When people say “passion in the workplace”:
- What does that mean to you?
- What does that mean to them?
It seems the ‘motivational gurus’ cannot break the habit of using the word 'passion' when talking about ideal workplaces and their followers cannot get beyond feeling little twinges of inspiration, albeit incredibly short lived twinges, when they hear messages about 'passion in the workplace'.
But – really – what does all this talk about 'passion in the workplace' mean and does it contain any value?
For donors of motivational messages about workplace-passion: Do these people actually care or think about the meaning of the word passion or do they just spew out the word, because they believe it’s in vogue or because they cannot stop themselves from riding the wake of a cliché?
For recipients who are inspired by workplace-passion messages: What, exactly, are they thinking when they get inspired? Specifically, what does the word passion mean to them?
Here’s the way the Merriam-Webster Dictionary presents the various meanings of the word passion:
Simple Definition of PASSION
- a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something
- a strong feeling (such as anger) that causes you to act in a dangerous way
- a strong sexual or romantic feeling for someone
Full Definition of PASSION
1. often capitalized: a) the sufferings of Christ between the night of the Last Supper and his death; b) an oratorio based on a gospel narrative of the Passion
2. obsolete : suffering
3. the state or capacity of being acted on by external agents or forces
4.a) (1) emotion his ruling passion is greed (2) plural the emotions as distinguished from reason; b) intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction; c) an outbreak of anger
5.a) ardent affection : love; b) a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept; c) sexual desire; d) an object of desire or deep interest
Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary
So this does not get too complicated…
…let’s just consider the Merriam-Webster dictionary’s Simple Definition of PASSION
- a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something (Bullet Point 1)
- a strong feeling (such as anger) that causes you to act in a dangerous way (Bullet Point 2)
- a strong sexual or romantic feeling for someone (Bullet Point 3)
Bullet Point 1 – Yes, this definition fits workplaces. At least, in theory, enthusiasm/excitement has the potential to be a productive driver in workplaces. Obviously, in practice, enthusiasm/excitement will face limitations in working people and in workplaces:
- for the former, there will be ‘good days and bad days’ where enthusiasm/excitement do and do not happen – after all, we are only human
- for the latter, there will be ‘right times and places’ where enthusiasm/excitement fit and do not fit – after all, all those other people at our workplaces are also only human
All considered, the first simple definition fits workplaces. For example, if we were to say “We are enthusiastic about our work” or “We are excited about our work” then people would interpret these as good things…which makes me wonder – why don’t the motivational gurus just say those things instead of using the word 'passion'? [It seems to me the answer to that last questions rests somewhere between hyperbole and thick syrup.]
Bullet Point 2 – No, we do not want people to get angry and act in dangerous ways when they are at work. To the extent motivational gurus use the word passion to inspire people, most of us hope that inspiration will not result in angry mindsets and dangerous actions…which makes me wonder…why would the gurus take the risk of this interpretation by using the word passion? [It seems to me the answer to that last question must be they are 2nd bullet-point passionate about using the word 'passion' in their motivational messages.]
Bullet Point 3 – Now, you might find it discomforting that motivational gurus argue in favour of bringing strong sexual and romantic feelings to work…i.e., bringing love to work. I mean, you may be thinking there’s a time and place…and the workday isn’t the right time and the workplace isn’t the right place. Regardless, the motivational gurus, many of them for many years, have been arguing in favour of bringing passion and love to the workplace!
As one example, here’s a very-recent Simon Sinek quote:
“True love exists in business. It's when employee and employer are amazingly grateful to have each other. We should all have true love at work.”
When I read that quote, I wondered if Simon Sinek has ever read a dictionary definition of the word ‘love’. For example, has he read the Merriam-Webster definition:
Simple Definition of LOVE
- a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person
- attraction that includes sexual desire : the strong affection felt by people who have a romantic relationship
- a person you love in a romantic way
In this English language we use, there is a considerable difference between loving and being grateful. Arguments promoting "we should all have true love at work" are patently silly. And, unfortunately, Simon Sinek is not alone in his passion and love arguments. Clearly - the motivational gurus are going too far in their quest for catchy slogans and advice: they are squeezing clichés beyond the limits of common sense.
Clearly, it's time to stamp out Passion and Love in our Workplaces!
PS: If you are eligible and you meet a willing recipient for your love and passion at your workplace then the above is not intended to dissuade you or the object of your affection. However, I must extend two suggestions of caution: (1) there is a time and a place so you may want to consider off-premises and after-hours for your exchange of love and passion and (2) don’t confuse your wonderfully-human emotions and mind-states with arguments that suggest your love and passion have anything to do with business cases, workplace excellence or ROI.
PPS: In recognition of my motivational hero, Napoleon Hill. Yes – Napoleon Hill championed the value of transmuting sexual energy into energy to be used for workplace thought and action [see Hill’s 1937 classic, ‘Think and Grow Rich’]. Hill saw the tremendous energy embedded in the emotions he described as 'love' and 'sex'. He recognized, if sex energies could be channeled [i.e., transmuted] into different endeavours, including business work, then the results could be stupendous. I expect the current motivational gurus haven't misunderstand/misinterpret Hill’s messages…after all, it seems they haven’t even taken the time to read dictionaries let alone the works of motivational leaders who did take the time to do very deep thinking before putting thoughts to their audiences.
PPPS: I recognize some workplaces rely upon passion and/or love - most of them deliver incredible humane and charitable services...others are are just plain illegal.