Passionate or Emotional

Engaging Employees

Perhaps you watch too many movies or too much reality TV, but in the work world, Passionate and Emotional are not the same thing. To lump them together is to unwittingly dismiss potential in your organization.

One is excitement, dedication, and fierce commitment. The other is personal and reactive.

I speak from a small company perspective, where these lines are (from what I am told) more likely to be blurred than in larger organizations. As such, in smaller, more entrepreneurial environments, there is definitely a personal investment, not just from the owner, in outcomes, and often more overt passion in the day to day activities. More often than not there is a heightened energy level within a small organization on a daily basis. That bubbles up emotion and reactions. But there is still a very clear distinction between Passion and Emotion.

In a sustained passionate environment, emotions run close to the surface, at the ready to take part. If you want passionate employees, you need to be the type of leader who recognizes this, and be prepared for it. It means you cannot be reactive. It means you must remain in check. It means you have to ensure that it never even appears to get personal, and when it does (because it will) you rein it back in clearly.

Dismissing a passionate employee as overreacting or taking something personally is unproductive, but also a grave error. It changes the atmosphere from collaborative, engaged, and dynamic to defensive and disconnected, and will cause the employee to check his or her engagement to avoid reaction.

Passionate employees are engaged employees, and the melding of the work with the opportunity is the brass ring. It is not a destination though, and it needs to be continually nurtured. If you’re not sure if you have a passionate or an emotional employee at hand, you need to check yourself, first. After all, as a leader, you have more to lose.

An emotional, reactive leader can change a passionate employee into an emotional one, or worse, a disengaged one.