The talk at the coffee station or in the lunchroom doesn’t often center on the words or feelings called “love,” but love is the invisible hand in business operations and success. In their Harvard Business Review article “Employees Who Feel Love Perform Better,” Sigal Barsade and Oliia O’Neill differentiate between compassionate love and passion, saying the former has a huge influence on performance and satisfaction. Building an emotional culture is not often the focus of management, but it’s smart business. Barsade and O’Neill’s studies found that employees who felt loved and able to express love and caring at work are more accountable, more committed, and more satisfied with their jobs.
Expressions of Love and Caring at Work
Various research from The Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism shows compassion is the key to expressing workplace love and caring. In their longitudinal study, “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”, Barsade and O’Neill find showing compassion to colleagues makes them feel loved and builds a company’s emotional culture. Expressing compassionate affection includes such things as lending a sympathetic ear, writing a kind note, pitching in when someone needs help and flashing a warm, sincere smile as some of the small moments that make people feel loved and cared about by their co-workers and managers.
Love is the Next Step
In “The Happy Manifesto: Making Your Organization a Great Workplace,” Henry Stewart mentions Gallup’s research identifying core elements of employee engagement and improving performance that include having a manager who cares about you at work. He revisits Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, reminding us that belonging and safety, two feelings supported and improved by feeling loved and cared about, are needs that precede self-esteem and self-actualization. As people learn more, take more calculated risks, and work harder when they feel loved and secure. Stewart says that once basic needs for salary and tools to do the job are met, the next step is a culture of love and security so people are motivated and enabled to be more productive.
Workplace Mistakes and Love
Henry Stewart tells the story of a trainer who felt bad about not preparing well for one of his first courses that ended in disaster. He got a hug and some commiseration from a co-worker, who told him it was “one to celebrate.” When you approach mistakes at work with compassion and understanding rather that rules and penalties, people are freed up to learn and grow, and are motivated to do better and work harder. Stewart is careful to explain the difference between loving the mistake-makers and tolerating poor work or under-performers. When a mistake is acknowledged and responsibility is accepted, people can learn and grow from it. An encouraging reaction to mistakes rather than a punitive one makes people feel supported, reduces stress, and enables better work to follow.
Whether you’re building a culture of recognition or just encouraging a paradigm shift from a disgruntled workforce to practicing employee appreciation, remember that your employees just want to be loved. Show, support and recognize acts of compassion and you’ll create happy, loyal and hard-working employees. Now that’s good for your business.
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