased employee retention, since they will become more motivated to finish what they started. It’s also a sure-fire way of locking in future ambassadors and predicting the future trajectory of your talent pipeline.

Prepare for what comes next

What happens after 50? Perhaps unsurprisingly, research shows there’s a decline in personality stability past this age. Our physical and cognitive health may change, we may have fewer people to financially support, and we naturally start shifting our priorities to align with our post-retirement goals.

This instability sometimes results in retirement anxiety and a loss of identity, which affects work productivity. You can help your employees regain their confidence by teaching them new skills that are relevant to their new priorities.

This means hosting workshops on post-work financial planning, offering opportunities for community volunteering, and highlighting the value of their experience by setting up mentor-mentee programs that go beyond the expiration date of the employment contract.

You’ll observe a revived enthusiasm for work, a renewed sense of purpose, and a long-term loyalty to your company.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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