Love at work. Yes, It’s OK.

LeeAnn Bailes Foster
February, 2020

What’s LOVE got to do with it? Everything, Tina Turner, everything! 

It’s February, the LOVE month. Let’s show more LOVE in the workplace. Yes, I am a 30+ year HR professional. No, I have not lost my mind. We need LOVE at work. Being and feeling loved has the potential to increase productivity and decrease turnover. As a fellow HR professional, inserting LOVE into your work atmosphere will make you look like a genius. Your monthly KPIs will be met and surpassed. 

Let’s cover our compliance matters first. Dating at work is very risky. Even when the relationship is new and both parties are happy, onlookers may not be so happy. The dating couple runs the risk of accusations regarding their time together at work (is it work or play?) and favoritism. 

As far as a supervisor dating a subordinate, do not go there. Since we spend at least one-third of our lives at work, there is a good chance a relationship will start to blossom. If this happens, please be professional and proactive in how the situation is dealt with.  Here are some tips:

  • Be open and honest with the management. 
  • Offer to sign a Love Contract – contact us for a template.
  • Ask to be transferred to another area or begin your search for employment elsewhere. 

So, if dating co-workers is risky and supervisors should never date subordinates, how could I even suggest more LOVE at work? I am not referring to passionate love. I am talking about companionate love. 

What’s the difference you ask? Love is love and it is unprofessional in the workplace. Please read further. You may just change your mind about that. 

Passionate love is defined as when two people first fall in love. They often have an intense passion for each other. They want to touch all the time, kiss all the time, and have very absorbing feelings. 

In the article Differences Between Compassionate and Passionate Love Kendra Cherry writes the following,

“Some of the key cognitive, emotional, and behavioral characteristics of passionate love include:

  • Intrusive thoughts about the partner. People often experience almost constant thoughts about the person they are in love with.
  • The idealization of the other person or the relationship. People in passionate love tend to believe that the object of their affections can do no wrong.
  • A strong desire to know and be known. People in passionate love want to know everything about their partner.
  • Strong emotions about the other person. People in this type of love feel good when things are going well but may be devastated when things go awry.
  • A need to maintain physical closeness. In addition to being strongly attracted to the other person, people in passionate love try to maintain close physical proximity.”

As stated earlier, when it begins to blossom, deal with the situation proactively and professionally. 

Companionate love is defined as a deep, mature, affectionate attachment between people who love each other, like each other, and respect each other.

This type of love involves caring deeply for the other person, truly knowing the other individual, and is committed to the other person through both good times and bad. Even when disagreements take place, people who share compassionate love remain in love and dedicated to one another.

Cherry’s article also states that some of the key cognitive, emotional, and behavioral characteristics of companionate love include:

  • “Long-Term Commitment: Companionate love is marked by a long-lasting and enduring commitment to each other.
  • Deep Intimacy: People who share compassionate love can share every aspect of themselves with each other. Mutual sharing of feelings and concerns is a hallmark of this form of love.
  • Trust: Compassionate love is marked by a deep trust in the other person.”

We know that being kind to others feels good, helps us heal, and even makes us appear more attractive. Now there’s evidence that acting with companionate love in the workplace can also have a profound effect on both the internal and external success of a business.

While the idea has previous been labeled “touchy-feely” and quickly discarded, creating an emotionally positive work culture can boast big benefits for both customers and employees, according to a new study from researchers at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the George Mason University School of Business. They found a clear, positive correlation between companionate behavior, work satisfaction and company success. Their results were recently published in the journal Administrative Science Quarterly.

In the study, researchers Sigal Barsade and Olivia O’Neill focused on exploring the idea of a companionate love culture, which they describe as the following in their report:

“To picture a strong culture of companionate love, first imagine a pair of co-workers collaborating side by side, each day expressing caring and affection towards one another, safeguarding each other’s feelings, showing tenderness and compassion when things don’t go well and supporting each other in work and non-work matters. Then expand this image to an entire network of dyadic and group interactions so that this type of caring, affection, tenderness and compassion occurs frequently within most of the dyads and groups throughout the entire social unit: a clear picture emerges of a culture of companionate love.”

Ten years ago, The Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Questionnaire was (and still is) a widely used tool to measure the engagement of employees. Question #10 asked, “Do you have a best friend at work?” The thought behind the answer ‘yes’ to this question was that if an employee felt companionate love at work, he would be less lately to voluntarily leave the organization.

So, what do you think now? An organization’s culture is their Operating System. During February, allow and encourage companionate love in your workplace. The workplace will be more successful, productive, and the bottom line will improve.

And lastly, Happy Valentine’s Day!