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‘Do what you love’ could be contributing to the Great Resignation

By | Galen Watts |

  • The passion paradigm: students learn early on that their future careers should be passion-driven, intrinsically satisfying, and expressive of their true selves.
  • By disrupting people’s routines, the pandemic has reawakened in many the deep-seated desire for a job they actually enjoy.
  • This shift might be one of the factors responsible for the Great Resignation.
  • Workers don’t need to stop loving their jobs, but they should ask whether their jobs are themselves loveable, writes a sociologist.

“Do what you love,” is no longer just advice.

High school students learn early on that their future careers should be passion-driven. Self-help books counsel job searchers to start with reflection on what they love. And Hollywood films teach people, in romantic fashion, to aspire to work that is intrinsically satisfying and expresses our authentic selves.

Researchers call this way of thinking about work the passion paradigm, and studies show it has become pervasive in modern societies.

The passion paradigm emerged in the 1960s. During this time, there was widespread questioning of social and cultural norms — especially among youth — which helped develop a new way of thinking about the role of work in human life.

This trend was spearheaded by the scholarship of humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow, who applied his theory of the “hierarchy of needs” to the modern workplace. In Eupsychian Management, Maslow argues that work should be thought of as a key source of personal growth and self-actualization.

a diagram showing the psychology theory of the 'hierarchy of needs'
The psychology theory of the ‘hierarchy of needs’.
Image: Simply Psychology

Maslow envisioned a world where individuals derive deep satisfaction from their working lives, and who treat their work as a sacred activity.

Since early 2021, I have conducted interviews with over 90 professionals and managers in Toronto, to learn how they think about work. Although there are exceptions, what the data shows, in general, is that Maslow’s theory has increasingly become common.

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