L-O-V-E in the Workplace

When my audience members, in the corporate world, see the slide appear in my presentation that contains those four little letters; L-O-V-E, I can feel (and see) the uneasiness in the air, the squirming in the seats.

When the subject of love in the workplace is raised, many people immediately think of love in the romantic context. Professor Olivia O.’Neill, of George Mason University, introduces a different perspective in her research titled, “Does Love Belong in the Workplace?” Here is O.’Neill’s description of what she calls “companionate love.”

“Companionate love takes place in the relationships that form the majority of our interactions. It involves affection, caring and compassion and has a much broader scope than romantic love—it can be experienced in the workplace, friendships and family relationships. In strong cultures of love, we observe that people care about one another’s well-being; they look out for one another and pick up the slack for one another. A culture of love is not just something that takes place between two people, rather something that is pervasive throughout the organization.”

Think about the work or team experiences that you have enjoyed the most. The environment was probably one that fostered a feeling of caring and was a place where people had your back. O’Neill says that a culture of love is not just for couples, but for companies. I am convinced that this kind of corporate culture creates a competitive advantage. It is also one of the most difficult cultures to build because it starts at the top. This type of culture starts with a leader who understands the importance of servant leadership and the idea that he or she is there to serve the interests of others, and of course, truly cares about others.

When members of an organization genuinely sense this feeling of service from their leadership, the behavior becomes pervasive. When a leader begins to show appreciation, listen to suggestions, and put his or her needs after the needs of the team, these behaviors become common practice. The team reflects the behavior of its leadership. What culture is your leadership creating? If you’re uncertain, ask people you trust. They will tell you.

I have a concept of nirvana in the workplace.  Love what you do, love who you do it with, and love who you do it for. Happy Valentine’s Day.


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