How to Avoid Hating the Job You Love ❤️🤬

Did you know that a big passion killer at work is … passion!?

Researchers call it obsessive passion. It is uplifting and invigorating but also destructive and dark. It leads to success; a genuinely satisfying but equally all-consuming emotion singularly driven by work and work only. It is the sole source of your identity and self-esteem.

Obsessive passion shows up all the time. It shows up when you sit next to a stranger on the plane and all you talk about is work, and it’s there when you watch your favourite movie but have work on your mind. It’s the underlying reason you’ve missed your medical appointments or cancelled friends again because something more important came up at work. Your heartfelt apologies or embellished self-pity won’t mask the fact that nothing and no one matters to you as much as your job. As invitations dry up, your addiction swells up. You are in many places at the same time, but never quite present.

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By now, the obsessive passion for work has you all to itself. It makes itself at home in your extra fat cells as you skip exercise. It sits on your heavy eyelids when you miss sleep and accompanies you wherever you go as you clutch your phone, always ready to answer that work call or email.

The paradox with obsessive passion is that people who get caught in it love what they do or think they do. While this all-or-nothing dedication yields positive boosts and gratification in the short term, it comes at the price of becoming detached from everything else. Devoid of life’s other meaningful experiences, a path from love to loathing is well-trodden by those who give it all to their work. Along the way, there might be a breakdown, hidden loneliness, family conflicts, disconnection from friends, and a loss of sense of self. What was so rewarding then, you now resent.

Who, in their right mind, would allow themselves to be controlled by the love for what they do?

I’ll hold my hand up. I’ve been tempted. Unfortunately, our society has been hit by unattainable perfection and achievement compulsion. High achievers and more addictive personalities aside, playing to the crowd happens more often than we are willing to admit. But it can also be the unintentional by-product of “all-in”, “we are a big family here” organisational cultures. When unchecked, professional and personal boundaries can blur and lead to burnout.

Good news! We can all nurture passion that leads to happier careers, well-balanced life and more productive organisations. 

Passion for work matters but the secret to true success lies in what scientists call “harmonious” passion. As the name suggests, it co-exists harmoniously with other aspects of our lives, boosting our existential health.

How can leaders nurture harmonious passion at work?

Demonstrate and encourage in others a healthy work-life balance. It may seem counterintuitive, but non-work activities such as music, social gatherings, art or adventure significantly impact how good you feel about work.

Invest time and energy in leisure activities, discuss hobbies, and organise team bonding events where people can express themselves in broader terms, not only through the tasks they do at work. Create a sense of belonging but explore what belonging means to each team member. Provide opportunities for meaningful volunteering, mentoring, and personal development.

How to refuel one’s passion for work?

If your passion dips – which is normal and to be expected from time to time – here are some tips on how to bring it back:

1.  What’s the purpose? Revisit why you do what you do. What gets you up in the morning? How does it matter to others and the world at large? How does it allow you to live your core values?

2.  What’s the mission? Remind yourself how things will be different when your work is done. How will you feel, and what will you say to yourself once you’ve achieved your mission?

3.  Take risks. Do something out of your comfort zone, learn something new, and test and experiment with a new skill or behaviour. Give yourself permission to be scared, curious and surprised. Evolve and allow for mistakes along the way.

4.  (New) Relationships matter. Take care of your existing meaningful relationships at home and work, and expand your stakeholder orbit: new people, new ideas, new energy.

5.  Laugh. Optimism is in huge demand right now. Laughter builds resilience and a healthy perspective for problems and challenges.

6.  Autonomy. Nothing saps our enthusiasm as having our hands tied. If you feel you are micromanaged, plan how to address this with your line manager. Present them with a different scenario. Explain why and how you can do more and better work with more freedom.

7.  Create job clarity. Research shows that lack of clarity over role responsibilities and lack of metrics of success is also a passion killer.

8.  Happy file. We are all too quick to focus on the negatives. A bad day at work or a mistake can ruin the rest of the week. However humble or self-deprecating you are, keep positive feedback and kind words from others in one place. It’s rarely a go-to file on your laptop, but when things go south, a reminder of your good work helps refuel your passion for what you do.

 How do you stay on the right side of passion? Your thoughts are most welcome!