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Passion exploitation

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Taking advantage of people who are more passionate about their jobs is called passion exploitation. This might manifest in workers performing hours of unpaid overtime or tasks unrelated to their main job, or even working for free. Sometimes such cases make headlines, whether it is media sites asking writers to pen articles for nothing, musicians offered a restaurant-based stint “to promote their work” or the long hours of cause-driven NGO workers.

The idea that you should “find your passion” has become more prevalent in recent years. But is doing what you love a double-edged sword?

“There is a lot of anecdotal evidence suggesting that workers in artistic and creative industries might be more susceptible to this kind of practice,” says Jae Yun Kim, a researcher at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. A study found people are more likely to experience passion exploitation in jobs associated with high creativity, like artists, illustrators and environmental activists. The people least likely to experience this are in jobs that are relatively manual.

“We don’t think that managers are intentionally exploiting people, but our hope is that after hearing about passion exploitation managers will consciously think about how their actions might be exploitative,” says Kim.

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Image credit: Piero Zagami and Michela Nicchiotti.

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