Love in the Workplace – Really?

business culture love at work

I know you’re rolling your eyes right about now after reading the title, but hear me out for a moment, (or at least for 500 words!). There was a great piece in the Harvard Business Review recently regarding “love” in the workplace and how you can and should think about harnessing it because the reality is that it’s already there. This is not about finding a partner or a mate at work, it’s about something that is inherently part of the culture.

I’ve talked a lot about intentional culture, and the opposite, unintentional culture. What the author of the HBR article says is that love, which could be defined as caring, respect, compassion, and kindness, is always present, but often not stated or recognized. This is unintentional culture. You’re not going to get rid of it, humans need and want it in their personal lives, so why would they not seek it out at work as well?

His point is that you can actually harness this for the good of the organization. So rather than ignoring it and pretending it’s the purple elephant in the room that no one sees, embrace it and you might be surprised at the results.

As always, I go back to values. One of my personal values is caring – caring for others and for myself. The author would say this is “love.” So why don’t I just call it that? Because it makes me uncomfortable to declare “love” and “caring” sounds more acceptable, (but it’s really the same thing).

One CEO I worked with defined the values in her company and one of them was indeed “love.” They said, “love, yes, love.” Just in case someone didn’t get the message. And far from this simply being a value on the wall, unlived in the organization, it was present in all they did. As a marketing firm, they needed to really understand their clients, their staff and the projects. They put “love” into their work, they treated others with kindness and respect and were very tolerant with employees, as long as “love” was respected and the work got done well. This was living the value of love.

Love is not “soft” and “squishy” as a value word in an organization. In fact, it takes courage to declare it and have everyone quietly think you’ve gone a bit soft or strange. It’s about declaring it as a value and talking about how it can move the organization forward, what it means to you as the leader and consequently, what it means to your employees. Often times, being appreciated is as close as some employees get to feeling loved. And what happens when we feel loved? We are happier and are more productive. It’s not a soft or squishy values word, it produces results.

You won’t see this in large organizations because typically their focus is on shareholder value and love would be abandoned as “weird” or “unnecessary” or just plain crazy. In smaller organizations, however, it matters. It may not be stated, but it’s present. And what are millennials looking for in a workplace? Someplace where the work matters and where they matter – isn’t that love?

photo credit: Summer Love via photopin (license)