The Trouble with Passionate People

The Trouble with Passionate People

Organisations love employees who are passionate about what they do or work with passion. In fact, passion often figures as a preferred value.

The reasons for this are understandable.

Passionate people love what they do and put their heart into it. Because they love what they do, they go out of their way and put the very best efforts to turn in great results almost every single time. Also, passionate people do all this because they want to make a difference, not just because they expect extrinsic rewards.

Their personal standards are often higher than what the organisation sets for them.  The associated behaviours of taking high ownership, being extremely absorbed in their work and bringing a certain intensity are often inspiring and infectious.

So, you see, Organisations would be fortunate if they had a bunch of passionate people at every level, in every function. Needless to say, a passionate founder or CEO or leader would be inspiring.

So, how can there be trouble at all with passionate people?

As is the case with many character strengths, passion can have its shadow side if such individuals have not paid attention to other important skills and abilities that bring balance. Many coaches, mentors and managers are constantly grappling with the task of helping a passionate employee deal with this shadow side even as they attempt to preserve it and leverage it for organisation good.

The shadow side

In my experience, there can be trouble or challenges with passionate people for one of many reasons:

High standards

Passionate people have such high standards for themselves. They push themselves very hard and are unforgiving if they do not turn in the very best every single time. Unfortunately, they expect this of all the people who work for or with them too. They fail to understand why others are not like them, why others do not bring their heart to work and why they cannot give their very best every single day.

Uni dimensional

For many passionate people, what they are pursing is all that matters in their life. This uni dimensional approach can make those close to them feel almost guilty – guilty that they are having fun, taking a vacation, going home early, watching a movie, just chatting up with friends and so on. This can also lead to burnout for the individual itself, especially when the person is overusing this strength.

Looking at the big picture

Sometimes passionate people can be so absorbed in the minutiae of what they are doing that they can fail to see the big picture. They may sometimes fail to see that 100% is not required in everything they do. They may fail to pay attention to the larger context including the impact of their words and actions. They may fail to recognise that means are as important as ends. They may also fail to be objective and recognise other valid and often contrary data staring at them.They may also fail to see that their style and approach can be unsustainable.

Limiting beliefs

Passionate people often carry limiting beliefs that if they do not worry or turn in the best or feel the excitement, they are not being true to themselves. They might have catastrophic visions of what might happen if they change.

Valuing differences

Passionate people can often be judgmental about others and can fail to recognise that others can be different, can have different needs and have a different approach which might also yield equally good results.

Emotional regulation

Passion is a great emotion and can yield great results. However, when not balanced with the right skills and attitudes, it can lead to frustration, disappointment and anger. Meetings and other interactions can be volatile .Many of their relationships can be fragile or even broken. It can lead them to believe that they are better off working by themselves than having to depend on others to get things done, their way.

High intensity

In general, it is wonderful to see and admire passionate people from a distance. However, those who have to work with or around passionate people will complain that their intensity is not easy to handle, especially not all day long.

Helping passionate people

Passionate people would benefit from help if their shadow side is causing challenges. The intent of help would be to make their effort sustainable, help them enjoy it than to rob them of their passion.

A lot of empathy, nurturing of their inner child, re-framing their beliefs and modifying some of their less useful behaviours can ensure that people with passion remain invaluable assets to the organisations they work for.