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Passion and WorkPerformance

Contemporary organizations increasingly emphasize the pursuit of passion, but the evidence linking passion and job performance has been surprisingly mixed. There are several reason why it is so hard to pin down whether passion really is a great asset or not.

First and foremost passion is not, what we call, a valid construct. Passion is most likely a quality that sums up several traits and actions and is dependent on how it is received. This is a classic “mistake” done by many positive psychologists, not to mention several personality tests. Meaning that one tries to measure qualities that are sums of other traits.

Passion, inspiring, enthusiastic are a few common qualities that are, scientifically speaking, more or less impossible to measure and to compare. Hence they are no good in your hiring process, also they are no good in predicting performance.

As said the research on passion on the workplace has found mixed results, likely for the above reason. A study by Jachimowicz, Wihler and Galinsky (2018) makes an interesting move. The current research aimed to resolve this mixed evidence by moving from an intrapersonal perspective of the passion-performance link adopted by prior research to an interpersonal approach.

They hypothesize that only supervisors who attain desired levels of passion themselves will give higher job performance ratings to their more passionate subordinates.

Social Psychology focuses on the interaction between individuals and this approach is likely a good approach when it comes to such abstract constructs as passion. The evidence is clear yet not strong that the interaction (how passion is seen upon and received within the organization) is key to whether passion is a key success factor on the workplace or not.

“31 % of the variation of in-role performance […] could be credited to variation in supervisor ratings” (Birkeland & Buch, 2015, p. 401)

Consider that more passionate subordinates did not receive higher performance ratings when their supervisors did not attain desired levels of passion.

Concordantly, organizations who focus on the pursuit of passion may need to beware that their passionate subordinates may be hindered in their advancement if they are being supervised by a supervisor who does not experience desired levels of passion. Also consider that actual results and efficiency (work performance) can be high regardless if there is “passion” in the organization or not.


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