Is Love in the Workplace the New Norm?

(3BL Media and Just Means)- When’s the last time you told your co-worker you cared about them? Or that you appreciated their approach? Have you ever told a colleague you loved them? Does that idea make you feel awkward, unprofessional and uncomfortable? That’s because for most of us, love and work are separate because our personal and professional lives are separate.  But Jodi Clark,  presenter at the Gross National Happiness Conference at the University of Vermont and student in Marlboro College’s Masters in Managing Mission-Driven Organizations, says that bringing love to the workplace is the new norm. And a powerful way to fuel our work.

“In the workplace, love can exist with those who are willing to lay aside ego, let down their guard down and explore their struggles together.  With extra wisdom and trust brought to a particular problem, they may also discover that a powerful resource for fueling their work is their love and care for each other,” explains Clark.

So where is the workplace love? And what does it look like in everyday practice?  Clark recently presented this question at the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Conference with several other mission-minded professionals including ‘happiness investment’ consultant, Brian Kaminer, activist, Kathryn Bloom and Miranda Ravicz, a neurobiology student at Harvard. Clark shared her thoughts on how to revitalize the mission-driven workforce through care and love. Her presentation was entitled “We say I Love You All the Time in the Office, Is That Normal?: Redefining Workplace Norms.”  Since the GNH Conference, Clark has given this presentation to multiple organizations including the United Way.

The inspiration for the Clark’s take on love in the workplace came from a Twitter post from ‘DoSomething.org’.  Clark was struck by the honesty and the bold use of the word love.  “My first reaction to this question was, ‘No, that is not normal.’ And then I thought, well ‘why not? What would it look like if love was the norm for every organization?”

Clark identified a variety of actions which individuals and workplaces can take to increase the amount of love and care they generate:

Love is Commitment

Clark describes shared passion, shared engagement, and shared enthusiasm for work a way to express love in the workplace. She poses these questions to her workshop attendees: “What brought you to your work in the first place?  What do you still love about it?  Share that with your colleagues!  A community can be reignited when we remember our shared commitment,” explains Clark.

Love is Authenticity

Taking time to connect on a human level can foster care for one another. We have to remember that we are more than our professions, more than “mission-driven robots,” Clark describes. 

“How are your kids doing in school?  Tell us about the choir you sing in or about your new pet.   When we share those personal things with our colleagues, we become human,” challenges Clark.

Love is Accountability.

Businesses are held accountable by shareholders, boards, auditors, investors- the list could go on and on. But, Clark is referring to an internal form of accountability, where colleagues  acknowledge conflict or issues and together, work out solutions.

“We need to hold ourselves and our colleagues accountable with compassion.   If we know something is wrong, we need to act on it and hold each other to that action with support.  For example, if staff meetings always go over their allotted time say something to your co-worker like: “Thank you so much for facilitating these meetings week after week. I really appreciate the time you give. I also have a request about the agenda and how we move through it,” says Clark.

Love it Balance & Retreat

Clark addresses the burnout and overworking of mission-driven professionals. She explains that in order to have something to offer one another the next week, we have to stop working 70-hour workweeks and checking emails on the weekend.

“We need to constantly take five minute breaks and build in all-staff, day-long retreats. We need time together as colleagues to reflect and be together. If we can break together in nature or through physical activity, even better,” says Clark.

Love is Partnership & Collaboration

According to Clark, partnership is about collaborating cross-organizationally on the macro level, but also on the personal level. She encourages organizations to allow their employees to find their “dynamic duo”-- another colleague who fosters creative energy and innovation--even if this person is from another organization.

“What are the types of projects that could be done collaboratively in your community?  Who could have a role to play to make the workload lighter?  Could you form a learning community with other partner organizations about shared goals? And, who fosters your creative learning?” asks Clark.

Along with Lori Hanou, Founder of the Global Round Table Leadership, several Benefit Corporation entrepreneurs, and educators from Marlboro College, Clark is leading a ‘learning community.’ A learning community, explains Clark, is a group of values-aligned professionals who come together to learn about and practice ‘love in the workplace.’

“In our learning community at Marlboro College we address the following questions: What do we most value about learning together?  What do those learning spaces look and feel like?  What are the essential skills and tools that conveners of those learning environments need? What does it look like when we show up in those spaces authentically?...It was a bit of magical synergy to discover that so many professionals, across sectors, wanted to come together to learn best practices from one another and talk about what it means to redefine workplace norms,” says Clark.

What the workplace needs now is love, accountable, committed, balanced and collaborative love. Maybe a little sweet too.

Read about the Gross National Happiness Conference, Learning Communities and Clark’s take on We say I Love You All the Time in the Office, Is That Normal?: Redefining Workplace Norms”

Credit: Thanks to Jodi Clark for her contribution in the writing of this article.