Gather a group of photographers, and you may find a couple who are in the black and have no complaints with their businesses, but more will tell you that the struggle is real. While the debate rages on about what has caused such great difficulty for aspiring professional photographers, a new study from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business suggests that what is undermining our success is none other than our love for what we do.
Photographers are nothing if not a passionate lot, driven by the great thrill of creating an image. Unfortunately, thanks to psychology, this apparently makes us inherently exploitable. “Passion exploitation” was noted consistently across eight studies that included 2,400 participants. The knowledge that a person was passionate about their work excused excessive demands by superiors.
The person’s passion is seen, at least to the observer if not the passionate worker themselves, as a sort of perk. The bonus of enjoyment and passion is thought to compensate for more lackluster parts of a job, including inadequate pay. Interestingly, and sadly, the inverse is also perceived; someone who is exploited and mistreated at work is more likely to be deemed “passionate.”
The mechanism behind the phenomenon is thought to be the human mind’s desire to see the world as “fair and just.” When something isn’t actually fair and just, our brains will find a way to make it seem that way via rationalization. It will manufacture a silver lining for those who are treated unfairly.
It may not be fair, but they say knowing is half the battle. Equipped with the realization that loving your job may, in fact, lead people to want to take more from you for less, you can rebut with diligence and come to the negotiation table prepared to nip potential exploitation in the bud.