On Passion and Burnout 1
In press. Journal of Personality
On the Role of Passion for Work in Burnout:
A Process Model
Robert J. Vallerand
Laboratoire de Recherche sur le Comportement Social
Département de Psychologie
Université du Québec à Montréal
Université de Reims
Frederick L. Philippe
Département de Psychologie
Université du Québec à Montréal
Robert J. Vallerand, Ph.D
Laboratoire de recherche sur le
Université du Québec à Montréal
Case Postale 8888, succursale
Montréal (Québec) Canada
Téléphone : (514) 987-4836
Fax : (514) 987-7953
December 12, 2008
On Passion and Burnout 2
The purpose of the present research was to test a model on the role of passion for work in
professional burnout. This model posits that obsessive passion produces conflict between
work and other life activities, because the person cannot let go of the work activity.
Conversely, harmonious passion is expected to prevent conflict while positively
contributing to work satisfaction. Finally, conflict is expected to contribute to burnout,
while work satisfaction should prevent its occurrence. This model was tested in two
studies with nurses in two cultures. Using a cross-sectional design, Study 1 (n=97)
provided support for the model with nurses from France. In Study 2 (n= 258), a
prospective design was used to further test the model with nurses from the Province of
Quebec over a six-month period. Results provided support for the model. Specifically,
harmonious passion predicted an increase in work satisfaction and a decrease in conflict.
Conversely, obsessive passion predicted an increase of conflict. In turn, work satisfaction
and conflict, predicted decreases and increases in burnout changes that took place over
time. The results have important implications for theory and research on passion as well
On Passion and Burnout 3
On the Role of Passion for Work in Burnout:
A Process Model
Judy and Joan are nurses in the same department at the same hospital. They both
love their work. They read about it, spend extra time discussing new cases, and regularly
go to workshops. Not only do they love their work, but they also feel that nursing is an
important part of their identity, of who they are deep down: they are nurses. They are
passionate about nursing; they just can’t get enough of it. While Judy and Joan share
some similarities regarding their strong engagement toward nursing, they nevertheless
display some important differences. Judy feels that nursing is the one thing in her life that
she couldn’t live without. When she goes home at the end of the day, she still thinks
about work. She just can’t let go of her work even when she knows she should be
devoting time to her family and pursuing other interests. Over time, her rigid engagement
toward her work, where she just can’t let go of nursing, has created conflict between her
work and her personal life. This conflict has slowly started to eat at her. As a
consequence, more and more, she now feels emotionally drained at work. Conversely,
although she loves nursing, Joan has other interests in her life. Thus, when her day is
done at the hospital, she looks forward to the evening activities with her husband and
children as well as to her other personal interests (she loves painting and reading).
Consequently, her flexible engagement toward work protects her from experiencing
conflict between her work and other life activities. Furthermore, a focus on other life
activities allows her to replenish herself, to come in at work with a keen spirit and to
experience satisfaction from her work. Such a sense of personal satisfaction at work, in
turn, protects her from feeling emotionally exhausted.
On Passion and Burnout 4
Over the past 30 years, much research has been conducted on the construct of
burnout. While much research has focused on the role of social factors in burnout
(Maslach, Schaufeli, & Leiter, 2001), such research does not explain why in the same
environment, one individual is thriving, while another one is experiencing burnout
symptoms, as in the preceding example. In line with researchers in the field of burnout
(e.g., Maslach et al., 2001; Schaufeli & Salanova, 2007), we believe that in order to
provide an answer to this question, we must look at individual work-related attitudes.
One factor that would appear relevant pertains to passion (Vallerand et al., 2003). Indeed,
as can be seen in the above example, being passionate for one’s work can lead one to be
consumed with one’s work, thereby leading to the experience of conflict with other life
activities and eventually to suffer from burnout. However, passion can also provide one
with the energy to fully engage in one’s work and to derive satisfaction from it, while still
fully pursuing other life interests, that should protect one from burnout. So, it would
appear that passion can either facilitate or prevent the occurrence of burnout at work. The
purpose of the present paper is to propose a resolve to this issue by reporting the results
of two studies on passion for work in helping professions (nursing) using the Dualistic
Model of Passion.
The Dualistic Model of Passion
Recently, Vallerand and colleagues (Vallerand, 2008; Vallerand et al., 2003;
Vallerand & Houlfort, 2003; Vallerand & Miquelon, 2007) have proposed a conceptual
model of passion toward activities. In line with Self-Determination Theory (SDT; Deci &
Ryan, 1985, 2000), the Passion Model posits that people experience the need to grow
psychologically and develop a sense of self and identity (Ryan & Deci, 2003). Vallerand
On Passion and Burnout 5
et al. (2003) have suggested that people will develop a passion toward enjoyable
activities that are internalized identity. A passion is defined as a strong inclination
toward a self-defining activity that individuals like (or even love), that they value (and
thus find important), and in which they invest time and energy (Vallerand et al., 2003).
The Dualistic Model of Passion further posits that two distinct types of passion, obsessive
and harmonious, develop as a result of the type of internalization process that takes place.
Obsessive passion results from a controlled internalization (see Deci & Ryan,
2000; Sheldon, 2002; Vallerand, 1997) of the activity into one’s identity. Such an
internalization originates from intra and/or interpersonal pressure either because certain
contingencies are attached to the activity, such as feelings of social acceptance or self-
esteem, or because the sense of excitement derived from activity engagement becomes
uncontrollable. With obsessive passion, individuals come to develop ego-invested self-
structures (Hodgins & Knee, 2002) and eventually display a rigid persistence toward the
activity. Thus, although individuals love the passionate activity, they find themselves in
the position of experiencing an internal uncontrollable urge to engage in the passionate
activity leading to a more rigid and conflicted form of task engagement. Such pressured
engagement should prevent the person from fully focusing on the task at hand, and may
interfere with the experience of positive affect and task satisfaction, and even facilitate
negative affect during task engagement. In addition, because with obsessive passion an
internal urge leads the person to engage in the activity even when he or she should not, he
or she may experience negative emotions once engagement in the passionate activity is
terminated (e.g., guilt for having engaged in the activity when one should not have done
so). In a similar vein, this internal urge to engage in the passionate activity makes it very
On Passion and Burnout 6
difficult for the person to fully disengage from thoughts about the activity, leading to
conflict with other activities in the person’s life.
Harmonious passion, by contrast, results from an autonomous internalization
(Deci & Ryan, 2000; Ryan & Deci, 2000) of the activity into the person’s identity. An
autonomous internalization occurs when individuals have freely accepted the activity as
important for them without any contingencies attached to it. Harmonious passion leads
one to engage in the activity willingly, and engenders a sense of volition and personal
endorsement about pursuing the activity (Vallerand, Fortier, & Guay, 1997). Individuals
do not feel compelled to engage in the enjoyable activity, rather, they freely choose to do
so. With this type of passion, the activity occupies a significant, but not overpowering
space in the person’s identity and is in harmony with other aspects of the person’s life. In
other words, with harmonious passion the authentic integrating self is at play (Hodgins &
Knee, 2002). Harmonious passion is thus hypothesized to lead the person to engage in
the task in a more flexible manner, and thus to experience task engagement more fully.
The person may then better concentrate on the task and experience positive affect, task
satisfaction, and flow (i.e., the feeling that one is immersed in the activity; see
Csikszentmihalyi, 1978) while engaging in the activity. Furthermore, because
harmonious passion facilitates control of the activity, it should contribute to the
experience of positive affect and task satisfaction and minimize the experience of
negative affect after task engagement. It may even facilitate positive affect when the
person does not engage in the passionate activity and does something else. In addition,
such control over the activity should lead the person to display flexible persistence
toward the activity. The person can then physically and mentally disengage from the
On Passion and Burnout 7
passionate activity when doing other activities, thereby allowing the person to replenish
him or herself as well as preventing the experience of conflict with other activities (or
Organizational researchers have focused on concepts that would appear related to
that of passion such as affective engagement (Meyer & Allen, 1997), work engagement
(Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004), and vigor (Shirom, 2004). Affective engagement is defined
as an emotional attachment and a high implication toward the organization (Meyer &
Allen, 1997). Thus, a major distinction with the concept of passion is that one’s affective
involvement is toward the organization and not toward one’s work. Furthermore, Meyer
and Allen (1997) do not indicate whether such engagement entails love for work and time
spent on it as is posited by the passion construct. Work engagement (Schaufeli & Bakker,
2004; Schaufeli & Salanova, 2007) is seen by the authors as the opposite of burnout.
Similarly, vigor is seen as a core affect that is the opposite of burnout (Shirom, 2004).
Thus, if work engagement (and vigor) is seen at the opposite pole of burnout, and burnout
is seen as resulting from one’s work conditions and personal characteristics toward work,
then engagement (and vigor) is best seen as a consequence and not as a type of work
engagement per se. Conversely, passion is seen as a type of work engagement and
involvement that should trigger psychological processes that lead to burnout (or not).
Furthermore, both types of engagement (and vigor) do not distinguish between two types
of engagement as is proposed by the Dualistic Model of Passion (i.e., harmonious and
obsessive passion). Thus, overall, while the above constructs share some similarities with
the concept of passion, there are also important distinctions.
On Passion and Burnout 8
Research conducted on the Dualistic Model of Passion has provided support for
the model. For instance, results of exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses have
supported the validity and reliability of the two-factor Passion Scale (see Rousseau et al.,
2002; Vallerand et al., 2003, Study 1; Vallerand et al., 2006). In addition, both types of
passion have been found to correlate positively with measures of activity valuation, of
perceptions of the task as being a passionate activity, and of activity inclusion in the self.
Vallerand et al. (2003, Study 1) also found a positive relation between harmonious
passion and measures of flow and positive affect experienced during task engagement
(see also Mageau, Vallerand, Rousseau, Ratelle, & Provencher, 2005), while obsessive
passion was positively related to negative affect (e.g., shame) and cognition (e.g.,
rumination) after engagement with the activity and when prevented from engaging in the
Additional research has also shown that harmonious passion is associated with
general positive affect and subjective well-being, while obsessive passion is associated
with general negative affect and either unrelated or negatively related to subjective well-
being (Rousseau & Vallerand, 2008; Vallerand et al., 2003, Study 2; Vallerand &
Houlfort, 2003; Vallerand et al., 2008, Study 2; Vallerand, Rousseau, et al., 2006;
Vallerand et al., 2007, Studies 1, 2). Obsessive passion also predicts highly persistent
behavior in passionate activities that may be ill-advised for the person such as winter
cycling over icy roads in Quebec (Vallerand et al., 2003, Study 3), persisting in dancing
while injured, leading to chronic injuries in ballet dancers (Rip, Fortin, & Vallerand,
2006), as well as heavy involvement in gambling activities (Rousseau et al., 2002) that
may be conducive to pathological gambling (Philippe & Vallerand, 2007; Ratelle et al.,
On Passion and Burnout 9
2004; Vallerand et al., 2003, Study 4). Obsessive passion has been found to be positively
related to conflict with other life activities (Vallerand et al., 2003, Study 1; Vallerand et
al., 2008, Study 3). Such conflict has been found to have negative repercussions on
marital adjustment (Séguin-Lévesque, Laliberté, Pelletier, Blanchard, & Vallerand, 2003;
Vallerand et al., 2008, Study 3). Finally, harmonious passion has been shown to be either
unrelated or negatively related to conflict and the above negative outcomes (see
Vallerand, 2008 for a review).
The Present Research
The purpose of the present research was to propose and test a model on the role of
passion for work in burnout. This model posits that passion is a distal predictor of
burnout that sets things in motion by triggering a causal sequence wherein psychological
mediators (work satisfaction and conflict) are activated. Then, in turn, these mediators
lead to the experience of burnout. Specifically, obsessive passion positively predicts
conflict between work and other life activities, while harmonious passion is expected to
negatively predict conflict. In addition, harmonious passion is expected to positively
predict work satisfaction, while obsessive passion is expected to be unrelated to it.
Finally, conflict is expected to contribute to burnout, while work satisfaction should
prevent its occurrence. This is because with obsessive passion one displays rigid
persistence toward work and cannot let go of his or her work involvement. This is
expected to lead to conflict between work and other life activities and consequently to
burnout. Furthermore, with obsessive passion, one cannot fully immerse in the activity
and thus little work satisfaction should be experienced. Conversely, harmonious passion
allows one to totally immerse oneself in the activity and to derive task satisfaction.
On Passion and Burnout 10
Furthermore, because with harmonious passion, one maintains control over the passionate
activity, one can physically and mentally disengage from the work activity when needed.
One is thus protected from the experience of conflict between work and other life
activities, from the experience of mental and emotional staleness, and consequently from
The proposed model is in line with past research. For instance, a recent study of
Carbonneau, Vallerand, Frenette, and Guay (2008) with over 490 experienced teachers
has shown that while obsessive passion for work was positively associated with burnout,
harmonious passion was negatively related to it. Furthermore, other research has shown
that obsessive passion positively predicts conflict between the passionate activity and
other life activities (e.g., Séguin et al., 2003; Vallerand et al., 2003, Study 1; Vallerand et
al., 2008, Study 3) but is unrelated to task satisfaction (Vallerand & Houlfort, 2003). On
the other hand, harmonious passion has been found to be positively related to task
satisfaction (Vallerand & Houlfort, 2003; Vallerand et al., 2006, Studies 2, 3) but to be
either unrelated or negatively related to conflict between the task and other activities
(Vallerand et al., 2003, Study 1; Vallerand et al., 2008, Studies 1 and 3). Finally, past
research on burnout has systematically shown that there is a positive relationship between
work-family conflict and burnout (e.g., Demerouti, Bakker, & Schaufeli, 2005; Peeters,
Montgomery, Bakker, & Schaufeli, 2005; Piko, 2006). Thus, the more one experiences
work-family conflict, the more one is likely to experiences burnout. On the other hand, a
negative relationship between work satisfaction and burnout has been systematically
obtained (e.g., Kalliath & Morris, 2002; Piko, 2006; Thomsen, Soares, Nolan, Dallender,
& Arnetz, 1999).
On Passion and Burnout 11
As was seen above, much support exists for the different parts of the proposed
model. However, no study has tested the integrative model of passion and burnout as a
whole. This was the main purpose of the present research. In the present research, the
proposed model was tested in two studies with nurses as past research has shown this
population to suffer from burnout symptoms (Maslach et al., 2001). The second purpose
of the present research was to chart the role of the model variables to predict changes in
burnout over time. Thus, while Study 1 was cross-sectional in nature, Study 2 followed
the evolution of burnout over a six-month period. We believe that the present research
should provide an important contribution to both the burnout and passion literatures.
With respect to burnout, the present research should yield important information with
respect to an integrative model of burnout wherein a personal characteristic (harmonious
and obsessive passion) predicts the occurrence of a contributing (conflict) and a
protective (work satisfaction) factor of burnout. Such a model leads to better knowledge
of the conditions that influence burnout and the type of interventions that may prevent it.
In addition, this model builds upon the recent work on passion and more specifically that
of Carbonneau et al. (2008) on passion and burnout by providing crucial information on
the differential effects of harmonious and obsessive passion on the mediating
psychological processes (work conflict and satisfaction) leading to increases or decreases
in burnout (see Vallerand, 2008). As such, it paves the way to future research in other
contexts (e.g., sports, relationships) where conflict and satisfaction may serve as
mediators of other outcomes.
On Passion and Burnout 12
The purpose of Study 1 was to test the proposed model using a cross-sectional
design with experienced nurses in France. It was posited that obsessive passion would
positively predict conflict between work and other life activities, while harmonious
passion was expected to negatively predict conflict. On the other hand, harmonious
passion was expected to positively predict work satisfaction, while obsessive passion was
predicted to be unrelated to it. Finally, conflict and work satisfaction were expected to
positively and negatively predict burnout, respectively.
A total of 97 nurses took part in the study. They were all working in French
hospitals in France. Most of them were female nurses (90 females, 6 males, and 1 missing
value) and were aged between 21 and 57 years (M = 34.07 years, SD = 9.95 years). They
were working on average 34.15 hours per week (SD = 4.16 hours) and had been working
as nurses for an average of 11.21 years (SD = 10.12 years).
The Passion Scale. The Passion Scale (Vallerand et al., 2003) is composed of two
subscales of six items each, assessing harmonious (HP) and obsessive (OP) passion. Each
item is responded to on a 7-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (do not agree at all) to 7
(completely agree). A sample item for OP is ―I have difficulties controlling my urge to do
my work‖, while a sample item for HP is ―My work is in harmony with other activities in
my life‖. Results from exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses have provided
strong support for the bifactorial structure of the scale in a number of life contexts
including sports (Vallerand et al., 2006, Study 1), gambling (Castelda, Mattson,
On Passion and Burnout 13
MacKillop, Anderson, & Donovick, 2007; Rousseau, Vallerand, Ratelle, Mageau, &
Provencher, 2002), and work (Carbonneau et al., 2008; Vallerand & Houlfort, 2003).
Furthermore, internal consistency analyses supported the reliability of the scale.
Alpha coefficients in this study were .72 for each of the two subscales. Participants were
also asked to complete four items corresponding to Vallerand and colleagues’ passion
criteria (2003). These four items assessed nurses’ love of nursing, time involvement in
nursing, the importance of nursing, and if nursing is a passion for them ( = .70). A mean
score of four and up on these four items reveals at least a moderate level of passion for
nursing (see Vallerand et al., 2003). Using this criterion, 88% of the participants reported
to be passionate toward nursing.1
Work Satisfaction. The Satisfaction at Work Scale (SAWS) was derived from the
Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS: Diener, Emmons, Larsen, and Griffin, 1985). The
SAWS contains five items responded to on a 7-point Likert scale (1 = do not agree at all,
7 = completely agree) and assesses work satisfaction. A sample item is ―I am satisfied
with my work‖. It has been used with success in past research (Richer, Blanchard, &
Vallerand, 2002). In the present study, a Principal Component Analysis yielded one
factor accounting for 51% of the variance with factor loadings ranging from .59 to .80.
Alpha coefficient in this study was .76.
Conflict. Conflict with other life spheres was assessed with five items measuring
the extent to which participants’ work of nursing was conflicted with other important
activities in their life. A sample item is ― My work as a nurse conflicts with the other
activities in my life‖. In the present study, a Principal Component Analysis yielded one
On Passion and Burnout 14
factor accounting for 60% of the variance with factor loadings ranging from .55 to .92.
Alpha coefficient in this study was .76.
Burnout. The Maslach Burnout Inventory (BMI: Maslach, Jackson, & Leiter,
1996) was used to measure burnout in nurses. In its original form, this scale is composed
of 22 items assessing burnout with three subscales tapping emotional exhaustion,
depersonalization, and diminished personal accomplishment. In this study, only the
emotional exhaustion subscale was used, as it has been shown to be the best indicator of
burnout (e.g., Gorter, Albrecht, Hoogstraten, & Eijkman, 1999; Piko, 2006; Schaufeli &
Van Dierendonck, 1993). In line with past research (Gorter, et al., 1999; Shaufeli & Van
Dierendonck, 1993), one item from the emotional exhaustion subscale was deleted, as it
has been shown to better load on the other factors of the scale. The final scale we used
was thus composed of eight items. A Principal Component Analysis yielded one factor
accounting for 52% of the variance with factor loadings ranging from .51 to .82. Alpha
coefficient in this study was .86.
Nurses were contacted through hospital unit managers or directors. Participants
were told that the purpose of the study was to learn more about nursing. It was also
mentioned that participation was voluntary and anonymous, and that all responses would
remain confidential, as they would never be sent to their manager, director, or to anyone
in the hospital. Indeed, nurses were asked to hand in their completed questionnaire in a
sealed envelope. When completing the questionnaire package, participants were first
asked to indicate their age, gender, the number of hours per week they were working on
average, and the number of years of experience they had in nursing. They were then
On Passion and Burnout 15
asked to complete the scales presented above.
Results and Discussion
Table 1 reports the means, standard deviations, and correlations of all study
variables. In order to test the proposed model, a path analysis was conducted with
LISREL 8 (Jöreskog & Sörborm, 2003). The model was composed of two exogenous
variables (HP and OP) and three endogenous variables (work satisfaction, conflict, and
burnout). The covariance matrix served as the database for the path analysis and the
method of estimation was Maximum Likelihood. Paths were drawn according to the
proposed model. In addition, a positive covariance was estimated between the two
exogenous variables (see Kline, 2005). Results of the path analysis revealed an excellent
fit to the data. The chi-square value was non-significant,
2 (df = 4, N=97) = 4.50, p = .48,
and other fit indices were excellent: Non-Normed Fit Index (NNFI) = 1.00, Comparative
Fit index (CFI) = 1.00, Root Mean Square Error of Approximation (RMSEA) = .00 [.00;
.14], Goodness-of-Fit Index (GFI = .98), Standardized Root Mean Square (SRMR =
.054), and Normed Fit Index (NFI = .95).2 As shown in Figure 1, all estimated paths were
significant at least at p < .05, except for the path between HP and conflict which had a
standardized coefficient of -.12. Inspection of the correlation residuals revealed that all
were non-significant, indicating that additional paths would not be significant and would
not improve the model fits (Kline, 2005). Sobel Tests were then conducted to confirm the
significance of the two mediations between passion and burnout. The mediation of
satisfaction at work between HP and burnout proved to be highly significant, z = 3.53, p
< .001. Furthermore, the mediation of conflict between OP and burnout also showed to be
significant, z = 2.28, p < .05. These results thus confirmed the significance of both
On Passion and Burnout 16
mediations. Finally, two alternative models were tested. The first alternative model
positioned burnout as a mediator between HP and satisfaction at work (HP burnout
satisfaction at work) and between OP and conflict (OP burnout conflict). Results of
this alternative model revealed poor fit indices:
2 (df = 4, n = 97) = 40.61, p < .00001,
RMSEA = .28. The second alternative model posited that passion was a mediator
between conflict and satisfaction at work and burnout (conflict and satisfaction at work
passion [HP and OP] burnout). This alternative model also yielded poor fit indices:
2 (df = 4, N=97) = 40.61, p < .00001, RMSEA = .23. Overall, the results from alternative
models suggest that the original model should be preferred.
In sum, as predicted, OP positively predicted conflict that was in turn positively
associated with burnout. In addition, as expected, HP was negatively related to conflict
(although it was not statistically significant). Finally, HP positively predicted satisfaction
at work that was, in turn, negatively associated to burnout. Thus, overall, the present
findings provided preliminary support for the role of passion in burnout. They also
highlighted the psychological processes that appear to be at play in these relationships.
Indeed, conflict and work satisfaction proved to be strong mediators of the relationship
between passion and burnout, with the former playing a facilitative role and the latter a
protective role in burnout.
Results of Study 1 provided preliminary support for the proposed model.
However, one limit of this study was the use of a cross-sectional design. Such a design
makes it impossible to chart the prospective evolution of change in the model variables.
Study 2 aimed at examining this issue. Thus, the purpose of Study 2 was to replicate the
On Passion and Burnout 17
results of Study 1 using a prospective design. Nurses were thus contacted at Time 1 and
completed scales assessing passion for nursing, work satisfaction, conflict, and burnout.
They were contacted a second time, six months later, and the same measures were
assessed again except for passion. For external validity purposes, the model was tested
with nurses from a different country, namely, French-Canadian nurses from the Province
of Quebec, Canada. It was hypothesized that obsessive passion would lead to increases in
conflict over a six-month period that would, in turn, be conducive to increases in burnout
six months later. Conversely, harmonious passion was expected to lead to increases in
work satisfaction over a six-month period, that would, in turn, be negatively associated
with increases in burnout six months later. Finally, harmonious passion was expected to
negatively predict increases in conflict.
A total of 258 nurses took part in the study. They were all working in French-
Canadian hospitals in the Province of Quebec, Canada. Most of them were female nurses
(236 females, 22 males) and were aged between 27 and 60 years old (M = 45.53 years,
SD = 7.50 years). They had been working as nurses for an average of 10.11 years (SD =
8.19 years). Using the same criteria as in Study 1, 69% of the participants reported to be
passionate toward nursing.3
The measures used in Study 2 were the same as those used in Study 1 (the Passion
Scale, the Satisfaction at Work Scale, the Conflict Scale, and the Maslach Burnout
Inventory—emotional exhaustion subscale). All scales showed adequate levels of
reliability (see Table 2 for the alpha coefficients of each scale at Times 1 and 2).
On Passion and Burnout 18
A total of 2000 questionnaires with pre-stamped return envelopes were sent to the
Fédération des Infirmières et Infirmiers du Québec (FIIQ), a provincial nurses’ union in
the Province of Quebec, Canada. The FIIQ then selected from their registering base a
random sample of 2000 nurses working in French-Canadian hospitals in the Province of
Quebec. Each selected nurse received by mail a questionnaire along with a letter
explaining the general purpose of the study. Participants were told that the aim of this
study was to learn more about nursing. They were assured that they were free to
participate or not in the study and that their answers would remain confidential,
anonymous, and would not be sent to the FIIQ or to the hospital where they were
working. The questionnaire first asked participants to report their age, gender, and the
number of years of experience they had in nursing. Participants then completed the scales
presented above. In all, 652 nurses returned their questionnaire fully completed at Time 1
for a response rate of 33%. The second assessment took place six months later. The FIIQ
then sent a new questionnaire package to the 2000 nurses who had been randomly
selected at Time 1. It was again mentioned that participation was voluntary and
anonymous. Nurses were then asked to complete a second time the Satisfaction at Work
Scale, the Conflict Scale, and the Maslach Burnout Inventory. Overall, a total of 258
participants completed the questionnaire at both phases of the study, for a response rate
of 40% between the Times 1 and 2.4
Results and Discussion
Table 2 reports the means, standard deviations, and correlations of all study
variables. In order to test the proposed model, a path analysis was conducted with
On Passion and Burnout 19
LISREL 8 (Jöreskog & Sörborm, 2003). The model was composed of five exogenous
variables (HP and OP, controlling for satisfaction at work, conflict, and burnout as
assessed at Time 1) and three endogenous variables (satisfaction at work, conflict, and
burnout as assessed at Time 2). The covariance matrix served as the database for the path
analysis and the method of estimation was Maximum Likelihood. Paths were drawn
according to the proposed model. In addition, a positive covariance was estimated among
all exogenous variables.
Results of the path analysis revealed an excellent fit to the data. The chi-square
value was non-significant,
2 (df = 10, n = 258) = 12.09, p = .29, and other fit indices
were excellent: NNFI = .995, CFI = .998, RMSEA = .029 [.00; .06], GFI = .99, SRMR =
.026, and NFI = .99.5 As shown in Figure 2, all estimated paths were significant at least at
p < .05, including the path between HP and conflict at Time 2. Inspection of the
correlation residuals revealed that all were non-significant, indicating that additional
paths would not be significant and would not improve the model fits (Kline, 2005). Sobel
Tests were then conducted to confirm the significance of the three mediations between
passion and burnout. The mediation of the increases in satisfaction at work between HP
and changes in burnout proved to be highly significant, z = 3.93, p < .0001. Furthermore,
the mediation of the increases in conflict between OP and increases in burnout was also
significant, z = 1.96, p = .05. These results thus confirmed the significance of both
mediations. Finally, we examined if the mediation of the increases in conflict between
HP and burnout was significant. A Sobel Test revealed that this mediation was only
marginally significant, z = 1.79, p = .07.
On Passion and Burnout 20
We also tested the only alternative model possible in light of the prospective
design. This model posits that burnout is a mediator between HP and satisfaction at work
and between OP and conflict. Results of this alternative model revealed poor fit indices:
2 (df = 11, n = 258) = 36.87, p < .0002, RMSEA = .098 [.064; .13]. In addition, the
Akaike Information Criterion (AIC) used to compare non-hierarchical models (see Kline,
2005) was higher for this alternative model (AICA = 86.88) than for the proposed model
(AICO = 64.09). Together, these additional results reveal that the proposed model should
The main purpose of the present research was to propose and test a model on the
role of passion in burnout. This model posits that obsessive passion facilitates burnout
while harmonious passion prevents its occurrence through their differential relationships
with work satisfaction and conflict between work and other life activities. Specifically,
the model posits that obsessive passion positively predicts conflict between work and
other life activities, while harmonious passion negatively predicts it. On the other hand,
harmonious passion is expected to positively predict work satisfaction, while obsessive
passion is hypothesized to be unrelated to it. Finally, conflict and work satisfaction are
expected to positively and negatively predict burnout, respectively. This model was
supported in two studies, including a six-month prospective study, with nurses from two
countries. These findings lead to two major implications.
A first implication is that the present findings underscore the fact that the type of
passion that one has for an activity that he or she engages in on a regular basis (such as
work) matters greatly with respect to burnout. These findings suggest that engagement
On Passion and Burnout 21
for one’s work is not simply a matter of quantity (or high vs. low engagement). Rather,
the type (or quality) of engagement one holds toward work also matters greatly as
obsessive passion was found to promote burnout and harmonious passion to prevent it,
even after controlling for the number of hours worked. These findings are in line with
research by Carbonneau et al. (2008) who have shown that while obsessive passion is
positively related to burnout, harmonious passion prevents its occurrence. Furthermore,
the present findings are also in accord with past research on passion with a variety of
activities that has shown that harmonious passion typically predicts adaptive outcomes,
while obsessive passion typically leads to less adaptive outcomes and at times clearly
maladaptive ones (Ratelle et al., 2004; Séguin-Lévesque et al., 2003; Vallerand et al.,
2008; Vallerand et al., 2003; see also Vallerand, 2008 for a review).
The second major implication of the present research is that it appears that some
of the psychological processes that promote as well as prevent the occurrence of burnout
have been uncovered. Specifically, in two studies it was found that obsessive passion
facilitated the experience of burnout through two processes. First, obsessive passion
contributed to burnout through its relationship with conflict between one’s work and
other life activities. Second, obsessive passion also has been found to be unrelated to
work satisfaction, which can serve as an antidote to burnout. Thus, it would appear that
one’s rigid engagement toward one’s work induced by obsessive passion prevents one
from experiencing any work satisfaction and, on top of that, leads to conflict between
work and other life activities. Thus, affective rewards from one’s work are no longer
forthcoming and the person cannot disengage from the work commitment because of the
rigid engagement toward it. As a result, the person comes to experience burnout. Years
On Passion and Burnout 22
ago, burnout researchers suggested that because of one’s passion, people remained
strongly engaged in their work, could not disengage from it, and under harsh conditions,
would come to experience burnout (see Maslach et al., 2001). The present findings
suggest that such an analysis applies only to obsessive passion, and not to harmonious
passion. Thus, the type of passion one holds toward work matters greatly.
Conversely, the present findings reveal that with harmonious passion, instead of
experiencing burnout, people actually come to thrive at work. Specifically, harmonious
passion was found to prevent burnout through its positive and negative relationship with
work satisfaction and conflict, respectively. Thus, because harmonious passion leads to a
more flexible task engagement, one can enjoy one’s experience at work and derive
satisfaction from it. Furthermore, such a flexible engagement allows one to let go of work
at the end of the day. Thus, rather than experiencing conflict between work and life
activities one can then fully enjoy life outside of work and return to work refreshed the
next day. These two elements (work satisfaction and the prevention of conflict) promote
the prevention of burnout. It should be noted, however, that the role of harmonious
passion in the prevention of work conflict was not particularly strong. In fact, it was the
weakest link in the integrative model. Future research is needed in order to more firmly
establish the validity of this path.
These overall findings are in line with the literature on the relationship between
the two types of passion and task satisfaction and conflict (see Vallerand, 2008), as well
as that involving these two mediators and burnout (see Maslach et al., 2001; Maslach &
Leiter, 2008). These findings are also partly in line with research on the role of work
engagement in burnout. For instance, Schaufeli and Salanova (2007) have suggested that
On Passion and Burnout 23
engagement may represent an ―antidote‖ to burnout. While we agree that work
engagement may play a protective function against burnout, our findings suggest that this
would only be the case for harmonious passion. Furthermore, we posit that such a
protection against burnout takes place through the mediating role of work satisfaction and
conflict, and not directly. This analysis was supported in two studies. Furthermore, Study
2 also supported the role of harmonious passion in predicting changes in work
satisfaction and confict, that, in turn, predicted decreases and increases in burnout,
respectively, over a six-month period. Overall, the present findings provide important
support for our position.
Some limitations of the present set of studies need to be considered. First, a
correlational design was used in both studies and therefore causality cannot be inferred
from the present research. Although Study 2 used a prospective design and that the
present findings are in line with past theory and research, future research using
experimental designs is needed in order to more firmly establish the causal role of
passion in triggering the sequence leading to burnout. Second, the present research relied
exclusively on self-report data. While the present results replicated in both studies and
are consistent with the past literature, future research should seek to replicate the present
findings with other assessments of burnout such as those of informants (e.g., spouse,
friends, or co-workers). Third, the response rate in Study 2 was low. Future research is
needed to confirm that the present results generalize to the overall nursing population, as
well as to other workers. Fourth, it should be underscored that only one dimension of
burnout was assessed in the present research, namely emotional exhaustion. While
emotional exhaustion appears to be the most fundamental dimension of burnout (Maslach
On Passion and Burnout 24
& Leiter, 2008), future research should further ascertain the role of passion in the
experience of the other two burnout dimensions, namely cynicism and reduced efficacy.
Finally, it should be noted that the percentage of variance explained in both studies was
low to moderate in magnitude. This finding suggests that other psychological processes
are at play. For instance, past research has shown that social variables such as a heavy
workload and lack of autonomy are also involved in the experience of burnout (see
Maslach et al., 2001). Future research is needed in order to determine how such
additional processes may be best incorporated within the present model in predicting the
occurrence of burnout.
In sum, it would appear that passion is a double-edged sword. On the one hand,
one type of passion (obsessive) is conducive to burnout, while on the other hand, the
other type of passion (harmonious) prevents its occurrence. Thus, an important issue with
respect to burnout is not whether someone is passionate or not toward work, but rather
whether someone displays a harmonious or an obsessive passion. Because passionate
workers deeply care about their work, the challenge for them would appear to remain
harmoniously passionate for their work while refraining from becoming obsessively
passionate. It would thus appear that the conceptualization of passion offers a new avenue
toward a better understanding of the processes promoting as well as preventing the
occurrence of burnout. Future research along these lines would therefore appear
On Passion and Burnout 25
Carbonneau, N., Vallerand, R. J., Frenette, C., & Guay, F. (2008). The role of passion for
teaching in intra and interpersonal outcomes. Journal of Educational Psychology.
Castelda, B. A., Mattson, R. E., MacKillop, J., Anderson, E. J., & Donovick, P. J. (2007).
Psychometric validation of the Gambling Passion Scale in an English-Speaking
university sample. International Gambling Studies, 7, 173–182.
Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ:
Lawrence Earlbaum Associates.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1978). Intrinsic rewards and emergent motivation. In M.R. Lepper &
D. Greene (Eds.), The hidden costs of reward (pp. 205-216). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in behavior.
New York : Plenum Press.
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The ―what‖ and ―why‖ of goal pursuits: Human needs and
the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 227-268.
Demerouti, E., Bakker, A. B., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2005). Spillover and crossover of exhaustion
and life satisfaction among dual-earner parents. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 67,
Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The Satisfaction With Life
Scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71-76.
Gorter, R. C., Albrecht, G., Hoogstraten, J., & Eijkman, M. A. J. (1999). Factorial validity of
the Maslach Burnout Inventory—Dutch version (MBI-NL) among dentists. Journal of
Organizational Behavior, 20, 209-217.
On Passion and Burnout 26
Hodgins, H. S., & Knee, R. (2002). The integrating self and conscious experience. In Deci, E.
L., & Ryan, R. M. (Eds.). (2002). Handbook on self-determination research:
Theoretical and applied issues (pp. 87-100). Rochester, NY: University of Rochester
Jöreskog, K. G., & Sörbom, D. (2003). LISREL 8.54 for Windows (Computer software).
Lincolnwood, IL: Scientific Software International.
Kalliath, T., & Morris, R. (2002). Job satisfaction among nurses: A predictor of burnout levels.
JONA, 12, 648-654.
Kline, R. B. (2005). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling (2nd ed.). New
York, NY: Guilford Press.
Mageau, G. A., Vallerand, R. J., Rousseau, F. L, Ratelle, C. F., & Provencher, P. J. (2005).
Passion and gambling: Investigating the divergent affective and cognitive consequences
of gambling. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 35, 100-118.
Maslach, C., Jackson, S. E., & Leiter, M. P. (1996). Maslach Burnout Inventory. (3rd ed.). Palo
Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
Maslach, C., & Leiter, M.P. (2008). Early predictors of job burnout and engagement. Journal
of Applied Psychology, 93, 498-512.
Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of
Psychology, 52, 397-422.
Meyer, J.P., & Allen, N.J. (1997). Commitment in the workplace: Theory, research, and
applications. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
On Passion and Burnout 27
Peeters, M. C. W., Montgomery, A. J., Bakker, A. B., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2005). Balancing
work and home: How job and home demands are related to burnout. International
Journal of Stress Management, 12, 43-61.
Philippe, F., & Vallerand, R.J. (2007). Prevalence rates of gambling problems in Montreal,
Canada: A look at old adults and the role of passion. Journal of Gambling Studies, 23,
Piko, B. F. (2006). Burnout, role conflict, job satisfaction and psychosocial health among
Hungarian health care staff: A questionnaire survey. International Journal of Nursing
Studies, 43, 311-318.
Ratelle, C. F., Vallerand, R. J., Mageau, G. A., Rousseau, F. L., & Provencher, P. (2004).
When passion leads to problematic outcomes: A look at gambling. Journal of Gambling
Studies, 20, 105-119.
Richer, S.F., Blanchard, C.B., & Vallerand, R.J. (2002). A motivational model of work
turnover. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 32, 2089-2113.
Rip, B., Fortin, S., & Vallerand, R.J. (2006). The relationship between passion and injury in
dance students. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science,10, 14-20.
Rousseau, F. L., & Vallerand, R. J. (2003). Le rôle de la passion dans le bien-être subjectif des
aînés [The role of passion in the subjective well-being of the elderly]. Revue Québécoise
de Psychologie, 24, 197-211.
Rousseau, F. L., & Vallerand, R. J. (2008). An examination of the relationship between passion
and subjective well-being in older adults. International Journal of Aging and Human
Development, 66, 195-211.
On Passion and Burnout 28
Rousseau, F. L., Vallerand, R. J., Ratelle, C. F., Mageau, G. A., & Provencher, P. J. (2002).
Passion and gambling: On the validation of the Gambling Passion Scale (GPS). Journal
of Gambling Studies, 18, 45-66.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-Determination Theory and the facilitation of intrinsic
motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68-78.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2003). On assimilating identities of the self: A Self-Determination
Theory perspective on internalization and integrity within cultures. In M.R. Leary & J. P.
Tangney (Eds.), Handbook of self and identity (pp. 253-272). New York: Guilford.
Schaufeli, W., & Bakker, A.B. (2004). Job demands, job resources, and their relationship with
burnout and engagement : A multi-sample study. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 25,
Schaufeli, W., & Salanova, M. (2007). Work engagement : An emerging psychological concept
and its implications for organizations. In S. W. Gilliland, D. D. Steiner, & D. P. Skarlicki
(Eds.), Managing social and ethical issues in organizations (pp. 135-177). Greenwich,
CT: Information Age Publishing.
Schaufeli, W. B., & Van Dierendonck, D. (1993). The construct validity of two burnout
measures. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 14, 631-647.
Séguin-Lévesque, C., Laliberté, M.-L., Pelletier, L. G., Blanchard, C., & Vallerand, R. J.
(2003). Harmonious and obsessive passion for the internet: Their associations with the
couple’s relationships. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 33, 197-221.
Sheldon, K. M. (2002). The Self-Concordance Model of healthy goal-striving: When personal
goals correctly represent the person. In E.L. Deci & R.M. Ryan (Eds.), Handbook of self-
determination research (pp. 65-86). Rochester, NY: The University of Rochester Press.
On Passion and Burnout 29
Shirom, A. (2004). Feeling vigorous at work? The construct of vigor and the study of positive
affect in organizations. In D. Ganster & P.C. Perrewe (Eds.), Research in organizational
stress and well-being (vol. 3, pp. 135-165). Greenwich, CT : JAI Press.
Thomsen, S., Soares, J., Nolan, P., Dallender, J., & Arnetz, B. (1999). Feelings of professional
fulfilment and exhaustion in mental health personnel: The importance of organisational
and individual factors. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 68, 157-164.
Vallerand, R. J. (1997). Toward a hierarchical model of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.
Advances in Experimental and Social Psychology, 29, 271-360.
Vallerand, R. J. (2001). A hierarchical model of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in sport and
exercise. In G. Roberts (Ed.) Advances in motivation in sport and exercise (pp. 263-319).
Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Vallerand, R. J. (2008). On the psychology of passion: In search of what makes people’s lives
most worth living. Canadian Psychology, 49, 1-13.
Vallerand, R. J., Blanchard, C. M., Mageau, G. A., Koestner, R., Ratelle, C. F., Léonard, M. et
al. (2003). Les passions de l’âme: On obsessive and harmonious passion. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 756-767.
Vallerand, R. J., Fortier, M. S., Guay, F. (1997). Self-determination and persistence in a real-
life setting: Toward a motivational model of high school dropout. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 1161-1176.
Vallerand, R. J., & Houlfort, N. (2003). Passion at work: Toward a new conceptualization. In
S. W. Gilliland, D. D. Steiner, & D. P. Skarlicki (Eds.), Emerging perspectives on values
in organizations (pp. 175-204). Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.
On Passion and Burnout 30
Vallerand, R. J., Mageau, G. A., Elliot, A., Dumais, A., Demers, M-A., & Rousseau, F. L.
(2008). Passion and performance attainment in sport. Psychology of Sport & Exercise, 9,
Vallerand, R. J., & Miquelon, P. (2007). Passion for sport in athletes. In D. Lavallée, & S.
Jowett (Eds.), Social psychology in sport (pp. 249-262). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Vallerand, R. J., Ntoumanis, N., Philippe, F. L., Lavigne, G., Carbonneau., N., Bonneville, A.,
Lagacé-Labonté, C., & Maliha, G. (2008). On passion and sports fans: A look at football.
Journal of Sport Sciences, 26, 1279-1293.
Vallerand, R. J., & Ratelle, C. F. (2002). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: A hierarchical
model. In E. L. Deci and R. M. Ryan (Eds.), Handbook of self-determination research
(pp. 37-63) Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.
Vallerand, R. J., Rousseau, F. L., Grouzet, F. M. E., Dumais, A., & Grenier, S. (2006).
Passion in sport: A look at determinants and affective experiences. Journal of Sport &
Exercise Psychology, 28, 454-478.
Vallerand, R. J., Salvy, S. J., Mageau, G.A., Elliot, A. J., Denis, P., Grouzet, F. M. E., &
Blanchard, C. B. (2007). On the role of passion in performance. Journal of Personality,
On Passion and Burnout 31
1. Results for the proposed model were exactly the same with and without the
participants who indicated to be less than moderately passionate toward nursing. Thus, all
participants were kept in the analyses.
2. There were no gender differences on all study variables. In addition, controlling for
nurses’ age, number of years of experience, and number of hours worked per week did
not affect the results.
3. The alpha coefficient for the four items assessing the passion criteria was .74. Results
for the proposed model were exactly the same with and without the participants who
indicated to be less than moderately passionate for their work as a nurse. Thus, all
participants were kept in the analyses.
4. We examined whether participants who only completed the questionnaire at Time 1
differed from those who took part in both phases of the study. Results from a MANOVA
(with all study variables at Time 1 as dependent variables, including age and years of
experience) indicated that participants differed on two variables (F [5, 258] = 3.28, p <
.01, 2 = .025). Nurses who only completed the questionnaire at Time 1 were more
obsessively passionate for their work (M = 2.04, SD = .087) compared to those who
participated at Times 1 and 2 (M = 1.88, SD = 0.77), F (1, 258) = 5.21, p < .05, 2 = .008.
These former nurses also reported a higher level of conflict (M = 2.63, SD = 2.35) than
the nurses who completed both phases of the study (M = 2.35, SD = 1.10), F (1, 258) =
7.98, p < .01, 2 = .012. Finally, attrition rate did not differ as a function of gender or
2 were non-significant). It should be noted that the effect sizes of these
On Passion and Burnout 32
differences were quite small, accounting together for only 2% of the variance (Cohen,
1988). Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that these slight differences should not affect
the present results in a significant manner. In order to insure that attrition had not
significantly affected results of Study 2, we conducted the same path analysis of Study 1
with only the Time 1 variables of Study 2, including all participants who completed the
Time 1 measures (n = 652). This path analysis was constrained to be equal across the
group of participants who only completed Time 1 (n = 394) and the group of participants
who completed both Times 1 and 2 (n = 258). The model with the parameter estimates
constrained to be equal across the two groups perfectly replicated Study 1 results and fit
adequately the data,
2 (df = 16, n = 652) = 36.50, p < .001, NNFI = .97, NFI = .96,
CFI = .98, RMSEA = .064, GFI = .98, SRMR = .066. In addition, all correlation residuals
were non-significant. Finally, this constrained path analysis did not differ from the model
with no parameter constraint between the groups,
2 (5) = 6.73, p = .24, thus suggesting
that the path analysis was virtually the same between participants who completed both
Times 1 and 2 questionnaires and those who completed only that of Time 1.
5. There were no gender differences on all study variables. In addition, the number of
years of experience was unrelated to all study variables. Age was negatively associated
with conflict at Time 1 (r = -.13, p < .05). However, controlling for nurses’ age, years of
experience, and number of hours worked per week in the model did not affect the results.
On Passion and Burnout 33
Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations of the Model Variables: Study 1
Harmonious passion (1)
Obsessive passion (2)
Satisfaction at work (3)
Note: n = 97, * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001
On Passion and Burnout 34
Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations of the Model Variables: Study 2
Harmonious passion Time 1 (1)
Obsessive passion Time 1 (2)
Satisfaction at work Time 1 (3)
Conflict Time 1 (4)
Burnout Time 1 (5)
Satisfaction at work Time 2 (6)
Conflict Time 2 (7)
Burnout Time 2 (8)
Note: n = 258, *p < .05, **p < .01, ***p < .001
On Passion and Burnout 35
Figure 1. Path analytic model of the relationships among passion, satisfaction at work, conflict
and burnout. Standardized path coefficients are presented. ***p < .001
Figure 2. Path analytic model of the prospective relationships among passion, satisfaction at
work, conflict and burnout. Standardized path coefficients are presented. Covariances between
exogenous variables are not shown for clarity. The reader is referred to Table 2 to this effect.
*p < .05, **p < .01, ***p < .001
On Passion and Burnout 36
On Passion and Burnout 37