Talking about love at work is a surprisingly daunting prospect. Whether that is by default or design, it seems the word love is seldom, if ever, used in a commercial or business context. It is, however, something that needs to change.
The words of the old song, “Love Makes the World Go Round” may be more metaphor than fact, but they nonetheless point to a fundamental truth: love is a substantial power. The energy of love is seen as a motivating force in nearly all philosophical and religious thinking. And, no matter how it gets distorted, its role in driving human behaviour also makes it a significant scientific subject, integral to shaping organisation design and development. Thus we definitely need to talk more about love in a work context.
Fortunately, that seems to be happening. Recently I have come across a number of examples, but possibly the most significant is Duncan Coombe’s “Can You Really Power an Organization with Love?” - in the prestigious Harvard Business Review, no less. He cites Sigmund Freud’s statement “love and work … work and love, that’s all there is” to rebut the idea that this universal good is inappropriate in the workplace. More significantly, he goes on to say that “love isn’t as absent from the workplace as one might think.”
You may accept that more readily if you think of love as being a power like gravity. Each and every one of us is affected by gravity and its effects are the same for everyone. So with love, which inevitably and universally, determines how we behave. Even in the workplace. And even when we don’t talk about it.
Coombe – perhaps most exciting of all – describes love as being like an operating system, supporting “the ‘apps’ of strategy, finance, etc.”, adding that, “When you have a great operating system, the apps work better, independently, and in relation to each other.” Clearly you will want to optimise your operating system. And, the likelihood is that, even if not consciously, you are endeavouring to do so.
If you doubt that, you only have to think about all your efforts to create employee engagement. After all, at its most fundamental, employee engagement boils down to getting your employees to love their work more. Understanding this will help you refocus your efforts and ensure that they bear greater fruit.
How? By recognizing that it is about more than just a person’s job. Employee engagement inherently aims to build a ‘love for work.’ This, by definition, creates a bias towards a focus on the individual role. But getting someone to ‘love their job’ is not the same thing as getting someone to ‘love their work.’
While the latter certainly incorporates the former, it goes so much further. Work is a more macro-perspective and deals with all the inter-relationships. It incorporates the whole enchilada of the organisation; its purpose, how it goes about fulfilling that purpose and how it creates an environment in which every individual employee is able to personally develop, grow and strive to fulfil their own personal potential while contributing to the optimization of the organisation.
Ultimately you could say it boils down to the authenticity of your employer brand that I described last week. Unless every individual is able to be authentic and integrate their hopes, wants and needs with those of the organisation – unless your people are able to love what they are doing and the environment in which they are doing it – you will never create an authentic organisation that operates at its fullest potential.
It doesn’t matter what words you use to describe it. But remember Kahlil Gibran’s words, “Work is love made visible.” In the end it is all about love. If you love your organisation, you have to love the people who work in it, and vice versa. That means recognising that ‘Every Individual Matters.’
If you like what you have read contact me today for a free 30 minute conversation about how my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model can provide the catalyst to help you create an organisational culture of ‘Love at Work’ : one where everyone cares and the business becomes our business, so embracing change and transforming – and sustaining – organisational performance.
Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, and the creator of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ organisational culture model that helps transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement” and, more recently, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped.