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«Series of Dissertations 8/2014 BI Norwegian Business School Ide Katrine Birkeland Fire Walk with Me: Exploring the Role of Harmonious and Obsessive ...»

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Series of Dissertations 8/2014

BI Norwegian Business School

Ide Katrine Birkeland

Fire Walk with Me: Exploring the Role of Harmonious and Obsessive Passion in

Well-being and Performance at Work

The papers of this dissertation are not available in BI Brage, due to copyright matters:

Paper 1:

The Dualistic Model of Passion for Work: Discriminant and Predictive Validity with Work Engagement and Workaholism Birkeland, I.K. & Buch, R.

Submitted and under review. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the APA: Work, Stress, and Health Conference, Los Angeles, CA,2013

Paper 2:

A Longitudinal Study of Passion for Work: How to Kindle the Flame without Burning Out Birkeland, I.K., Richardsen, A.M., & Dysvik, A.

Submitted and under review. An earlier version of this article was presented at the Annual Meeting for the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Houston, TX, 2013

Paper 3:

Incivility Is (Not) the Very Essence of Love: Passion for Work and Incivility Instigation Birkeland, I.K. & Nerstad, C.G.L.

Submitted and under review.

A complete version of the dissertation (print copy) may be ordered from BI’s website:

http://www.bi.edu/research/Research-Publications Fire Walk with Me Exploring the Role of Harmonious and Obsessive Passion in Well-being and Performance at Work by Ide Katrine Birkeland A dissertation submitted to BI Norwegian Business School for the degree of PhD PhD specialization: Leadership and Organizational Behaviour Series of Dissertations 8/2014 BI Norwegian Business School Ide Katrine Birkeland Fire Walk with Me: Exploring the Role of Harmonious and Obsessive Passion in Well-being and Performance at Work © Ide Katrine Birkeland Series of Dissertations 8/2014 ISBN: 978-82-8247-090-2 ISSN: 1502-2099 BI Norwegian Business School N-0442 Oslo Phone: +47 4641 0000 www.bi.no Printing: Allkopi The dissertation may be ordered from our website www.bi.no (Research – Research Publications) Acknowledgements First and foremost, I would like to thank my supervisors Astrid Richardsen and Anders Dysvik. Their knowledge, keen observations, and guidance have been instrumental in every aspect of this project. Furthermore, I am grateful to Bård Kuvaas and Svein Andersen for their invaluable questions and comments both in- and outside of our PhD seminars. I would also like to thank my fellow doctoral students for their wonderful support, friendship, and motivation throughout these years. Particularly Christina, Dominique, Sut I, Robert, and Prosper deserve endless recognition for always helping out in times of need. Laura M.

Traavik, thank you for being a great role-model during these years. I also want to thank my parents and friends. I am truly blessed to have such amazing, patient, and loving people in my life. My final appreciation is to my husband, Amund, and our soon-to-be family of four.

Thank you for being part of this journey, a constant reminder of all the beauty that exists outside of work. I am forever grateful for having you in my life.

List of papers Paper 1 The Dualistic Model of Passion for Work: Discriminant and Predictive Validity with Work Engagement and Workaholism Birkeland, I.K. & Buch, R.

Submitted and under review. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the APA: Work, Stress, and Health Conference, Los Angeles, CA,2013 Paper 2 A Longitudinal Study of Passion for Work: How to Kindle the Flame without Burning Out Birkeland, I.K., Richardsen, A.M., & Dysvik, A.

Submitted and under review. An earlier version of this article was presented at the Annual Meeting for the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Houston, TX, 2013 Paper 3 Incivility Is (Not) the Very Essence of Love: Passion for Work and Incivility Instigation Birkeland, I.K. & Nerstad, C.G.L.

Submitted and under review.

–  –  –

Summary This dissertation discusses the construct of passion for work. Built on motivational theories that separate the quantity and the quality of work motivation and integration, the dualistic model of passion intends to better describe individual differences in strong work involvement and how it relates to employee well-being and performance. There are, however, certain questions that need to be addressed in order to fully comprehend the passion for work construct.

First and foremost is the question of whether passion for work is just “old wine in new bottles” or whether the construct brings any new insights to the field of organizational psychology. Secondly, if passion for work does matter, for which parts of employees’ emotional, cognitive, and behavioral experiences is it particularly relevant? Through three papers, this dissertation contributes to theory and research on passion by identifying and tightening three gaps in the current literature: (a) Passion for work’s ability to explain variance in well-being and performance over and beyond similar constructs, (b) passion’s role in explaining change in outcomes over time, and (c) the extent to which the context is able to reduce some of the negative outcomes of particularly obsessive passion for work.





The first paper shows that passion for work does seem to bring some new insights to the field of organizational psychology, although there are some important limitations to its explanatory powers. When empirically compared to conceptually similar constructs such as work engagement and workaholism, passion seems to be more relevant in explaining individual variances in well-being than in performance.

The second paper contributes to the passion literature by examining the stability of the relationships between passion for work and burnout. It shows that the positive relationship between obsessive passion and burnout seems to remain relatively stable throughout the course of one year, but that harmonious passion can be a source of change in burnout.

Harmonious passion might enable employees to become more resilient toward work strain over time, and thus counteract the gradual erosion of strong work involvement. In contrast, employees with strong levels of obsessive passion may perhaps spend their resources on worrying about their self-worth and their high work load, but obsessive passion does not seem to worsen the burnout symptoms over time. Paper 2 also shows that the longitudinal relationship between obsessive passion and cynicism (although not with exhaustion) is weaker when individuals feel that their co-workers are caring and supportive.

The third paper contributes to the passion literature by showing that obsessive passion represents a dysfunctional motivation that may lead individuals to act more disrespectfully and arrogantly and to humiliate others. Loving work due to the external gains attached to it (such as social status or contingent self-esteem) can thus make employees emotionally fragile as they depend on rewards such as awe or approval rather than having fun or learning new things. As a means to regain confidence if they are out of balance, these individuals seem to respond to this fragility with incivility toward coworkers. Furthermore, individuals who score high on obsessive passion and experience a strong mastery climate seem to instigate more incivility than individuals in a weaker mastery climate. This indicates that such individuals actually respond with more degradation and condescension toward their coworkers when the climate sees cooperation and personal mastery as keys to success.

Although passion for work might bring new insights to the well-being literature, its contribution might be somewhat limited with respect to performance. While theoretically meaningful, the dualistic model of passion for work seems to have certain practical challenges in setting itself apart from established constructs like work engagement and workaholism.

However, when leaving the discriminant validity discussion behind, the results found in extant research are fairly unanimous in pointing to the fact that having an obsessive and addictive relationship with work is unfavorable for employees’ emotional, cognitive, and behavioral experiences. The indications that a synergy between having an obsessive relationship with work and experiencing a mastery climate might increase the chances of incivility are cause for concern that should be taken seriously, no matter how we label the obsession. It thus seems that, in order to “walk with fire,” the fire should be fueled by harmony and not obsession.

Background In our everyday life, passion (from Latin passio: suffering) is an expression often used about the amount of time and interest we invest in an activity. We hear about people being passionate about their job, or having a passion for sports, but it might as well be online gaming, or a favorite football team that gets people to spend all of their time thinking of or participating in this activity. Being passionate about work is defined as a strong inclination toward work that is loved, considered highly important, is a significant part of one’s selfconcept, and in which one invests significant amounts of time and energy (Forest et al., 2012;

Vallerand & Houlfort, 2003).

Having a passion for work is a “highly sought-after, yet poorly understood (and cultivated) worker attribute” (Perrewé, Hochwarter, Ferris, McAllister, & Harris, 2013, p. 1) Practitioners and supervisors claim that employee passion is particularly important to organizational performance (e.g. Allegretti, 2000). One example is editor-in-chief of the trade journal Electrical Wholesaling, Jim Lucy, who describes different types of employees who are passionate about their work and how they contribute to the company (2013). Another example is Boyatzis, McKee, and Goleman (2002), who, in an issue of the Harvard Business Review, describe methods of reawakening the passion for work because, according to the authors, passion is key to employee well-being and hence performance.

Because of this assumed practical significance, passion for work has recently received increased attention from researchers in organizational psychology (e.g. Ho, Wong, & Lee, 2011; Liu, Chen, & Yao, 2011; Marsh et al., 2013; Robertson & Barling, 2013; Thorgren & Wincent, 2013; Vallerand, Paquet, Philippe, & Charest, 2010). However, despite the increasing number of studies on passion for work, the organizational sciences still have a long way to go in order to fully understand the construct (Perrewé et al., 2013).

The purpose of this dissertation is to contribute to an increased understanding of passion for work by filling some of the gaps in the current literature. In the following, I present the overall research questions: Is passion for work just “old wine in new bottles” or does the construct brings any new insights to the field of organizational psychology. Secondly, if passion for work does matter, for which parts of employees’ emotional, cognitive, and behavioral experiences is it particularly relevant? Based on these questions I start this dissertation by briefly introducing the background of the passion construct before I identify three gaps in the passion for work literature.

On the Background of the Passion Construct The construct of passion for work has its theoretical and philosophical roots in the motivation literature. Frijda, Mesquita, Sonnemans, and Van Goozen (1991) postulated that passion is prioritized goals where the outcomes of these goals are emotionally important, and Baum and Locke (2004), as well as Cardon and colleagues (2005), believed passion to be a key component of achievement in business ventures and innovations. These assumptions of passion for work as a motivational force that is important for achievement are rooted in several philosophers’ understanding of the concept. For instance Descartes (1596 –1650) believed passion to be a strong emotion with inherent behavioral tendencies while Hegel (1770 –1831) stated that nothing great in this world can be accomplished without passion.

Motivation is defined as factors or events that energize, channel, and sustain human behavior over time (Atkinson, 1964; Steers, Mowday, & Shapiro, 2004; Vroom, 1964). Since Maslow formulated the hierarchy of basic needs, psychologists have been working under the assumption that “man is a perpetually wanting animal” (Maslow, 1943, p. 371). According to Maslow, all individuals have innate needs that they strive to satisfy and while some of these needs are physiological, like food and shelter, we also have psychological needs, like selfactualization and mastery, which motivate us to action. Deci and Ryan (2000) refined Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in their Self-Determination Theory (SDT). This theory posits that all humans have innate psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness, and that motivation for behavior stems from our goal to satisfy these needs. SDT further postulates that in search of autonomy, individuals tend to internalize values and regulations that concern non-interesting activities that they regularly partake in, such as work. Such internalization “refers to ‘taking in’ a behavioral regulation and the value that underlies it” (Gagne & Deci, 2005, p. 333). That way, employees may subconsciously feel more selfdetermined in their motivation to participate in work and to act upon values or regulations that pertain to their work.

Building upon these ideas, the passion literature proposes that the same process follows activities that we initially value and see as important to us (Vallerand et al., 2003). A person might integrate an activity into his or her identity to the extent that it defines the person (Aron, Aron, & Smollan, 1992). In a work context, this suggests that work may be so important to some people that they not only internalize related values, but fully integrate work so it becomes their social identity (Ho et al., 2011). To sum up, this means that if the work is valuable and important to the individual, it can become part of the individual’s identity and the individual might subsequently develop a passion for work (Vallerand et al., 2003). This implies for example that a passionate individual who teaches at a school does not merely teach; he or she is a teacher.



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