Seth Godin, marketing author and blogger, wrote a blog untitled WORKAHOLICS, in which he discusses the PASSIONATE WORKER. He notes that there is a very big difference between the two. “The passionate worker doesn’t show up because she’s afraid of getting in trouble, she shows up because it’s a hobby that pays. The passionate worker is busy blogging on vacation… because posting that thought and seeing the feedback it generates is actually more fun than sitting on the beach for another hour. The passionate worker tweaks a site design after dinner because, hey, it’s a lot more fun than watching TV.” On the other hand the workaholic works out of fear. “It’s fear that drives him to show up all the time. The best defense, apparently, is a good attendance record.” The PASSIONATE WORKER works out of passion and curiosity.
I am familiar with this difference. I live with a passionate worker. Her job allows her the opportunity to solve problems, something that drives her. She solves logic problems on vacation! I accuse her of being a workaholic, but that is not true. She truly works because she loves what the job presents her. That does not mean that there are not times when the work is mundane and boring, but on the whole she is energized by the work.
From an HR stand point the question becomes how can we make most jobs like this? How can we structure work to make all our employees passionate? Or is it not a matter of the structure of work, perhaps it is the proper selection of the right person who finds this work passionate?
Seth makes the comment that it is hard to imagine someone being passionate about mining coal, but I can remember another passionate worker. He was the clean up guy in a plant I worked in earlier in my career. He was always happy so one day I asked him why, since I could not imagine why someone was so happy about pushing a broom and mowing the grass and emptying the trash. He told me he had the most important job in the plant. I asked him how he figured that and he told me that if he did not empty the trash no one else could work, if he did not mow the lawn the neighbors would be mad and if he did not sweep the floor everything would be dirty. Thus, in his mind he had the most important job in the plant. Passion? I am not sure, but he thought so. Right person for the job or right job for the person?
OD specialists tell you that task significance or task importance are important for job satisfaction. So maybe that is what what passion is, the apex of the job satisfaction curve. What do you think?