Which is better, passion or productivity?
Recently, a senior executive told me about a new technique his company was using to motivate employees. The idea was to cultivate passionate employees who believe in what they are doing with an almost religious zeal. Passionate employees, he claimed, are more likely to do a good job.
Given my performance management background, I wasn’t convinced passion necessarily leads to better results. Passionate employees are usually motivated to work harder which can improve activity metrics. However, if the passion is misdirected, employees might be working on the wrong activities and the organization becomes less productive. In the language of the logic model, passionate activities increase outputs but don’t necessarily lead to the right outcome.
Passion or productivity? Apparently I’m not the only one to wonder about this trade-off. David Armano writes:
There are actually few organizations that can support passionate employees—even if they say they want them. That’s because the original industrial revolution was designed to support productivity […] Managers want passionate employees, but don’t always know how to manage them. Passionate employees question things, probe and push. Who’s got the time to deal with that? Productive employees get things done. No questions asked.
I can’t say I agree with the sentiment but it’s certainly a provocative idea.
As a manager, you likely say you want people to think outside the box, to have an entrepreneurial mindset, and a relentless search for the better way. But deep down, you might just want employees to do what you say.
To me, passion for the organizational mission is not optional. But the key is directed passion. That way, the passion is productive.
What do you think?