Do you want love in your work life? Is it a possibility? Would love in your work life put a spring in your step as you leave home each morning?
To be clear, this topic not about romantic relationships with colleagues at your work place. The love I’m proposing is wedding love for your work with loving affection for and from everyone you deal with in your workplace. If your answer to the initial question is “yes,” then read on.
I previously taught theatre courses at universities for over 20 years. I loved my subject. I loved watching students transform, sometimes from insecure, self-conscious, wary creatures, to confident, trusting and expressive performers. How did this happen?
In my approach to teaching, I made every effort to nurture students with care and affection, to create a safe and trusting space for them, to provide them with the best learning tools I could find to strengthen their capacities. I tried to understand each individual’s particular needs. I cared that every student would advance.
My door was always open to them outside of class. Sometimes a student would come to me with personal problems that ostensibly had nothing to do with their course work. I listened with empathy. I made sure that I was trustworthy in my responses and actions.
For example, I never asked anything of my students that I myself wasn’t willing to perform. I nudged them, sometimes gently, sometimes more strongly (depending on their nature), to move outside their comfort zone. This often resulted in break-through and exhilarating experiences for the student.
In other words, I loved my work and my students!
What Creates Safety?
The highest percentage of people who have been polled about which cultural attribute is most important to them in their workplaces list “safety.” By safety, they usually mean things like “feeling safe to express my self;” “safe to have a difference of opinion;” “safe to sometimes fail without negative repercussions.”
If we look for the root of what helps us feel safe, I think we can trace it back to receiving human affection and loving care. This is what causes us to stay with a marriage partner over time. It creates lasting bonds with our children, family members, and long-time friends. Why should this attribute be absent from our workplaces?
Have you ever asked yourself: “Do I stay in this job because I intrinsically like it, but have the urge to flee because its culture is unsafe and unloving?”
Think about yourself as a kid in school when you had a favourite teacher. Who was s/he? Why was s/he your favourite? Was s/he especially kind or affectionate? Encouraging? Generous with her time? Think of the way s/he managed her class of several children.
Now think about a person in your workplace with whom you do not feel safe, and imagine that this person is actually like the teacher who was your favourite. How does that change how you feel about that colleague? How differently might you react to him/her?
It may sound trite, but it’s been proven that one of the ways to receive love is to give it. It can start with your thoughts toward a difficult manager or colleague. Reflect on this statement:
When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content. Thoughts of love are constructive of brotherhood, peace, friendship and happiness.
A wonderful article by Sigal Barsade and Olivia A.O’Neill in the Harvard Business Review discusses a culture of love in the workplace. Here’s a snippet from their article (which is worth reading in its entirety):
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.
Love in the Business World?
I first encountered love as a conscious factor in the business world when I joined BERTEIG. Its founder, Mishkin, spoke often about the importance of expressing love in his training, consulting and coaching events. I found this fascinating, because my impression of big business was that of cool efficiency.
On the BERTEIG website, you can find this Vision Statement:
We co-create sustainable, high-performance organizations where continuous improvement is deeply embedded in the culture. We believe truthfulness is the foundation of improvement, and love is the strongest driver of change.
For the past five years, I have seen the benefits of that vision of love being a strong driver of change in the BERTEIG team. Despite being a very diverse group of people, we have a great deal of affection for each other. This affection enables us to grow, to continuously develop our capacities, to openly disagree with each other, and to offer our best. Clients who attend our training courses sometimes gush (yes, gush) about their trainer. Affection not only helps our own internal collaboration but our external as well. When we commit to a project/ job/ event, we follow through because we care.
One of the beautiful things about love is that it will radiate out to whomever we work with, and to whatever social spaces we participate in.
Now – You!
Do you want love in your work life? Do you believe love can be the strongest driver of change? If so, how can you action this in your own workplace?
Valerie Senyk is a Team Development Facilitator, Blogger & Writer. You can learn about her workshop Agile Team Development.
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