Passion: the secret ingredient The undisclosed path to passion in the workplace  

By Ana Costa

“When employees are passionate about their work, their organisations thrive. Once passion is present and reinforced throughout an organisation, it becomes contagious.” (Chang, 2001).

The question remains. Is passion the ultimate ingredient for business success? We truly believe it is.  As everything in life, passion is what drives us, it's what keeps us moving despite all the difficulties along the way. Long story made short, passion really leads to success.

As in all romantic relationships, passion for work has its fun and exciting moments, has the honeymoon phase, the peaks, the valleys and the plateaus. It can be a harmonious passion or an obsessive one, even sometimes, it needs to be reignited to get the fire back.

The good thing is that passion can be learnt. And we are here to help you keep the fire alive, showing how to find the undisclosed pathway to passion in the workplace.


The fundamental role of passion at work

Passion is widely accepted as an important value in different organisations. For example, McKinsey & Company lists “passion, dedication, and energy” as the first criteria they seek in new hires; Boston Consulting Group lists a commitment to “succeeding together with passion” in their mission statement; and Bain & Company states that “passion is about making a measurable impact” as one of its core values.

We can refer to passion at work as something that involves “consciously accessible positive intense feelings experienced by engagement in entrepreneurial activities associated with roles that are meaningful and salient to the self-identity of the entrepreneur” (Melissa Cardon, 2008). Passion involves positive and intense feelings that occur over time and is strongly related with roles that people find meaningful.

Mike Kappel, founder and CEO of Patriot Software, states in an article published at Forbes “My passion for succeeding and avoiding failure caused me to learn things I didn’t want to learn or do, like public speaking and writing. Because I was so passionate about success, the things I disliked about business became my friends”. This endurance is actually something that science has been studying. Interestingly, researchers identified passion as an important predictor of success, commitment, and work performance because it is linked to greater motivation and sustained effort over time. Passion is associated with determination, motivation, and a high degree of self-control, being these the reasons why passionate workers persist and accomplish. Furthermore, passion leads to people setting more challenging goals, using more creativity in tackling those challenges, and persisting longer in tasks, even when overcoming obstacles.



Is it all pink and rosy?

As in all romantic relationships, passion at work can be characterised by the dualistic model of Vallenrand and colleagues (2003), which depending on the way and on the context, can be considered harmonious or obsessive.

Harmonious passion occurs when there is an autonomous internalisation of an activity in someone’s identity. The participation in the activity is felt as free, without pressure, and is performed because it is important for that person. Harmonious passion produces motivation and engagement, being in harmony with other elements of a person’s life.

However, excessive levels of passion may be dysfunctional, leading to blind persistence, irrational escalations of commitment, and obsessive behaviour. Such passion is called obsessive and refer to interpersonal pressures and contingencies linked to some activity or role. Despite the person like the activity, it is as if him/her is forced to do it because of internal forces and connections controlling him/her. This lack of control makes the activity pervasive in the individual's identity, being in most cases in conflict with the other elements of a person’s life.

While harmonious passion is related with positive mood, flow, and engagement, obsessive passion is connected with experiences of conflict, work addiction, and negative moods, but also with flow, engagement, and performance. All the positive outcomes that arise from harmonious passion suggest the relevance in creating and reinforcing passion awareness to better foster worker’s wellbeing and performance.



Passionate Workers


Fostering work passion in 3 steps

In 2013, John Hagel and colleagues at Deloitte University, published a report titled “Unlocking the passion of the Explorer” where they describe how companies can cultivate passion in the workforce. Following Hagel’s findings, “organizations should rethink their work environments—from the physical space to virtual environments to management practices—to understand how policies, practices, and actions impact the attributes of passion.”

Building a passionate workforce involves 3 steps.

First step: Define high-impact challenges

Show to employees how their work contributes to the organisation goals and celebrate achievements. Make them understand that their work is meaningful and that in turn adds purpose to their lives and lives of others. The secret is to create compelling causes for your team to fight for.

Second step: Strengthen high-impact connections

Allow employees to know each other and let them engage on a personal level. Connections should be created through rituals: whether it’s a Friday birthday lunch, a quarterly community service day, or monthly performance recognition. Rituals create intimacy and make employees feel special and part of something unique. Furthermore, company events are also perfect settings to cultivate relationships, providing opportunities to interact on a personal level and create engagement between people.

Third step: Amplify impact

Offer challenges with a structure for participation and a system for rewards and recognition. Encourage employees to learn new skills, take online courses, participate in cross-departmental projects, be assigned a mentor, or encourage to contribute to business decision-making.  Also important is complimenting and showing appreciation to deserving employees for their hard work, which creates motivation and positive behaviours.



VIBE will be your love barometer

Built over foundations of relationship and interpersonal psychology, VIBE is a supportive fintech and employee engagement, AI technology that allows oraganisations to monitor a teams’ level of passion, trust, empowerment and stress, ultimately showing how these factors influence business numbers. By closely and regularly monitoring passion levels, you will be able to understand the power of your actions and design new approached to boost workforce performance and wellbeing.