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Passion at Work - 13 May 2015

If you were to ask any leader if they want their employees to be passionate, all of them would probably say yes.  But they should be cognisant of the fact there are actually two different types of passion, both of which generate very different organisational outcomes.  One is known asholistic passion; the other as obsessive passion.  

Employees who are holistically passionate engage in activities because the completion of them is aligned to who they are as a person.  In other words, their identity is associated very strongly with their job.  This might be because the work is fun, generous, important, creative, people-oriented, or a number of other characteristics.

Employees who are obsessively passionate undertake tasks because of the subsequent boost to their sense of self worth.  They’ll do stuff at work not because they genuinely love it but because they feel as though there’s a benefit that might arise from it.  These benefits could include a promotion, social acceptance, a pay rise, or other types of reward.

And now a new study published in the Human Relations journal has attempted to discover which of the two passions is most likely to result in greater workplace performance.  The answer is that both of them do well but, as you’ve probably guessed, holistic passion significantlyoutperforms obsessive passion.  Your responsibility as a leader, then, is to be mindful of the following: 

Holistic passion:  This begins with recruitment.  Ask questions during the interview that can help you understand the candidate’s passions.  That way, you can ascertain whether they’re a good fit for your organisation’s purpose.  For people already in your team, adapt their jobs (if you can) so that they’re more affiliated with their interests.  This might require more autonomy, variety, challenges, flexibility, and involvement.  Experiment to see what works.

Obsessive passion:  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  So long as employees are passionate, the driving force shouldn’t really matter (unless you want that passion to translate into even greater performance).  Just be aware, though, that if you have an obsessively passionate person in your team, they’re more prone to work/life imbalances than those whose passion is holistic.  This means that, in addition to providing regular rewards and recognition, it’s just as important to monitor their levels of exhaustion.

Irrespective of the type of passion, the combination of this study and prior ones demonstrates that passionate employees provide better customer service, collaborate more effectively, and derive greater job satisfaction.  That alone makes this objective one worth pursuing.

To download complimentary e-books on employee engagement, retention, and recruitment (valued at over $100), please click here.

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