The Skeptical Methodologist

Software, Rants and Management

Don’t Mistake Engagement for Passion

Passion is used as a code word nowadays by many hiring managers. It means “will work a lot of extra hours for free”. Rightfully so, many people are turned off by this idea about passion, about passionate developers, about looking for passionate hires.

But you have to give the mislead hiring managers a little slack. After all, they’ve been asked to hire good talent, so they look around at the company and they ask “well, who’s good here, and how do we hire more of them?”

They see some of your best people putting in hours on the weekend, staying late, and taking their work very seriously. And they – without much critical thought – think, “Ah, yes, it’s those type of people we want. I’ll just hire more of them!”

But here’s the problem – those people aren’t passionate they’re engaged. And there’s a huge difference.

Passion is hired. Engagement is earned.

In fact, even the above is a simplification, since ‘passion’ is so hard to find. You really have to find boy-geniuses (and they’re almost always males) fresh out of school who seem to know the latest technology and be willing to work all hours of the night because they don’t know any better.

Then they churn out some hacked together crap as fast as possible, and seem to provide evidence that you have to hire passionate people who are “smart and get things done”. People who are worried about “work-life balance” or “working smarter, not harder” aren’t going to fit into your “workplace culture” – you hire passionate people and expect the best!

But you have no diversity, which means your innovation sucks. And you have no senior developers, which means your quality and repeatability sucks. You have software that sometimes works and is a few months away from crumbling under its own weight. You wrote facebook in PHP and have no idea how to add new features to stay competitive – everything seems to take forever to change.

What gives?

Engagement is frequently confused for passion. Engagement is “I believe in this company and this project.” Can you hire engaged people? No, how would you? You can’t truly believe in a group of people or what they work on until you’ve… worked with them. Usually for awhile.

There’s no question you can ask in the interview process that’s going to determine whether someone will be engaged or not. That’s because everyone is capable of it. Everyone can become engaged – they can believe in the people they work with, and the project they work on, and when they do that they become internally motivated to push hard for those two things.

So instead of hiring for ‘passion’, try hiring good all around talent and build a team that people are proud to be a part of, and a project that they’re proud to work on.


October 17, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment