What place, if-any does love have in the workplace?
As we celebrate, ignore or chastise Valentine’s day this coming week this has been heavy on my mind. Now, before you start yammering on about professional this-and-that please recognise we are in 2022 and I’m talking about the modern day workplace where we are encouraged to bring our “full selves” or at least an baseline amount of ourselves to create a sense of community and belonging with our peers.
For an organisation to function they have to respect the fact that love is what helps us individually to function.
What’s this got to do with Saint Valentine?
A very light-google brings a summary for the story of Saint Valentine “One Saint Valentine was supposedly a Roman priest who performed secret weddings against the wishes of the authorities in the third century. Imprisoned in the home of a noble, he healed his captor’s blind daughter, causing the whole household to convert to Christianity and sealing his fate.”
What immediately comes to mind are the originators of this love-in-the-workplace movement. The ones who had awkward conversations with HR and challenged then to put maternity, paternity, bereavement, miscarriage and loss policies in place. The managers who encouraged small-talk in meetings and enquired how everyone was before getting-down to business. The colleagues who turn to their desk-neighbour, give them a glance and say… you don’t look too good… you should go home, don’t worry we’ve got this put me on your out of office and rest-up.
This speaks of a kind of self-love your able to have when your employer sees you as a human and encourages you to take care of yourself accordingly.
- We celebrate newborns > Love.
- We celebrate engagements > Love
- We share condolences for loss > Love
- We welcome friends along to drinks > Love
- We invite plus-ones to the Christmas party > Love
- We get mental health days > Love
- We have wellness budgets > Love
- We have Learning and development budgets > Love
- We share pronouns on our zoom names > Love
To break this down further I refer to 4 of the different words for love found in Greek Culture that help us to recognise I’m not talking about kissing all your colleagues:
Philia (affectionate love)
Philia, or friendship. Plato felt that physical attraction was not a necessary part of love, hence the use of the word platonic to mean, “without physical attraction.”
This is the love I feel for my colleague who I affectionately describe as my work-wife. She gets-me and I get-her. Communication with a glance and conversations out of hours about non-work. I also have some entrepreneur friends in this category… I ask about their cat, we voice-note in 12min spurts and any IRL meet-up needs to be 3hrs+ (narrows the restaurant choices dramatically)
Agape (selfless, universal love)
The third is Agape, selfless universal love, such as the love for strangers, nature, or God. This love is unconditional, bigger than ourselves, a boundless compassion and an infinite empathy that you extended to everyone, whether they are family members or distant strangers.
This is the love I feel for everyone I meet and impact through my work, empathising-first and always open to help where I can.
Storge (familiar love)
Storge is a natural form of affection experienced between family members. This protective, kinship-based love is common between parents and their children, and children for their parents. Storge can also describe a sense of patriotism toward a country or allegiance to the same team.
This one is interreessttinngg.
I have evolved to be wary of this type of love in the workplace as it can be questionable and encourage self-sacrificing behaviour when your employer describes you all as a “family”. It can mean you overlook pink, red and crimson flags to being mis-treated or over-burdened with a company’s success. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ll wear the company hoodie on a weekend… I just won’t get it tattooed on my arm. Boundaries.
Philautia (self love)
The Greeks understood that in order to care for others, we must first learn to care for ourselves. As Aristotle said “All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself.”
This is taking your mental health day or recognising your actually sick and serve nobody by falling apart on your keyboard. This is what happens when I ask a colleague on a call “erm… isn’t it like 7am your-time right now? What time you finishing today?” (Yes, I’m looking at YOU simultaneous early-risers and late-finishers!…again. Boundaries)
So, my closing thought for you today is to have a look around your team, the team you created (entrepreneurs I see-you), the community you have within your industry and ask a few questions:
- Where do you see the love in-writing (policies and such)?
- Where do you see it lived-out?
- Where would you like to create space for more of it?
And for bonus-points… share some of your reflections in the comments below as I’d love to read them!