Passion Key to Getting Ahead at Work

When it comes to getting ahead at work, it might not be all about your job performance.

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According to new research from Brigham Young University, your belief in the mission of your company could help advance your career.

“Individual employees who were more strongly aligned with the mission ended up being strong power players in terms of influence over other people,” says John Bingham, professor of organizational leadership and strategy at Brigham Young University. “You can move up in an organization that has a strong mission if you are a true believer.”

The study, which was conducted by a team of colleagues from Brigham Young University, Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University and Washington University’s Olin Business School, set out to find what makes an employee stand out in companies that are closely aligned to a specific mission. It focused on a non-profit that had a strong community outreach focus and a for-profit outdoor footwear maker with an environmental orientation. The team of professors interviewed the entire staff in both organizations and found that workers who were closely aligned with the mission of the company had more influence and thus were able to advance quicker than those that didn’t exhibit strong ties to the mission.

The study showed that employees who exhibited a strong belief in the mission or cause, became more influential at the company regardless of their position or performance. Workers that focused on getting a paycheck ended up as more peripheral players in the office.

Bingham says this trend could be explained by a company more easily attracting, selecting and retaining  employees who best align with its principles. Sure employees can fake their belief, but he says the true believers are happier to be with the company and that often shines through. “People often self-select into an organization with a strong cause”.

Bingham argues that causes are becoming important to job seekers looking for open position, and that people tend to join companies that best align with their values.

In fact, Bingham says employees who believe strongly in a mission of a company are also more willing to take a pay cut or financial hit to work with a company they strongly believe in.

“We found that employees who work for these kinds of organizations, even making less money, are happier and more engage in their work organization,” he says. “It becomes a vehicle by which to do something meaningful.”

Although cause-based companies are becoming increasingly attractive to job candidates, companies need to stand by their mission.

“Having a mission-based organization has great potential to recruit and retain talent,” Bingham says. “But it has to be legitimate. If top management doesn’t believe it or is simply using it as a ploy, it doesn’t work.”