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Having Passion for Your Job May Not Always be the Best

Posted by Savannah Patton | June 14, 2019 | Comments (1)

We usually strive to find a job we’re passionate about, but according to a new study, the more passionate an employee is, the more likely they may be taken advantage of in the workplace.

Researchers from Duke University, Oklahoma State University and the University of Oregon conducted eight studies with 2,400 participants made up of  students, managers and random online samples

The study showed that people see it as more acceptable to make passionate employees do extra, unpaid or demeaning work more so than employees without the same passion. Participants found it more legitimate and valuable to make passionate employees do tasks like work on the weekend, sacrifice family time, work unpaid hours or perform tasks outside their job description.

“It’s great to love your work,” says Aaron Kay, a professor from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, “but there can be costs when we think of the workplace as somewhere workers get to pursue their passion.”

The study found that there are two main reasons passionate employees get taken advantage of:  the belief that the work in itself is its own reward and the belief that the passionate employee would have volunteered for the task anyway.  Kay explains that this is called “compensatory justification.”

“We want to see the world as fair and just,” Kay says. “When we are confronted with injustice, rather than fix it, sometimes our minds tend to compensate instead. We rationalize the situation in a way that seems fair and assume the victims of injustice must benefit in some other way.”

“In the case of working employees harder for no extra pay, or asking them to do demeaning work or work outside their job description, believing this is fair because these workers are indulging their passions may be a similar means of justification,” Kay says.

It seems like there’s no winning for employees who love their job. Can they still let their passions be known without being exploited?

Self-awareness could be key.

“Our research is not anti-passion,” lead author of the study, Jae Yun Kim, says. “There is excellent evidence that passionate workers benefit in many ways. It’s simply a warning that we should not let the current cultural emphasis on finding passion in our work be co-opted by the human tendency to legitimize or ignore exploitation.”

If you love what you do, you should be grateful, but you should also be aware of potential exploitations.

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Savannah Patton

Savannah Patton is the ICF Communications Assistant and a freelance writer for Kentucky Sports Radio. She graduated in May 2016 from the University of Kentucky with a bachelor's degree in Integrated Strategic Communications with a focus in Public Relations.

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

Comments (1)

  1. Kamal Kishore says:

    A very well written article. It has a crisp and clear message which is absolutely true as per my personal experience.

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