“What is the difference between like and love?”, the novice asked the Master. The Master replied: “If you like a flower you pick it. If you love a flower, you water and care for it daily.”
Love is a broad concept and has many interpretations. The ancient Greeks had six different words to describe love. There was Eros, or sexual passionate love. Philia meaning deep friendship with another person. Ludus describes the playful affection between young people. Agape love was the willing or wishing of good on all mankind. Pragma is the longstanding love that mature couples develop over time through commitment and compromise. Philautia describes self-love and can take a positive form, self-esteem, or a negative form, narcissism.
Yep, we are pretty complex creatures and human emotions are many and varied, and the words for love tend to describe our various human relationships. Love, however, is not usually a word used in business, yet since we spend a significant amount of time at work (something like 50% or more of our waking day), maybe we should look at our relationship with work and the concept of love.
Employee engagement is a much talked about and studied concept in business today, basically referring to the amount of discretionary effort a person puts into their job or work. And there are many studies correlating high employee engagement with high business performance, such as strong earnings growth, innovation, change agility, and a high performance culture.
Employee engagement is more than just earning a paycheck and doing what is prescribed in your job description. Engagement refers to the additional and voluntary emotional, physical and mental effort a person puts into their workplace efforts. The key word here is voluntary.
And why do people voluntarily give more than they are paid for? Human psychology tells us that much of our voluntary behaviour is driven by either avoiding pain or gaining a positive benefit. Let’s hope the world of work is more about benefit than pain!
But beyond a paycheck, what positive benefits do we get from work? And what would cause an employee to give additional, voluntary effort?
And here is where love comes into the workplace. As I see it, there are three types of love that drive employee engagement:
- I love the work I do. When work is intellectually stimulating, when you learn and grow as a person becasue of the work, when you learn something new about yourself and the world, then it is easy to give voluntary effort, to even think about it when you are not at work, to come up with new ideas to enhance your work.
- I love the people I work with. When you are surrounded by people who bring out the best in you, who support and challenge you, who help and coach you, who help you improve as an employee and a person, then voluntary engagement is easy.
- I love this company. In an organization where managers and senior leaders work hard to remove barriers to work, reduce bureaucracy, provide tools to make work easier and faster, where ideas are listened to with respect and thoughtfulness, where there exists a higher purpose than just profit or revenue, where products and services are of high quality, where the customer is at the heart of the business, where goals are challenging instead of punitive, where there are ample opportunities for self development and advancement, then it is easy to foster high employee engagement.
My challenge to business leaders: If you want greater employee engagement, bring more “love” into the workplace.
Written and Posted by: John R. Childress
Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid
John also writes thriller novels!