As a Philadelphia Eagles fan, I take great exception that our passionate fan base was voted most hated. A couple of isolated incidents by a few knuckleheads have stained our city for years. However, it did get me thinking about the difference between being passionate versus being fanatical- and how knowing the difference is key in navigating your career.
Without passion or an intense desire or enthusiasm for something, your work life would be boring. You need to stand for something- company pride, a special project, your co-workers- anything that will stir your emotions to motivate you to work hard every day. Passion helps you “love your job”, put in the extra hours to meet a deadline, work weekends for a trade show- all which are good for you, your company, and ultimately, your career.
However, when your enthusiasm starts to cloud your judgement, you are beginning to go down the fanaticism path. Using terms like “Falling on the Sword”, “Going Down with the Ship”, or quoting any Roman Empire era movie puts you squarely in the danger zone. You are moving from love to obsession. Before you get to Fatal Attraction or Single White Female crazy, you need to take a step back and look at the big picture.
You cannot lose your objectivity during that situation. Your fanaticism may cause the company and your career harm. No matter how hard you worked on a project, after you have said your piece and the company decides to move in a different direction, you need to decide if you want to this project to be your last. This is especially hard in personnel decisions. You can love your team, but…
As someone who made this mistake more than once, I know it puts you in an uncomfortable position. It is never easy when someone calls your baby ugly, but if your company cannot wait for the baby to bloom into a beautiful adult, then you may need to agree- or be ready to walk away.