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Florida State University researchers study employee passion and resilience

Posted at 12:07 PM, Mar 10, 2023

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — You may have heard it said that if you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life, but new research from Florida State University suggests being passionate about your profession could be both strength and a weakness.

"Passion's a good thing because it's a resource, and it's motivating," organization behavior professor Wayne Hochwarter explained, "and if you were to ask most employers they would say yes, we want passionate employees."

According to the National Library of Medicine, work passion is a strong inclination or desire toward work-related activities that people like. It leads to "people who are energetic and enthusiastic about the job," Hochwarter says. But, if not managed well, it can have a flip side. "What we're finding is that when not used appropriately, burnout is one of the first consequences."

A study of 15-hundred workers by Job Search Web Giant Indeedfound more than half of respondents had experienced burnout, which Hochwarter defines as "emotional exhaustion, de-personalization, in essence just like you're a sponge that's been wrung out and you have nothing left to give."

The far-too-familiar feeling can be found most commonly in some of the professions we depend on the most. "We have a number of teachers who are resigning, quitting. Nursing is becoming a profession that is getting hard to staff, and burnout is a huge culprit in both cases," Hochwarter said.

Leon Classroom Teachers Association president Scott Mazur agrees. "Burnout in the teacher profession is a real issue right now," he said. "Teachers are givers, they want to make sure that they serve, so a lot of time they want to make sure they're going above and beyond the expectations." When asked what he thinks will keep teachers' passion engaged, he says, "Really when it comes down to it, it's about three things, it's pay, it's respect and it's politics."

And it's more than just money, power, and respect. Hochwarter says employees have to take ownership of their own mental health, in what he calls 'ego resilience'. "Ego means self and resilience is managing and getting through the tough times," he said, "and people who are passionate are going to experience difficult times."

Hochwarter goes on to say that employers need leaders in place with key focuses. "What I would recommend for all leaders is to focus on two really important parts of leading people and that's trust and communication." These qualities, he says, will help leaders cultivate workplace cultures where passion leads to success. "You don't want to eliminate or extinguish people's passion for work because that's still a very important and needed thing."