Encouraging a “Mastery Climate” in Your Workplace
As we teach on the iPerform programme, feeling passionate about your job is very important as it helps both improve performance and wellbeing.However, according to research by doctoral student Ide Katrine Birkeland at the BI Norwegian Business School, there is a “right” type of passion and “wrong” type of passion for employees when looking at performance improvement.
Birkeland studied over 1000 members of a trade union for a whole year. The majority of the 1200 participants were graduates working in either the public or private sector. During the course of the year, they were asked questions pertaining to the work on three separate occasions.
The questions themselves looked at wellbeing, behaviour, passion for their job and their overall view of the workplace environment. What Birkeland discovered was that there were two types of passion being exhibited:
1 – Harmonious Passion – Passion for work is associated with creativity, wellbeing, flow, commitment to their role and organisation. The job is part of what makes their life enjoyable, not the be-all and end-all.
2- Obsessive Passion – A passion derived from the need for self esteem and social status gained through their job. Such individuals define who they are by their job and are obsessed to the point that leads to work related stress, burnout and conflicts between work and their personal lives. Such passion is not only bad for the individual but also for colleagues.
In the study, between 40-45% of participants had a high degree of harmonious passion in their jobs. There were approximately 15% who answered the questions in a way that showed them to have obsessive passion while a further 3% had severe obsessive passion for their jobs. Even with such low numbers, these people can cause disruption in the workplace according to Birkeland:
“Obsessive passion for work is linked to uncivil behaviour in the workplace. Employees with a high degree of obsessive passion behave in a more condescending and disrespectful way towards colleagues. They go around with blinkers on and sharpened elbows out.”
Obsessive passion is normally revealed in two areas, a lack of support for colleagues and managers, and what Birkeland calls a “performance climate” in contrast to a “mastery climate” in the workplace. In a performance climate, rivalry and competition are encouraged and only the most talented are rewarded and hold the spotlight. This encourages Obsessive Passion rather than Harmonious Passion. A mastery climate however is embodied by self-development learning, task mastery, team effort and collaboration among work colleagues. This is harmonious passion at work.
One of the biggest obstacles however according to Birkeland is that people with Obsessive Passion cause even more problems in a Mastery Climate as they get frustrated at not being the centre of attention and not being singled out for praise and reward. The best way to avoid such conflicts in the workplace, according to the Birkeland, is to reduce the number of people who possess such Obsessive Passion. This can be done firstly by being aware that there is a difference between harmonious and obsessive passion, and that people with harmonious passion are better for the workplace. Secondly, potential job candidates should be screened out if they show signs of obsessive passion in the job interview stage.