Marie-Josée (MJ) Salvas Shaar, MAPP '07, CPT, has studied, tested, coached, and taught smart health habits for over 13 years. Combining positive psychology with fitness and nutrition, she created a coaching method that builds better sleep, food, mood, and exercise habits, as described in her book, Smarts and Stamina: The Busy Person's Guide to Optimal Health and Performance, which includes 50 practical health-building activities. Today MJ gives keynotes for corporate wellness programs and offers continuing education for wellness professionals, who can license her Smarts and Stamina Online program. Full bio. MJ's articles are here.
So why is it that we are so fearful to talk about love at the office? As if, when we conjugate the verb between gray walls and busy cubicles, love is suddenly something inappropriate, counter-productive, even foolish.
Let’s explore love at the office as a good thing for a minute, and before you lift your brow, no, I’m not talking about having a love affair at the office. I am rather suggesting that those who experience care and companionship in their work environment have a sustainable, competitive advantage over those who don’t. (See Using the “L” Word in Business).
Here are four reasons that caring at work could lead to a competitive advantage:
1) Love inspires devotion. For workers to fully commit and devote themselves to the company they work for, they have to love it. Since people get attached to organizations through human bonds, “affective bonds go a long way to secure employee satisfaction and efficiency,” explain Isaac and Ora Prilleltensky (2006) from University of Miami. Employees who are recognized at work report more loyalty and commitment to their organizations than those whose contributions go unnoticed.
2) Good relationships enhance win-win scenarios. Barbara Fredrickson (2005) demonstrated that positive emotions are fertile ground for learning and problem-solving. Laura King and colleagues (2006) also found in a series of studies that positive emotions experienced in a day are a strong and consistent predictor of meaning experienced that day. Martin Seligman (2002) argues that meaning increases resilience and facilitates win-win situations. Good relationships at work, therefore, can enhance both problem-solving and win-win solutions, two strategies that can certainly benefit the workplace.
3) Supportive work environments are a source of productivity. Feeling valued and supported helps individuals cope with stress, which is abundant in the workplace. People who have effective coping abilities also miss fewer days of work. There seem to be a relationship between caring co-workers, lower absenteeism, and higher productivity. In their research, Drs. Prilleltensky show that supportive environments are strong predictors of worker well-being, which in turn correlates with higher productivity. (For more info on this, please see my previous article Measuring What Matters.)
4) Friendship at work can boost organizational performance.
Gallup interviewed over 10 million employees and found that those who agree with the statement “My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person” are more productive, contribute to higher profits, and are significantly more likely to stay with the organization long-term. Those who report having not only a friend, but a best friend at work, are 7 times as likely to be fully engaged on the job as those who don’t. In addition to experiencing higher personal engagement, they also foster heightened customer engagement with the brand they represent.
For those of you who are tough-minded devil’s advocates, I’d like to clarify an important point. Friendliness isn’t goofiness, nor is it complacency. We can be focused, thoughtful and friendly at the same time. The opposite of friendliness, on the other hand – behaviors that are cold, shallow, intolerant – leads to distancing, defensiveness, and cognitive dissonance. This type of climate undermines a person’s ability to think outside of the box and motivation to contribute. It can lead to active disengagement, burnout, and even sabotage.
Lee Colan, PhD and author of Passionate Performance, said it right: “When people go to work, they don’t leave their hearts at home.” Most will agree that love is one of the most powerful human motivations. Why not use it productively in the context that occupies most of our waking hours?
Looking forward to reading your thoughts!
Colan, L.J. (2004). Passionate Performance. Dallas, TX: CornerStone Leadership Institute.
Fredrickson, B.L. & Losada, M.F. (2005). Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. American Psychologist, 60(7), 678-686.
King, L. A., Hicks, J. A., Krull, J. L., & Del Gaiso, A. K. (2006). Positive affect and the experience of meaning in life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(1), 179-196.
Prilleltensky, I. & Prilleltensky, O. (2006). Promoting Well-Being: Linking Personal, Organizational, and Community Change. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Rath, T. & Conchie, B. (2009). Strengths-Based Leadership. New York: Gallup Press.
Sagiv, L. Roccas, S. & Hazan, O. (2004). Value pathways to well-being: healthy values, valued goal attainment, and environmental congruence. In Linley, P. A. & Joseph, S. (Eds.). Positive Psychology in Practice. (pp. 68-85). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Seligman, Martin (2004), Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free Press.
Heart and Work Colleagues are images whose rights were acquired by Marie-Josée Salvas for this article’s one-time use.