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Posted on Feb 12, 2016

How LOVE In Business Can Provide Competitive Advantage

How LOVE In Business Can Provide Competitive Advantage

While many people are talking about Valentine’s Day (or at least the marketers), it seems appropriate to talk about LOVE. But is there any place for love in the workplace?

Should leaders consider love as a differentiating value that can create competitive advantage?

5-employees-holding-puzzle-piecesA couple of years ago, Sigal Barsade and Olivia A. O’Neill completed a report on their longitudinal study of love, appropriately titled: What’s Love Got to Do With It?: The Influence of a Culture of Companionate Love in the Long-term Care Setting. Not surprising, the authors note that companionate love has received less attention than other emotions in the domain of organizational behavior.

So what exactly is companionate love, as found in the workplace?

Companionate Love

Barsade and O’Neill describe companionate love as:

  • Co-workers who collaborate well, side by side, all day long.
  • Staff freely expressing caring and affection towards one another.
  • Employees that safeguard each other’s feelings.
  • An individual showing tenderness and compassion to another when things don’t go well.
  • Supervisors who show genuine affection, care, compassion and tenderness towards their employees.

Now, if you’re thinking, “that’s an open door for sexual harassment lawsuits”, let’s be clear here. Such expressions of love cannot cross the line as to be confused with sexual advances or anything that could be misinterpreted as inappropriate sexual behavior. It’s also important to note that the majority of subjects in this study were predominately female, as is typical for care-related professions, including long-term care.

But there’s something important that every organization can learn from this study.

Love does not have to stop at the office door, nor do workplace relationships need to be thought of as shallow. It is clearly possible to have deeper relationships at work that can be labeled as “love”.

As a leader, if you want to foster love as a differentiating value, there are a few important factors to consider.

3 Factors About Love at Work

Like any other value, love cannot be forced. But it can be encouraged and the right kind of behavior recognized and rewarded.

Here are three factors you need to know if you want to encourage love in the workplace.

  1. Love is a Choice. People choose where they work, where they live, and even the person they want to be their partner in life (at least in the western culture). Employees can also choose whether or not they want to experience companionate love in the workplace.
  2. Love is a Commitment. An essential ingredient to create meaningful relationships is dedication and commitment. It’s true with marriages. It’s true with friendships. It’s true in the workplace. A deeper, meaningful love between co-workers is proven over time.
  3. Love is a Value. The word ‘love’ is used in so many different contexts that its meaning is often lost. The most common (and preferred) reference to love in the workplace is under the value of Respect.

This third point is worth expanding upon.

If love is too soft for your organization, then consider the value of Respect. Most people have no difficulty in embracing Respect as a core value. In fact, it’s one of the 17 Common Values found across most organizations.

Is there a difference between LOVE and RESPECT?

In many cases, if an employee feels respected they feel loved. But for some, respect isn’t enough. What they really need is love – the kind of companionate love described above.

The authors of this research highlight an important outcome of this love in an article published by the Harvard Business Review: Employees Who Feel Love Perform Better. I would also argue that when love is present in the workplace, it shows up in the interactions with customers.

And when customers feel loved, the business has identified a real competitive advantage!