Saturday, January 20, 2018
Business

Don't be afraid of love in the workplace

Mention love at the office and minds go to tawdry affairs, lines crossed and calls to human resources.

People see love as a squishy emotion, one that breeds conflict, a distraction. So it has largely been drummed out of the workplace.

That's a shame. Focus on the pitfalls of romantic love and you'll miss the importance of love's broader meaning: kindness, respect, empathy.

With that in mind, and in the words of famed workplace expert Celine Dion, let's talk about love.

Companies are undoubtedly trending toward more compassionate cultures, but there has been little recognition in professional or academic circles about how central love is to a truly caring work environment.

Sigal Barsade, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, and Olivia O'Neill, an assistant professor of management at George Mason University, have conducted a study that shows how "a culture of companionate love" is good for employees and clients.

The study defines companionate love as the sense of warmth, affection and the friendly connections that bind us. Barsade said she believes our inability to separate the idea of passionate love from companionate love is the reason love is so often overlooked in the workplace.

"Within the management domain, the word 'love' evokes this concept of this soft, fuzzy thing that you really can't take seriously at work," she said. "But companionate love is one of the basic emotions of human experience. Given how much time we spend at work, it's actually ignorant to think it wouldn't be a part of our work lives."

The longitudinal study, which will be published in an upcoming edition of the journal Administrative Science Quarterly, surveyed patients, their family members, and workers at a long-term health care facility. Employees who felt they worked in a "culture of companionate love" had less absenteeism, were better at teamwork, were more satisfied with their jobs and experienced lower levels of emotional exhaustion. In turn, the facility's clients and their families were happier with the service they received.

The researchers did a followup survey of 3,201 workers in seven industries, to show that the results weren't specific to the health care field. Barsade and O'Neill wrote in a recent post on the Harvard Business Review's website: "People who worked in a culture where they felt free to express affection, tenderness, caring and compassion for one another were more satisfied with their jobs, committed to the organization, and accountable for their performance."

This all seems rather sensible. So I asked Barsade: Why don't companies just do this anyway?

She said management literature from the early 1900s to the late 1930s does discuss "the concept of love and caring as part of work."

"But I think people's perspective on what kind of emotions mattered at work, if they mattered at all, narrowed in World War II as the focus became more, 'How do we keep people satisfied?' " Barsade said. "Emotion turned into satisfaction, and that changed the focus to wages and how the job is designed. Emotion somehow was either ignored or became illegitimate. We started thinking that people shouldn't have emotions at work, and if they do, they should be repressed."

The study cites two examples, one of a workplace with a strong culture of companionate love, the other without. In the first, an employee is quoted as saying: "We are a family. When you walk in the door, you can feel it. Everyone cares for each other regardless of whatever level you are in. We all watch out for each other."

In the second, a veteran employee of 30 years tells her supervisor that her mother-in-law has died, and the supervisor responds by bluntly saying: "I have staff that handles this. I don't want to deal with it."

That's a sizable difference, and it's easy to see which workplace is going to have more loyal and motivated workers.

So if your workplace lacks companionate love, how did you improve?

Barsade said some of it can be mandated: "For example, say you're a manager and you get copied on an email chain between two employees that's not civil. And you go to them and say: 'This is not acceptable here. We don't speak to each other that way.' I actually think we can be a lot more explicit about what our norms are, about how we interact with one another."

Of course, a change in culture has to not only be dictated by those in charge, it has to be demonstrated by them as well. Bosses can provide employees with flexibility, pay them well and show them they are trusted and valued. They can also — and here we get into my mantra again — behave like decent human beings.

"Management has to show it too," Barsade said. "Not just structurally, but through their own facial expressions, body language and behavior. People show love at work because they feel it. It becomes a normative expectation that this is how you behave here."

This doesn't mean we spend the day hugging and gently consoling people when they screw up. Rules and ethics can stand on equal footing with a culture of companionate love — we respect and care for each other, and we follow the rules of the company.

I can see some writing this off as too sappy for the hard-knock world of business. If that's what you think, consider how much better you function when you feel cared for and supported.

Then imagine if that sense of love didn't have to stay home when you leave for work each day.

Comments
Inspector General launches investigation into Tampa Bay’s local career centers

Inspector General launches investigation into Tampa Bay’s local career centers

The state has opened an investigation into CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay, days after the Tampa Bay Times asked about whether the two regional job centers were inflating the number of people they had helped get hired. The agencies, ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Tech firm TranferWise moves to Ybor City, illustrating a new chapter in Tampa’s business history

Tech firm TranferWise moves to Ybor City, illustrating a new chapter in Tampa’s business history

TAMPA — You could sketch an economic history of the city of Tampa — and maybe get a glimpse of its future — just by looking at the old J. Seidenberg & Co./Havana-American Cigar Factory.It opened in 1894, making it Ybor City’s second-oldest brick ciga...
Published: 01/19/18

Want to buy into an exchanged-traded bitcoin fund? You might have a long wait

NEW YORK — It may be a while, if ever, before investors can buy an exchange-traded fund made up of bitcoin and other digital currencies. Federal regulators have a long list of questions they want answered before they’ll approve a digital currency fun...
Published: 01/19/18
Child psychologist weighs in on mom who charges 5-year-old ‘rent’

Child psychologist weighs in on mom who charges 5-year-old ‘rent’

A Georgia mother has gone viral for charging her 5-year-old "rent." Yup — the kid pays up for food, water, cable and electric, too.Essense Evans described in a Facebook post how she handles her daughter’s allowance. The post, written on Saturday, was...
Published: 01/19/18

Addicted to your smartphone? Now there’s an app for that

Did you text? Sorry, I can’t see messages right now. Arianna Huffington locked my phone.The media tycoon turned wellness entrepreneur wants to keep you out of your phone, too, with a new app called Thrive. Its goal is to make it cool for a generation...
Published: 01/19/18
Proposed monument near St. Pete pier would honor Tony Jannus history-making flight

Proposed monument near St. Pete pier would honor Tony Jannus history-making flight

ST. PETERSBURG — Tony Jannus’s history-making flight in an early seaplane — simultaneously as ungainly and graceful as a pelican on the wing — is what Mayor Rick Kriseman calls an "under-told and under-appreciated" story, but a team of local history ...
Published: 01/19/18
Learn how bus rapid transit (and rail) could work in Tampa Bay

Learn how bus rapid transit (and rail) could work in Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — The newest hope for transportation in the Tampa Bay area is a bus rapid transit system projected to cover the 41-miles separating St. Petersburg from Wesley Chapel and attract 4,500 new riders at a fraction of the cost of light rail....
Published: 01/19/18
Five things Tampa Bay needs to know about bus rapid transit

Five things Tampa Bay needs to know about bus rapid transit

ST. PETERSBURG — Transportation planners on Friday unveiled a new transit vision for Tampa Bay leaders on Friday morning: Bus rapid transit.Also known as BRT, it has arisen as the leading option in an ongoing study to find the best regional transit p...
Published: 01/19/18
Amazon boosts monthly Prime membership fees by 20 percent

Amazon boosts monthly Prime membership fees by 20 percent

NEW YORK — Amazon is raising the price of its Prime membership monthly plan by nearly 20 percent. The fee of $99 for an annual membership will not change, the company said Friday. The online retailer had added the monthly payment option about two yea...
Published: 01/19/18
Cuba’s tourism is booming despite Trump’s tougher policy

Cuba’s tourism is booming despite Trump’s tougher policy

HAVANA — On a sweltering early summer afternoon in Miami’s Little Havana, President Donald Trump told a cheering Cuban-American crowd that he was rolling back some of Barack Obama’s opening to Cuba in order to starve the island’s military-run economy...
Published: 01/19/18