Passionate about your job? Here’s Why It Might Not Be Good For You

You wish you had more passion for your job. Or that you had the kind of job that you can at least imagine being passionate about. Something that made you jump out of bed in the morning excited about another day full of fist pumping and joy.

But psychologists distinguish between two kinds of work-related passion — and they may not both be attractive, even if you’re more than a little tired of your current role.

“Harmonious” work passion refers to situations where a person not only enjoys his work, but also has control over his relationship with it. People with harmonious passion for work have often chosen their career because it interests them and they enjoy the way they earn a living. Crucially, the work has no profound interference with other important elements of their lives.

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But a person with an “obsessive” work passion has little control over their relationship with their work. They consider their profession and related factors such as promotions and pay increases as central to their lives.

The obsessively passionate people rarely completely disconnect from their jobs, and while they can be very successful at what they do, it often comes without a sense of accomplishment. Such an approach can take over lives, and lead to burnoutif you physically and emotionally exhaustedand feel helpless and trapped.

So how do you make sure you end up being filled with the right kind of passion? If you have an obsessive work passion, is it you or the job? Our research suggests: it’s probably both.

To study the relationship between personality traits, work, and the kind of passion people develop, we analyzed data from: a psychological project which collected data and test results from more than 800 participants.

We measured some of their personality traits, referred to in psychology as the “big five”: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, kindness and neuroticism.

We also evaluated their attitudes to work, according to the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements such as “My work is in harmony with other activities in my life”, or “I have trouble controlling my urges.” to master work”.

Finally, we categorized their jobs, using a system which scores different types of work on six descriptions: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, entrepreneurial and conventional. (You can use this) online test to get an idea of ​​what kind of job you are looking for.)

Passion killer

Our findings suggest that personality traits (especially neuroticism) interact with the work environment in complex ways and evoke different kinds of passion. In particular, people prone to neuroticism (mood swings, anxiety, and irritability) are much more likely to develop an obsessive work passion if they have a job in the “entrepreneurial” category. In general, these are professions that rely heavily on persuasion and place a lot of emphasis on reputation, power and status.

For example, someone who agrees with statements like “I’m easily upset” or “I worry about several things at the same time” is much more vulnerable to burnout if he or she works as a lawyer, fundraiser, or real estate agent. But that same person is less likely to become obsessed with their job if they work as a dentist, engineer, nurse, surgeon, or social worker.

It is then important to find out what kind of passion you have for your work. Do you feel like you are in control, enjoying your successes? If the answer is no, or if there are other indications that your passion for work is of the obsessive kind, you may want to consider changing direction to avoid risking burnout.

In the example above, that may mean looking for a role that is less entrepreneurial; something more artistic or social, perhaps. Because while we may not be able to change our personalities, a job change can lead to a greater sense of satisfaction and control – and possibly more time to find our passion in the world outside of work.

This article by Taha Yasseric, Associate Professor, School of Sociology; Geary Fellow, Geary Institute of Public Policy, University College Dublinhas been reissued from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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