The Deafening Silence of The Passionate Loyalist

In a world that increasingly wears its passions on its sleeves, or more accurately on its resumes, Tim McClure’s observation resonates, albeit a tad painfully. “The biggest concern for any organisation should be when their most passionate people become quiet.” Indeed, as is with any relationship, when the enthusiastic, bubbly partner suddenly grows reticent, it’s time to bring out the proverbial relationship therapy books. Or in the corporate spcae, perhaps, a long overdue HR intervention.

But there’s something almost predictably irksome about how organisations romanticise passion. It’s on every job description: ‘Looking for passionate individuals…’ And yet, often, when they finally do walk in – these flag bearers of passion – companies are ill-equipped to handle the force of their fervour. Cue the corporate irony. I’ve seen it firsthand. Bright-eyed newbies, armed with degrees, adorable ignorance, and a desire to change the world, or at least the quarterly revenue charts. Over time, their enthusiasm is met with: “That’s not how we do things here.” So, they adapt, and the passionate flames get tamed by bureaucratic winds. And eventually, we’re left with a conundrum: where do the silenced passionates go?

The answer, more often than not, is away. They drift towards startups, personal ventures, or perhaps, disillusioned, they meander into a life of 9-to-5 mediocrity. Some might argue that their departure is merely a process of professional Darwinism. After all, passion, untempered by reality, is nothing more than idealistic naivety. Right? But these passionate souls aren’t always the rebels, the agitators, or the outliers. They’re often those who believe – in the brand, the product, the ethos. And when that belief is met with inertia, it’s no surprise they choose silence first, followed closely by an exit.

Yet, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The corporate landscape isn’t solely painted with passion. There’s another breed, often overlooked but equally vital: the consistent loyalists. The ones who might not champion every brainstorming session but are reliably there, day in and day out. If the passionate folks are the fireworks, the loyalists are the ever-burning candles. They aren’t necessarily setting the world ablaze, but they’re lighting up the room nonetheless. The trick is not in choosing between the fireworks and the candles. It’s about striking a balance. In this volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world, it’s tempting to scout exclusively for the loud passionates.

But remember, passion is as much about fervour as it is about endurance. The next time someone waxes eloquent about their passion for the job, here’s a cheeky yet insightful litmus test: “Would your passion persist without a raise for two years?” Their answer might surprise you.

Passion, though a potent fuel, needs direction. And organisations that only court passion without understanding its depth, nuances, or even its occasional fragility, do so at their own peril. It’s time to start listening – not just to the raucous chants of passion but also to the whispered silences that often say so much more.