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Love and Affection in the Workplace

Humareso Blog Posts-7One of the most consequential relationships adults who work outside the home experience is the one they have with their employer and, by extension, their job.

Yet, in the realm of human experience, “love” is often associated with the relationships we have with romantic partners, friends, family, and higher-order beings while we often overlook its significance in the workplace. And love at work is significant; who among us hasn’t had an acquaintance exclaim “I just LOVE my job!” Expressions of affection towards one’s job are not uncommon, and the sentiment resonates with many…even if it may fade over time.

As employees we WANT to love our jobs; we want that spine-tingling “I just got an offer!” feeling to last for years and years.

What’s Love Got to Do with It

The ancient Greek philosophers identified 6 kinds of love:

  • Familial love (storge)
  • Friendly/platonic love (philia)
  • Romantic love (eros)
  • Self-love (philautia)
  • Guest love (xenia)
  • Unconditional/Divine love (agape)

Fully defining and clarifying the meaning of love, in its ancient manifestations or more current iterations, can be the subject of hours of debate. Not only are there historical evolutions of the essence of love, but there are also numerous cross-cultural considerations as well.

For purposes of today’s musings, however, let’s clarify that the concept of LOVE in the workplace is simply defined as the positive feelings one person experiences for another person (or entity in this case). It’s not courtly. Not familial. And not – please not - romantic.


All the Feelz

To be meaningful, workplace affection needs to be reciprocal. Similar to personal relationships, there’s nothing worse than unrequited love. If I "love my job!" (as stated above) then I sure as heck want to feel a bit of tenderness coming back towards me from my employer. 

Despite the conventional perception of work being solely transactional, the reality is that the emotional connections formed within the workplace can profoundly impact both the individual (by enhancing personal well-being) AND the organization. After all, employees that are cared for - “loved” - will do their best to meet goals, support each other, and drive success.

Now the company – and most critically the individual manager! – can foster love and affection in the workplace by first and foremost recognizing employees as people; living, breathing human beings who have emotional needs and opinions. People who are much more than an employee number tracked in a payroll system.

And just as they do with those near and dear at home, managers can demonstrate admiration, respect, and thoughtfulness towards their staff. It’s about listening and talking. It’s being empathetic. It’s creating a supportive environment where individuals feel safe to be themselves and express their vulnerabilities without fear of judgement.


Where is the Love?

As for the other partner in this relationship – the employee – there are, in fact, ways they can have agency in nurturing a healthy relationship with their employer. They certainly shouldn’t be expected to only GIVE without getting their needs met but must also take some actions to simultaneously promote good feelings and affection. Like any good partner, employees should:

  • Communicate; speak up and ask for what is needed.
  • Be a good listener; reserve judgment absent all the facts.
  • Disagree (respectfully) and express things that are bothersome.
  • Spend quality time together; nurture “human” connections with managers and co-workers.
  • Find ways to have fun … together.
  • Be prepared for change; relationships not only evolve but also have “ups and downs.”

So yes; the primary purpose of “work” it to get stuff done – achieve organizational goals, hit the numbers, meet the quarterly metrics (whatever). But it’s also important to nurture the emotional connections that flourish within the confines of “work.”

Enriching the human experience can create a fulfilling environment for everyone.

Love to all!

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