I recently read an article from Richard Branson CEO of Virgin about his secrets to hiring great people. His focus was on the fact that individuals can’t fake Personality, Purpose, or Passion. Which started me thinking about individuals who work in the Human Service field. It is so very true that in order to not only survive but dare we hope for thrive in the human service field the “three P’s” are key, so let’s take a quick look at the good and bad side of personality and passion.

First, we all have experience with staff who seem to just click. The ones who don’t ever seem to get frazzled even during a crisis. They often are the ones clients gravitate to for reassurance of safety. They enjoy the job, making them a joy to be around. As good as it is when you have the “right personalities” it can be bad to have the wrong ones. They are the complainers, nothing is ever right. How many times have you discovered a pattern that when X is working there is always a crisis? The “vibe” they put off just seems to unnerve and make clients uncomfortable; but sadly you need a warm body to fill the position and they want a check. I understand I am pointing out extremes of each situation, but you get the point.

Passion is defined as a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything. This is often the “dream employee” when you can combine the right personality fit with a passion for others. When someone is passionate about helping, caring, and teaching others work becomes less a JOB and more a mission or calling. I love working with people who are passionate about what they do. They are always looking for how to improve and make things better, not only for clients but also for co- workers. They enjoy their work and the joy seems to overflow to all those around them.

The difficulty with passionate people they often care for others and forget about self, leading to compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue, also known as secondary traumatic stress (STS), is a condition characterized by a gradual lessening of compassion over time. Although symptoms vary, the following red flags may indicate that you have compassion fatigue:

Abusing drugs, alcohol or food
Low self-esteem

Gastrointestinal complaints

Frequent headaches
Chronic lateness

Diminished sense of personal accomplishment
Increased irritability
Exhaustion (physical or emotional)
Sleep disturbances

High self-expectations

Less ability to feel joy

Inability to maintain balance of empathy and objectivity

Compassion fatigue is a form of burnout that manifests itself as physical, emotional and spiritual exhaustion.
To prevent or recover from compassion fatigue, take time for self-reflection, identify what’s important and live in a way that reflects it.
To sustain yourself at work, develop “principles of practice” — guidelines of personal integrity that articulate the parameters of your personal values. Commit to live and work within these principles.
The bottom line we spend more time with co-workers at our jobs than we do with family. Having a job you are passionate about is a great thing. So take care of yourself and make sure your co-workers do the same. “People with Great Passion can make the impossible happen”

Cyndi Najar M.Ed, OHRD