How Employees Develop Passion For Work

Publication: Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (2015)
Article: Finding a Fit or Development It: Implicit Theories About Achieving Passion for Work
Reviewed by: Winnie Jiang


As a new generation enters the workforce, a growing number of people are seeking passion for work. They desire to attain passion, or a strong sense of enjoyment, fulfillment, identification, and motivation from their work. Ample studies have demonstrated that passion for work predicts positive individual and organizational outcomes, including positive affect (or good feelings), lower job burnout, and higher job satisfaction.

Despite the popularity of studying the outcomes of passion for work, relatively few studies have examined how passion for work is achieved. In this recent article, the authors (Chen, Ellsworth, & Schwarz, 2015) identified two different mindsets that people often endorse when considering how passion for work is attained–fit theory and develop theory. Through four different studies, the authors also showed that fit and develop theorists tend to have different passion expectations and make different vocational choices. While they are almost equally likely to experience passion, satisfaction, and commitment at work, they attain these outcomes through different paths.



Individuals endorsing the fit theory believe that passion can be achieved when there is a fit between the individual and the line of work. This theory is reflected in the popular phrase of “follow your passion.” Passion in this phrase refers to a line of work which individuals consider a perfect fit. Both the fit theory and the follow your passion notion are based on the assumption that individuals have a general understanding of what their interests and strengths are, and they know what kind of work would be a good match.

However, not everyone has a good grasp of what type of work is a perfect fit. Furthermore, in a tight job market, most individuals don’t have the luxury of choosing their preferred vocations. Consistent with these situations, some individuals adopt the develop theory, which suggests that instead of feeling passion at the beginning, individuals can develop or cultivate passion as they gain mastery and expertise in any line of work.

In short, individuals endorsing the fit theory (i.e., fit theorists) believe that passion for work is obtained through matching personal characteristics with the right line of work, while those endorsing the develop theory (i.e., develop theorists) think passion for a line of work can be developed over time. In this study, the authors designed scales to measure whether an individual endorses the fit theory or develop theory.



Through four studies based on both hypothetical and actual scenarios, the authors found significant differences in expected passion for work and career choices between fit and develop theorists. When asked to choose between an enjoyable but lowly paid line of work and a less enjoyable but highly paid line of work, fit theorists were more likely to select the former while develop theorists were more likely to select the latter.

Fit theorists anticipated more passion for the enjoyable but lowly paid line of work than the less enjoyable but highly paid line of work. On the other hand, develop theorists anticipated feeling equally passionate about both lines of work, suggesting it was reasonable for them to select the work with higher pay. In addition, it was the individual’s expected passion in the two different lines of work that explained why there was a link between theory endorsement and career selection. In other words, fit theorists are more likely to choose the enjoyable but lowly paid line of work because they anticipate feeling more passion in that line of work compared to develop theorists.

Additionally, the authors found that both fit and develop theory endorsement can account for feelings of passion, satisfaction, and commitment at work, although through different paths. While fit theorists tend to choose work that provides them with passion and then maintain a relatively stable level of passion, develop theorists generally start their work with a lower level of passion but gradually achieve the same level of passion as fit theorists as time goes by.



This research provides important practical implications on career advising, coaching, and development in organizations. First of all, helping all employees to form a develop theory mindset can be a good way to assist them in cultivating passion for their line of work. In cases where individuals strongly endorse a particular theory and are reluctant to change their mindset, career advisors and HR practitioners should consider adopting the right strategies to help different individuals. For example, realistic job previews and personality tests are particularly effective at allowing fit theorists and organizations to find a good match and enable employees to achieve passion for their work. On the other hand, organizational socialization, training, learning, and other on-boarding integration events would be more helpful for develop theorists to attain that same level of passion for their work.


Fantastic Feedback: How to Offer and Solicit Good Advice

Publication: Harvard Business Review
Article: The Art of Giving and Receiving Advice
Reviewed by: Susan Rosengarten


The ability to effectively use feedback or advice is essential to success in all professional roles. Great leaders know that advice is more of an art than a science, and it’s a skill that can be honed and mastered over time and with experience. By opening your mind to alternative viewpoints and encouraging others to do the same, you can encourage smarter decision-making, more linear and logical thinking, and avoid personal and cognitive biases that derail team and organizational success.

Being a good advisor means truly understanding another’s situation and circumstances before formulating and imparting your thoughts. It can often be difficult to untangle the details of a sticky situation, especially with limited information, or with only one side of the story. On the flip side, advice seekers need to be able to recognize when and how to ask for help. They have to overcome their instinctive inclination to immediately defend their views, and open themselves to other options and alternative viewpoints.

In a new article, Garvin and Margolis (2015) offer some guidelines on how to avoid common mistakes when asking for and offering advice. Here are a couple of pitfalls that top their list:



“Choosing the wrong advisers.” Seek out advisers who can offer you a robust assessment of your situation and circumstances. While talking things through with friends or those who are like-minded may be convenient, it can also serve to narrow your viewpoint.

“Defining the problem poorly.” Be honest with your advisor. At times we selectively remove certain details from a story because they portray us in a bad light. We tell our advisor about the mistakes made by everyone around us, and fail to admit to our own blunders.

“Misjudging the quality of advice.” Don’t discard advice solely because it’s coming from someone you don’t like. That person may know you better than you think. Also, recognize that advice conveyed confidently is not necessarily good advice. Use your head. Learn when to defer to the experience of others and when to hold strong to beliefs you know to be correct.

“Overstepping boundaries.” Don’t offer advice on topics you don’t know much about just because it makes you feel important. Doing so will make you lose credibility with the person you’re advising, and with those adversely impacted by your recommendations.

“Offering self-centered guidance.” Make sure that the advice you impart makes the most sense for your advisees. Don’t tell them what you would do, or how you would respond. Counsel them on how to play to their own strengths. Understand that actions may have different repercussions for them than they might have for you.

The authors also offer some best practices and recommended stages for people seeking and offering advice.



“Stage 1: Finding the right fit.” The authors recommend that advisees put together a personal ‘board’ of competent people who possess unique and diverse strengths, experiences, and vantage points. Advisees should then think about who might be most qualified to offer perspective on specific cases as they arise. If you’re sought out as an advisor, think about the particulars of the situation and whether or not you’re the best person to offer meaningful insight to your advisee.

“Stage 2: Developing a shared understanding.” The exchange only works if both advisor and advisee are on the same page. Advisee—you must tell your advisor the whole story, even those parts that may not paint you in the best light. Advisor—probe for details not offered by your advisee if they would help you get a better grasp of the situation.

“Stage 3: Crafting alternatives.” Advisers and advisees should work together to come up with a number of ideas and options that could lead to desired goals, or the resolution of the issue at hand.

“Stage 4: Converging on a decision.” At this stage the advisee may choose to seek out a second or third opinion. The advisor should help the advisee to whittle down options and come to a decision.

“Stage 5: Putting advice into action.” This is the tough part. The advisor takes a step back, and it’s up to the advisee to turn ideas, intentions, and plans into action.

Following these tips and guidelines should help advice and feedback become more useful tools that we can all use to enhance our workplaces and personal lives.

Back to the Drawing Board: Surviving Career Setbacks

Publication: Harvard Business Review
Article: Rebounding from Career Setbacks
Reviewed by: Ashton Reid


Career setbacks can be pretty brutal. When everything seems to be going right, sometimes we are faced with unexpected challenges that change the course of our careers and our lives. So what do you do if you’re laid off, didn’t get promoted, or didn’t make the cut? A new article by Marks, Mirvis, and Ashkenas (2014) has highlighted three scientifically supported steps that you can take:

  1. Determine why you failed or lost.
  2. Identify new paths and goals.
  3. Be ready to seize the right opportunity.



Unexpected changes are usually perceived as unfair and lead to a period of shock, denial, anger, and self-doubt. Research in psychology has shown that people, especially high achievers, tend to exhibit attribution bias. This is a method of protecting self-esteem by taking all the credit for success and none of the blame for failure. This bias stands in the way of your success by encouraging you to ignore your role in failure and by making it difficult for you to learn from your mistakes.

A change in behavior and mindset is one of the most important indicators of a successful turnaround. Communication and honest feedback from supervisors and colleagues can help you realize some specific behavior that may be holding you back. Changing your mindset and using coping strategies can help change that behavior. This will help you move forward and be prepared to meet your goals and the goals of your organization.



It has been said that if one door closes, another door opens. A failed opportunity can sometimes be a wake-up call to change paths. Failures are learning experiences and can lead to new, better opportunities in the future. Sometimes the path deviates a little and sometimes it deviates a lot, whether it’s changing jobs within a company, changing careers, or even moving to a whole different state. Being open to change and actively thinking about possibilities will reveal many opportunities that may help things turn out even better than they were before. Studies show that people tend to avoid the problems that come from unexpected career changes instead of thinking of losses as new opportunities.



Finally, once you have a course of action, go with it. Uncertainty is normal when trying new things, but if you accomplished and believed in the last two steps, you have nowhere to go but up and forward. Even though we cannot foresee unexpected failures, we can always be ready for unexpected opportunities for success.



Organizations and their employees should be prepared for possible future failures, successes, and new opportunities. This will help them be better equipped to adapt to change. Employees can work on improving themselves by examining their role within the organization as well as the things that they can change or do better as preemptive measures for the unexpected. Organizations should always be thinking of new goals, so as to always be moving forward. Employees should be ready to change roles in response to the evolving goals of the organization. By following these steps, individuals and organizations should perform better, and be better equipped to handle failure.

How a Sense of Calling Can Affect Career Decisions


What helps determine whether people pursue their sense of “calling”? The advice I always got was, “Work hard, get a respectable job in a stable industry and then pursue your passion on the side.” This shaped my extrinsic motivation, or the type of motivation that comes from outside a person, when pursuing a career. Others take to heart advice from notable public figures like the late Steve Jobs who said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” This kind of advice fosters intrinsic motivation, or the type that comes from within a person, when pursuing a career. The pursuit of a career that meets at the intersection of these two approaches would be ideal, but often economic realities deter many. Recently, two researchers sought to understand what influences career decisions when these approaches clash.



Career theory posits that intrinsic and extrinsic values are both important in understanding career choice and development. Extrinsic values are more objective and measurable, and relate to wanting higher pay, prestige, and job security. For this paper, researchers were interested in intrinsic characteristics, which are more subjective and can be summed up as a calling, meaning, “a consuming, meaningful passion people experience toward a domain.” This is an interesting concept because it is linked to positive work outcomes such as work engagement, job satisfaction and clarity of professional identity. However, little is known about how people pursue careers when these aspects are misaligned within an individual.



This study was longitudinal in nature, meaning it was done over a lengthy time period, and examined people with varying degrees of a sense of calling (strong vs. weak) within the music domain. The study also noted the extent to which an individual’s perceived ability (what they thought of their own ability) and actual ability (measured as recognition from others) affected their pursuit of their calling in music.

The results suggest that a sense of calling early in life (intrinsic motivation) is a particularly important factor in helping resolve career decisions later on, and in determining the trajectory of one’s career pursuits. A strong and early calling made it more likely that a person would get a degree in that area and be professionally involved. They also showed that participants with stronger early callings were likely to perceive their ability more favorably, which made them more likely to pursue music professionally. The implication is that actual ability was not as strong a determinant in pursuing a passion as one would expect.



Apart from the numerous applications for individuals, from an organizational perspective, it may be worthwhile for managers to investigate how to harness the passion of those who may feel a strong sense of calling, yet have chosen to pursue more extrinsic values. For example, some companies allow employees to start small side projects, whether social or technical, and are reaping the benefits of this approach. This could have an impact on positive organizational outcomes, such as improving work engagement and job satisfaction.

Developmental Job Experience Might Not Be for Everyone


Organizations often give top performing employees developmental job experience in order to prepare them for the next level. These experiences are useful for enhancing managerial skills, and employees with a preference for learning new things are likely to reap more benefits from them. However, research on the benefits of developmental experience shows mixed results.



The authors defined developmental job experience (DJE) as an individual’s experience of taking on demanding assignments that offer opportunity for learning and leadership. The extent to which an assignment brings DJE can depend on how the particular employee views the opportunity in his or her own mind. Developmental assignments usually share some common features: unfamiliar responsibilities, opportunity to create change, high levels of responsibility, working across boundaries, and managing diversity.

DJE is associated with growth and future benefits as well as with substantial risks and uncertainty. Depending on whether an individual perceives the assignment as a challenge or a threat, combined with their ability to use coping skills, he or she will experience pleasant or unpleasant feelings. These feelings lead to an overall positive or negative outcome. The authors examined advancement potential as a positive outcome and turnover intention as a negative outcome in the study. The authors explained that because DJE can contribute to both pleasant and unpleasant feelings at the same time, both positive and negative outcomes can occur.



Results confirmed that when employees perceive that their job contains more developmental features, they also experience higher levels of both pleasant and unpleasant feelings. Pleasant feelings promote engagement (or how dedicated employees are to their work) and creativity, and it’s actually because of these resulting pleasant feelings that developmental experiences are associated with higher advancement potential. The authors also found that when employees experience pleasant feelings, they also have lower levels of turnover intention. In the opposite direction, unpleasant feelings lead to defensive behavior and ineffective coping and were associated with higher turnover intention. In fact, it’s because of these negative feelings that developmental experience is associated with turnover intention.

The researchers also studied the role that emotional intelligence plays in developmental experience. They found that when employees had higher levels of emotional intelligence, unpleasant feelings did not lead to higher turnover intention, as it did when employees had lower levels of emotional intelligence.



First, it is recommended to have organizational practices in place to support those carrying out developmental assignments. This will help promote pleasant feelings in employees.

Similarly, organizations should develop a climate where errors and risk-taking are tolerated. Thus, employees are likely to experience fewer unpleasant feelings.

Also, organizations can identify employees with high emotional intelligence and give them more opportunities for developmental experience. Employees with low emotional intelligence can be trained to improve their emotional intelligence by enhancing their interpersonal skills regarding recognition and control of emotions.

Last but not least, it is important to monitor the amount and degree of developmental experience that employees are receiving, in order to make sure no one is overwhelmed by the challenges associated with developmental assignments.

Why Organizations Should Invest in Executive Coaching

Publication: Journal of Change Management
Article: The Efficacy of Executive Coaching in Times of Organizational Change
Reviewed by: Sijia Li


Executive coaching has received considerable attention in the academic world in recent years. Articles on this topic have more than tripled since 2006.

But, in comparison to opinion articles, empirical studies have been rare, with few conducted in organizational settings.

In his new research on the subject, Anthony M. Grant evaluated the effects of a coaching program in an international engineering consulting company that had recently gone through multiple disruptive organizational changes.



Grant suggested that organizational changes call for leaders who can engage in strategic thinking and solution-focused thinking while also having good personal insight and high self-efficacy.

Executive coaching has been shown to facilitate strategic thinking and increase personal insight by providing a supportive space for reflection. Self-efficacy can be enhanced through the process of setting goals and working to achieve them.

So, in general, executive coaching is considered to be effective in enhancing leaders’ capacity to cope with changes and their attainment of organizational goals.


The coaching program examined in the study involved 14 experienced executive coaches with backgrounds in business psychology. The participants were 38 executives and senior and middle level managers in 14 different locations in the world (seven of which didn’t complete the program).

The coaching program consisted of a pre-coaching assessment, followed by four one-on-one coaching sessions over four months. The participants set their own individual goals for the program and for each session. Common goals include ones designed to enhance impact, communication and professional development opportunities.

The coaching sessions used “a cognitive-behavioral, solution-focused framework.” During each session, the coaching team reviewed progress, discussed current situations, explored potential action steps, and determined which steps should be taken next.



After participating in the coaching program, the participants largely reported significant progress towards achieving their goals, better engagement in solution-focused thinking, increased capacity to cope with change, enhanced leadership self-efficacy and resilience, and less depression.

In general, the participants perceived that the coaching program helped them most in areas of self-awareness, leadership skills, and work-family balance.



The study found that the involvement of qualified executive coaches is essential to program success. A solid background in psychology, International Coach Federation accreditation, and years of experience in the relevant field can all be good indicators of qualification.

It also determined that the use of individual assessment tools helps increase self-awareness, and clearly defined goals ensure that the coaching is focused. Giving participants the freedom to set individual goals also increases their personal investment in the program. Lastly, the action planning and progress review components enhanced the accountability.

In conclusion, research shows that executive coaching is a worthy investment, particularly in times of organizational change. A well-designed coaching program can bring about multifaceted benefits to both leaders and the organization on the whole.

Working Abroad- How to Help Employees Weather the Storm

Publication: Academy of Management Journal
Article: Newcomers Abroad: Expatriate adaption during early phases of International assignments.
Reviewed by: Andrew Morris


More and more organizations these days are sending employees on international assignments. This can have many benefits for these organizations, and can be exciting for the individual.

But not everyone proves successful in integrating into foreign cultures, which affects their work and can ultimately lead to major losses for organizations.

The research paper under review looked at the relationship between work adjustment and performance. Interestingly, the researchers cite various authors who say that very little research has been done to examine expatriate experiences over time.



The researchers highlighted motivation and stress-related states as being important in the process of adjustment

Cross-cultural motivation (being able to adapt to other cultures, as well as taking an active interest in their customs) and psychological empowerment (including feelings of competence, freedom and purpose) were identified as being particularly important for high initial adjustment.

Psychological empowerment has a unique impact on motivation, helping expats adjust quicker. Highly motivated individuals seek out social support, are more proactive at work, and consequently show better initial coping skills and overall performance. But despite high initial levels of work adjustment, this group can experience a decline over time. Research suggests that this is because the workers recalibrate their efforts in line with their experiences.



Higher levels of early work adjustment have various outcomes over time, depending on other factors such as experiencing challenge or hindrance stressors.

These stressors reflect work conditions. But– as the name suggests– the challenge stressors are more positive, providing better outcomes (such as promotions or raises), which garner greater engagement and performance. Challenge stressors can actually help maintain high levels of adjustment over time.

Hindrance stressors such as work-related conflict or organizational unfairness, on the other hand, can derail and stifle an employee’s efforts at growth and achievement. Coping with such stressors takes away resources necessary for adjustment and high performance.



For organizations sending employees abroad, these findings could be very beneficial.

The results lend support to the idea of screening individuals for high cross-cultural motivation and psychological empowerment levels, which were some of the indicators for high work adjustment abilities. These findings could also help organizations target and improve these aspects within individuals chosen for international assignments so that they are empowered before they even begin working abroad.

This study can aid in the development of programs for those already working abroad to help them reach and maintain satisfactory levels of adjustment, and also help raise managers’ awareness to maintain initial motivation levels and perhaps re-design work tasks where necessary so as to lessen the influence of hindrance stressors.

Thriving At Work Rather Than Just Going Through the Motions

Publication: Journal of Organizational Behavior (April, 2014)
Article: Thriving at work: Impact of psychological capital and supervisor support
Reviewed by: Lauren Zimmerman

Are there times where you feel like you’re just “going through the motions” at work? If so, there’s good news: Instead of continuing with your daily tasks like a preprogrammed robot, you can thrive at work!



A new study from T.A. Paterson, F. Luthans and W. Jeung examines thriving at work, which involves an employee’s experience of both learning and vitality in the workplace.

Specifically, this study looked at how supervisor support and employees’ levels of hope, efficacy, resiliency and optimism (i.e., psychological capital) ultimately influence their success in the workplace.

Additionally, these authors explored the influence thriving at work has on employees’ job performance and self-development.



The “Thriving At Work” study’s results revealed that employees who were more hopeful, efficacious, resilient, and optimistic at work were more likely to thrive, leading to employees who were more focused on their assigned tasks.

Similarly, employees with very supportive supervisors were also more likely to thrive at work and be more focused.

Furthermore, these employees who thrived at work engaged in more work-related self-development and had higher levels of job performance (as rated by their supervisors).



Collectively, these results indicate that employers and organizations should seek to promote “thriving at work” and not just “going through the motions” on a daily basis. Not only because employees who thrive at work perform better than their robotic coworkers, but also because the experience of thriving at work promotes employees’ self-development initiatives.

This discovery is especially important for organizations. Today’s workplace continues to evolve rapidly, and companies need employees who can easily adapt and develop along with the ever-changing work environment.

Therefore, organizations should strive to create supportive work environments, which provide employees with enhanced opportunities for thriving at work!


This post was brought to you in part by CIPHR an HR Intranet Software Provider

How Organizations Can Fast-Track Transitioning Leaders

Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Show and Tell: How Supervisors Facilitate Leader Development Among Transitioning Leaders
Reviewed by: Andrew Morris

New job roles can be a daunting prospect for anyone. There are contrasts with old responsibilities, new expectations, and all sorts of surprises that pop up along the way. Adjusting quickly to the demands of a new position is important for productivity. But how can organizations fast-track transitioning leaders to help them gain the knowledge and skills they need?

In “Show and Tell: How Supervisors Facilitate Leader Development Among Transitioning Leaders,” authors L. Dragoni, H. Park, J. Soltis and S. Forte-Trammell suggest that supervisors can play a key role in leadership development.

The study points towards the need for supervisors and mentors to not only tell transitioning employees how to lead effectively, but to show them how effective leadership looks in practice. This increases the chance of a smooth transition, and frees individuals up to focus on leading others.


“Telling” deals with effectively communicating the knowledge-based components of the job, which include areas of responsibility, reporting channels and the like.

By giving transitioning leaders this necessary information up front, you can reduce the potential for future mistakes and free them up to focus on other important aspects of the job.

The study suggests that leaving them to figure these things out on their own, through trial and error, will impact their overall job efficiency in the initial stages, as well as the quality of their leadership over others.


The study also suggests that the “showing” aspect of helping to develop new leaders is critical in their success.

Employees who have been lucky enough to work with a great leader may require less “show and tell.” When new leaders who have had this benefit in the past are paired with supervisors who don’t put in the proper time and effort in training, they bounce back better than those who haven’t ever worked with great leaders.

But don’t be despondent if the person you’re training has not had this benefit of working with a great leader before. The research shows that these employees often see the greatest gains from working with a “show and tell” supervisor.


In conclusion, training that provides both showing and telling gives transitioning leaders the greatest chance for success. Showing without telling leaves the new leader navigating the occasionally rough waters of organizational structures and processes alone. Telling without showing often leaves the new leader struggling to figure out appropriate behavioral responses to organizational situations.

If you’re involved in training and developing leaders for a new role, the big take-away is that you need to spend time telling them the ins and outs of the job and showing them effective leadership in context. Be the leader you want them to be, and give them a head start by telling them inside information that will help them navigate their new job role. It will save everyone time, and allow them to focus their attention on the people they’re leading.

It’s Not All About the Money? The Role of Career Values in the Engagement of Recent College Graduates

Publication: Journal of Vocational Behavior (December, 2013)
Article: The role of career values for work engagement during the transition to working life
Reviewed by: Lauren Zimmerman

As many college seniors wrap up their final year of college and prepare to enter the “real world”, many of them panic at the frequently asked question, “what are your plans for after graduation?” This question, which subsequently implies “do you have a job lined up after graduation?” presents an almost existential challenge. After all, who are we without school or work?

However, it is possible that sending out tons of resumes in the hopes of landing a job, isn’t the only thing new college graduates need to consider. The transition from college life to working life is also worthy of examination, particularly when it comes to identifying your career values before you land a job that may not be right for you. Recent research has examined the influence of college students’ career values and the fit of these values with the organization’s values on their subsequent work engagement once they enter the workforce.

Specifically, these authors were interested in examining how work engagement was affected by career values that were intrinsic (arising from inside the individual) versus extrinsic (arising from outside forces). Both intrinsic and extrinsic career values drive an employee’s motivation to pursue work goals. However, intrinsic career values are rewards that come from the actual experience of working, such as employees’ interest in their work, while extrinsic career values are rewards that arise from external work experiences, such as income. To explore the role of college students’ intrinsic and extrinsic career values in the transition from college to the workplace, this study followed individuals from their final years in college to their entry into the workforce, two years later.

The study revealed that intrinsic career values held by individuals in their final years of college were tied to their engagement in their work later on, while extrinsic career values that individuals’ held in college did not continue to hold much sway. When working within an organization with career values that fit well with their own, employees were more engaged than individuals whose career values fit poorly with the organization’s values.

This is exciting news. It means that organizations can and should turn their focus from extrinsic rewards, like salary and big offices, and instead focus more on rewards that motivate employees through intrinsic engagement in challenging tasks. Additionally, soon-to-be college graduates should focus, not only on finding a job when they graduate, but also on finding a job within an organization whose career values align with their own.