Are we afraid of using the word “love” at work?

Are we afraid of using the word “love” at work?

Corina Roobeck

As Valentine’s Day approaches this week, let’s talk about love at work.  Not the cringe-worthy or I-need-to-check-the -HR-manual kind. I’m talking the oxytocin performance enhancing type that increases empathy, collaboration, creativity, and connection--that I’m part of something meaningful and exciting kind of feeling.

Discussions in leadership these days increasingly focus on infusing the heart with the head. We know that so much of what is centred on the heart adds humanity to the workplace, but we shy away from using the word it’s ultimately about, which is love.

Love, for many, is not an easy word. It may have been misused and abused in your life. It was in mine. But I bet that if you checked in on your personal values right now, there is a version of love on that list. We have our own definitions of it and may call it by a different name, but the feelings evoked by it are unmistakable.

As an adult and in my leadership, infusing my actions with love has been one of my guiding values for the last 18 years. It may not always be easy to achieve, but it is the goal. I am grateful to love the work I do with the people I love, including my team and my clients.

The more we live our values and the more ‘in the zone’ our lives are, we bring our best, happiest selves to what we do and added meaning to what gets done. Today, smart human organisations know that the more their team members can express what they love to do with the people they feel closest to, the better the overall outcome.  As a friend of mine often used to say: “Love is the only strategy.”

Is it yours?

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As we consider the candies and cards that we’ll give to our loved ones for Valentine’s Day, we have an opportunity to examine the question of how to love the people on your team. How do we express love at work in ways that are healthy, caring, and nourishing to the employee, team, customer, and company? This year, consider how you can intentionally bring more love into your team and your workplace on this day and year round. It’s not too hard, I promise! Try these:

1. Start your team meetings with a check-in where everyone shares their answer to a specific question, such as:

  • What are three things I am grateful for in my life?

  • What do I love about our customers?

  • What do I love about this team?

2. Ask team members to bring something that represents love in their life and share it with the team. It can be a photo of a person or location, a favourite poem or quote, or a picture drawn by a child. This simple act of sharing will infuse the most meaningful elements of each person’s lives front and centre into the workplace.

3. Let love guide your actions in the workplace. A meaningful way to accomplish this is by giving people space, and not just in the physical sense. Here are some ideas:

  • Let the other person finish a sentence without being interrupted.

  • Pause when you ask questions like, How are you? How’s your day? The time you take after asking the question shows that you genuinely care about the answer.  

  • Be present to the person you are with regardless of who they are or what is going on.

  • Smile and let your face truly reflect and share your sense of happiness or gratitude.

After you’ve completed your Valentine’s Day challenge from the list above, observe what happens. How do you feel after intentionally infusing into your work? How does your team react? The very act of executing this challenge already introduces the kindness, warmth, and care needed to sustain, engage, and inspire your team, so kudos to you! Do you observe a continued impact when you go home and reflect on your day? I’d venture to say that you feel lighter, and perhaps more energised.

Working with the whole person is central to our work at The Zone and to achieving a healthy, human culture in the office. We can all do with more love and compassion in our lives and our world. Work with your team to find innovative ways to let love come into--and remain--in the workplace.

This Valentine’s Day, join me in the challenge. How will you let love into--and remain in-- your workplace?