What's Wrong With Passion in the Workplace?

When people say you need to 'behave professionally' or describe someone as 'a real professional' it doesn't evoke images of passion. Passion in the workplace is taboo.

But passion, caring, intuition and judgement are all innovation gold.  Those ‘unprofessional’ traits that get hammered out of people on their way up the ladder are what separate human from machine. Without allowing employees to express emotion all hope of innovation is lost.  

Why do we hire people, then deny them human expression?

How many movies mock the boardroom scene with a sea of suited men (and a few token women) nodding in agreement at some dry, meaningless presentation? It’s a funny stereotype because many of us have seen it. The traditional ladder of success isn't paved with emotion. 

The higher you rise the less emotion your expected to demonstrate. Doing so conveys weakness. 

You wouldn't hire a construction worker and ask them to tie their hands behind their back so why hire a knowledge worker and ask them to constrain their passion? The fuel of human mental capability.

After many years leading an entrepreneurial company I got to witness firsthand the magic of passion. It truly is amazing to witness what people can accomplish when they're allowed to walk through the door and be themselves: happy; excited; angry or frustrated. Human juices flowing.

In the open space environment you could hear expletives expressing the frustrations at the defect that won't go away - or the cries of victory when it does. The heated debates over design that would shift from english to native tongue - as though masking the words from others would hide the anger.

That passion focused on solving a problem delivered results that defied any gantt chart forecasts. A well thought out project plan that concluded a problem could be solved in 6 months with an army of practitioners would be tackled in 6 weeks with just a few focused and passionate people.

Passion is at the root of garage millionaires. The 20-somethings that are changing the world with ground-breaking apps didn't create a master plan to be methodically executed in 8-hour windows between 9 and 5. They were fuelled by passion. 

Let people laugh, cry, yell ...or maybe their passion is driving them into a state of intensity that requires them to be left in isolation - however it individually manifests allow it to be out in the open.

And when HR gets the inevitable complaint about the open passion being illustrated by a co-worker, make sure you solve the right problem. Don't reprimand the one wearing their heart on their sleeve but invite the complainant to bring more of themselves to the office. Not only may it help them empathise they may fill their own passion tank.

When you want people to think outside of the box, you first have to allow them to get out of it.