Diane Stafford: Is Your Work Your ‘Calling’? You Could Be Prime For Burnout

OPINION
By Diane Stafford
The Kansas City Star

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A new study published in the Academy of Management Journal says workers who feel called to their jobs because of intense passion or sense of moral purpose are more likely to experience burnout, possibly with damage to their health.

The Kansas City Star

Do what you love. Find your calling. Pursue your dream.

How many times have you read or heard someone say: “It doesn’t feel like work because I love what I do,” or “I’d do this for free,” or “I’m absolutely called to do this.”

They’re unbelievable statements to those who view their jobs as drudgery. They also could be dangerous to the speakers’ well-being.

A new study published in the Academy of Management Journal says workers who feel called to their jobs because of intense passion or sense of moral purpose are more likely to experience burnout, possibly with damage to their health. And they’re more likely to leave their jobs than workers who take a more practical approach to employment.

Business professors at the University of Washington and the University of Oxford researched a microcosm of workers in animal shelters, an industry that generally attracts people who care deeply about animals, cruelty prevention and social impact.

Kira Schabram and Sally Maitlis found that such callings often lead to extensive unpaid overtime and emotional chaos because of inadequate resources, heartbreak and sense of defeat.

In the animal shelter profession, workers who care deeply about animals often ended up leaving to find less emotionally painful work in something like animal grooming or pet training. Or, if they couldn’t bring hoped-for change to the facility or industry, they often left the animal world to focus on social change through other professions.

“None of those we studied had a moderate experience of their calling,” the professors wrote in the April-May issue of the peer-reviewed journal. “They either followed a practice path that produced learning and growth or one of the two other paths that generated intense negative emotions and culminated in burnout and exit from the occupation.”

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