By Marcella Bremer
Is your workplace positive and loving? Does the question make you flinch? The word love is reserved for the private space. It is a taboo at work. But that doesn’t mean that there’s no love in the workplace! We call it differently, we express it differently than at home, but all positive organizations practice love. Moreover, fresh research shows that employees who feel love perform better.
In my work as a consultant, coach, and trainer in organizations I’ve always enjoyed the thought that I was spreading love while selling it as business. Helping people to practice dialogue; to respect differences and diversity, to listen to each other and support each other is another way of helping them to practice love.
Over the years, my definition of love developed into:
Love is being ready, willing and able to let go of your ego for the benefit of the other.
Building your capacity for love
Yes, your ego protects you and that’s important. It’s a crucial part of loving yourself. When you love yourself, you feel strong and confident, and you may be calm, open, and accepting of what the world and the workplace throw at you. When you’ve worked on your fears, limiting beliefs, harsh inner critical voices, you can feel safe and strong enough to lift (some of) that ego and show up as who you are: authentic and sometimes vulnerable. A genuine human being.
It is not until then that you can be ready, willing and able to let go, and practice love for others. That’s why I often use personal exercises in my workshops, and my Positive Culture book has a whole part dedicated to personal development. We cannot develop a positive culture without being aware of our own limitations. We cannot be the change we want to see in others without love.
Personal development is not expected in culture projects, I know. Just like the word Love is “not done” at work. But it makes all the difference. After some time, if an organization wanted to hire me for a culture project, I made it a condition for leaders to be open to personal coaching if needed. That’s because it happened too often that a CEO or other senior executive wasn’t ready, able, and willing to practice the culture they preached. That undermines any change. That entices people to close themselves off, instead of open up to others, learning, and change.
Working with love
The average manager or leader may not focus on building connection and collaboration, even though it’s one of the four ingredients of a positive culture.
Ryan Niemiec shares a typical conversation with a manager in Psychology Today:
Manager: “But what about love? There’s no place for love in the workplace. This stuff has its limits, right?
Ryan: “Is it not relevant to express warmth and care to your coworkers? To show support and genuineness when a co-worker is upset? To offer the practice of careful listening to customers and thoughtful, mindful speech with your boss?” These are examples of love.
“Love is believing that everyone’s perspective adds to the betterment of all, especially if I strongly disagree with some of those perspectives,” describes Rich Schaeff. “Love is reaching out to understand those different than I in pursuit of strengthening the bond between all people.”
What’s love got to do with it?
In the study, ”What’s Love Got to Do With It?: The Influence of a Culture of Companionate Love in the Long-term Care Setting”, Wharton professors Sigal Barsade and Olivia A. O’Neill, surveyed 185 employees, 108 patients, and 42 patient family members at two points in time, 16 months apart, at a healthcare facility.
Employees who felt they worked in a loving, caring culture reported higher levels of satisfaction and teamwork. They showed up to work more often. Their research also demonstrated that this type of culture related directly to client outcomes.
Barsade writes: “These findings hold true across industries. We conducted a follow-up study, surveying 3,201 employees in seven different industries from financial services to real estate and the results were the same. People who worked in a culture where they felt free to express affection, tenderness, caring and compassion for one another, were more satisfied with their jobs, committed to the organization, and accountable for their performance.”
Whole Foods Market has a set of management principles that begin with “Love”. Zappos states: “We are more than a team though. We are a family. We watch out for each other, care for each other and go above and beyond for each other”.
(Here‘s their article in Harvard Business Review)
Imagine what it feels like to have your work and existence reaffirmed by your leaders and co-workers, and to be allowed to be who you are at work? It’s the basis of a positive culture, as I describe in my book on Positive Culture.
I love this quote from lawyer, filmmaker, and interfaith leader, Valerie Kauer:
“Love is not a passing feeling; it is an act of will. It is the choice to extend our will for the flourishing of others and ourselves. When we pour love in places where there is fear and rage, we can transform an encounter, a relationship, a culture, a country. Love becomes revolutionary.”
(Shared by Ellen McGirt in Fortune).
A positive culture begins with personal development and healthy self-love. Next, it’s possible to respect, hear, see, acknowledge and support others. Then, more others will open up to co-workers, to learning, to collaboration, to performing at their best.
* How much love can you handle?
* What’s normal in your current culture? What’s the love quotient? How many conflicting opinions and information can it hold without violence, but with respectful attention?