business passion

Why 'passion' has no place in business

Posted by Matthew Stibbe
Picture of Matthew Stibbe
on 21 November 2011
Advice Miscellaneous communication

This is going to be one of my (hopefully) rare curmudgeon posts. Apologies in advance. I just had an attack of the Victor Meldrews this week.

I get very cross when I hear people talk about ‘passion’ in business. Either in mission statements (e.g. Microsoft: “your potential, our passion”) or in CV covering letters (e.g. ‘I’m passionate about the insurance industry’).

As a top salesman put it last week: “you can be as passionate as you like but if you’re not making your numbers it won’t help you.”

C’mon people. It’s just silly. It’s inflationary language. It’s also just the wrong word.

The dictionary definition: “the suffering of Christ … the state or capacity of being acted on by external agents or forces … an outbreak of anger … an intense, driving or overmastering feeling or conviction … sexual desire...” These are not appropriate or relevant in the work place.

Passion, like solution and mission, is just a placeholder for people who can’t think of a more accurate word. Here are some alternatives which would be much more useful, descriptive and precise. Use them and you’ll stand out from the herd of Apprentice-wannabes who are just giving it 110% as they step up to the plate and all that other crap.

  • Commitment
  • Enthusiasm
  • Energy
  • Persistence
  • Diligence
  • Friendly
  • Loyal
  • Knowledgeable
  • Hard working
  • Expertise
  • Experience
  • Determination
  • Resilience

But the best thing to do is to shut up and do a really, really good job.

PS the best song with a list of good words is Philip Glass’s Forgetting with lyrics by Laurie Anderson. Although Tom Lehrer’s The Elements needs a shout too but for different reasons.

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