Career Insight: When Passion Gets Perceived as Aggression

Do it With PassionI love working with passionate people. Whether you’re passionate about your work ethic, career goals, company, or even the broader industry you work in, passionate workers will stop at nothing to find the best possible solution and get the job done. I’ve also found that passionate people have a great amount of compassion for their peers and coworkers. But what happens when being passionate comes across as being aggressive?

In my line of work, I’m thrown many curve balls. As much as I may get derailed and a bit distracted by these eleventh hour requests I also get sort of high off of it. It’s a certain rush of adrenaline that breaks up what I was anticipating to be a relatively routine day. I get this rush because I also know I can get the job done. On the other hand, I’m very process-oriented and analytical; I value keeping perspective as to why I’m doing what I’m doing – how will this add value to the business, does this further our objectives, what purpose does this serve, will my hard work and the hustle of my peers pay off in the grand scheme of things or is this just a request that is testing to see just how high I will jump? Asking these kind of questions is important and chances are if you’re being tasked to put out a fire that never existed to begin with, you should always figure out how it started…after putting it out, of course.

Today, I was put in this kind of scenario and while completing the crunch-time project, I couldn’t help but ask a few of these big picture questions. As a result, I was told my actions were aggressive. This made me wonder, what is the line between being passionate and being aggressive?

I’m passionate about the big picture – the why and the how. Having a constant big picture outlook keeps your overall business objectives in plain sight while giving you the agility to anticipate, change course and take advantage of other opportunities ahead. If I didn’t care about my job, coworkers, company, and the investment of capital and time that goes into a project, I wouldn’t ask these questions. Some times the why and the how is purely because you were told to do something by a superior that can’t convey the why and the how at that moment; that’s part of life and that’s OK. As long as the questions don’t distract you from getting the job done, my thought is, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Does this make me aggressive or passionate? The verdict is still out, although I was surprised by how flattered I felt from this remark, rather than offended. Could having a more aggressive approach to tackling the day-to-day while weighing the overall business initiatives be a bad thing? My take: cultivate an environment of mutual respect for your coworkers’ time and resources and ask questions. Those questions can pave a path for progress and improvement, whether led by passion or aggression. Individuals that share your outlook and value this approach will be inspired by your ferocity and strive for more. Those that are short-sighted or complacent to complete the task at hand are already annoyed they have to work with you :)

Have you every experienced a piece of criticism that became your rally cry? I’d love to hear your feedback!

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