The Fashion for Passion : The pitfalls of loving your job a little too much.

BACK in the dim and distant  past, job candidates had interests or hobbies. Those interests could be introspective : reading a book was a perfectly acceptable way of spending your spare time. NO LONGER.

TODAY, you will probably be asked if you have a ''personal passion project'', and the more exhausting your answer sounds, the better. Go white-water rafting, preferably with orphans. Help build motorway crossings for endangered animals. If you must read, at least do so in the original.

PASSION is becoming a staple workplace for success. A new piece of research from Jon Jachimowicz and Hannah Weisman of Harvard Business School includes an analysis of 200 million job postings in America.

It finds that the number which explicitly mentions ''passion'' rose over time, from 2% in 2007 to 16% in 2019.

CAREER websites offer helpful advice on how to come across as passionate about deeply ordinary pursuits. Here is a suggestion from one site on how to talk to prospective employers about putting things into an oven.

''I love the process of researching new recipes and testing them out. I've been writing up my experiences with baking for the past three years ......  I'm very detail-oriented, and love the scientific aspect of baking.

However, I'm also a very social person, and use my baking as a chance to get together with friends and family.'' Do not say : ''I just really like cake.''

ONCE inside an organisation, passion for the job also seems to be a good way to get ahead. 

Another paper by Mr. Jachimowicz, along with Ke Wang of Harvard Kennedy School and Erica Bailey of Columbia Business School, found that employees who were regarded as more passionate than their peers got more positive feedback as well as more promotion and training opportunities.

Other research has found that workers who cry at work are more highly regarded if they attribute these displays of emotions to caring too much.

On the surface the fashion for passion makes sense. Better, surely, for an employee to be enthused than not. Most workers want to do a job they love; most companies want a workforce that is committed and motivated.

The case for unbridled energy is particularly strong for certain types of companies. There is a reason why startups do not embrace the cult of the occasionally interested founder.

But passion can also warp judgement. For firms, the obvious pitfall is rewarding commitment over competence. Just as that note-taking, detail-orientated baker could be churning out the world's most disgusting profiteroles, the super-keen employee who volunteers for everything may not be that great at their job.

This Monumental Essay to continue. The World Students Society thanks author Bartleby, The Economist.


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