Six Rules about Passion in the Workplace

Loving your work is complicated in an economy that wants to get more from you

PLEASE NOTE: This is a draft of a bit of the Open Scientist Handbook. There may be references/links to other parts of this work-in-progress that do not link here in this blog. Sorry. But you can also see what the Handbook will be offering soon.

Now that we’ve discovered that employee engagement is not nearly as important as the passion they bring to their work, what do we do to understand this do dynamic? John Hagel III helped lead a long-term project on this topic at the Deloitte Center for the Edge. See: Exploring Passion (Retrieved June 8, 2019). See also: Unlocking the Passion of the Explorer (Retrieved June 8, 2019). This is a good place to start. But remember too that passion can be misused or abused when you or someone you work with brings this into the workplace. So here are some rules to follow:

ix rules about passion in the workplace…

1) Your passion is not a license to be the asshole in your group.
Your passion is not license. You do not acquire more right to speak or act simply because you feel passionate about your work. Use your passion to learn more and faster. Use it to have fun while you learn. Be resource-agressive. Ask questions. All this learning will show up in your work later. You can use your passion to be an asshole within yourself only (well, and with your own research methods). (See: Why Indifference is as Important as Passion (Sutton, 2006; Retrieved June 4, 2019).

2) Passion is also not more important than intellectual humility
(See Resnick, 2019 Intellectual humility: the importance of knowing you might be wrong; Retrieved June 4, 2019). You can be passionate about your subject, but don’t let this bleed over into being passionate about what you think you already know. That’s when you stop learning. Besides, intellectually humble people “possess more knowledge” (Dolan, 2019; Semi-paywalled; Retrieved June 4, 2019).

3) Actually passionate people don’t say they are.
They act passionately, but don’t profess this. They will confess, however, under light interrogation, or a few beers. People who brag about being passionate have something to sell.

“Passionate people don’t wear their passion on their sleeves; they have it in their hearts. They live it. Passion is more than resume-deep, because its hallmarks — persistence, grit,’ seriousness, all-encompassing absorption — cannot be gauged from a checklist. Nor is it always synonymous with success. If someone is truly passionate about something, they’ll do it for a long time even if they aren’t at first successful” (Schmidt and Rosenberg, 2019).

4) Having a colleague who is passionate about their work is no excuse to offload extra work on them
…simply because they might do this without complaint. Do not abuse passionate workers in this way. They will leave and be passionate in another organization (Kim, et al, 2019; Retrieved June 9, 2019).

5) During discussions about values and visions, passion needs to give way to humble listening.
Everyone has a voice, each person has a say (Schein, 2013). You get your time to contribute, but no more. Become passionate about the values the whole team decides are core values.

6) For those who are waiting to “find your passion”: Don’t wait for it to show up, develop your passion a little more each day.
“Urging people to find their passion may lead them to put all their eggs in one basket but then to drop that basket when it becomes difficult to carry” (O’Keefe, et al, 2018). If there really is nothing in your job that you can connect to with passion, then you might want to ask yourself where else might you belong.


O’Keefe, Paul A, Carol S Dweck, and Gregory M Walton. “Implicit Theories of Interest: Finding Your Passion or Developing It?” Psychological Science 29, no. 10 (2018): 1653–1664.
Schein, Edgar H. Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2013.
Schmidt, E., and J. Rosenberg. How google works. Hachette UK, 2014.



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Bruce Caron

online science community architect; media; expression, education and gaming; fiction as needed. Also blog at <>