We Need Love In The Workplace
Four continents, 10 companies and 20 years of corporate experience later, I'd like to share some of my observations of corporate behavior - things I saw in both large and small organizations. For instance, the amount of people arguing their way throughout the day and having to prove they are always right. How about managers instilling fear and demonstrating strange behaviors that they believe will 'drive' employee motivation, such as yelling at employees in front of others. I witnessed employees being blamed and shamed publicly for trivial mistakes that surely were forgivable. I saw great colleagues being fired from people with power because they were smarter than their bosses. Yes, I saw them all (and much more). What I am so perplexed at is do they really understand how much damage they are doing to their company? How can these hideous behaviors drive employees to do their best work? It's no wonder why we have a global HR crisis on employee engagement on our hands. The good news is that more companies are turning to science-backed approaches such as happiness to drive employment engagement. I’d like to add the change to talk about love in the workplace.
Connecting People : Power of Words
In the early 2000s, Nokia had a great motto: Connecting People. When I worked there, I quickly understood that a company's motto is a powerful tool for creation, and not just
technologically-speaking! What I mean is, there were so many married couples working there (it was also the place I met my spouse)! Now, I can't prove if you create a company motto that might include the word "love" in it will actually create the environment you desire (though I am a strong believer that words have energy), but I for one, would like to go to the office every morning thinking I can hug my brothers and sisters when I get there and not just say hi to "co-workers", or worse still, sit-down without hardly saying a word all day. Yet, in many workplaces, this is exactly what I saw: go to work, sit down, eat lunch at your desk, go home. It is fortunate that we remember we need to go to the restroom at times (or is there an app to remind us??), otherwise we'd have other issues to deal with! In those environments, the days felt so long. And this behavior has a way of rubbing-off on other people, to the extent that it basically becomes 'normal' workplace behavior. Workplace loneliness seems to be a growing global problem, too. One of the worst feelings you can have is going to work every day and feeling isolated.
LOVE IS AN ANSWER!
What we need in the workplace now is love. We need people to reconnect to each other, put down cell-phones, to talk to each other more and email/message less. And not just about work - ask them about their families, their hobbies, their children's names, what they do on the weekend, do they want to get together sometimes, learn something from them about culture, language. These are people like you that sit next to us all day and sometimes we never say a word to them!? We breathe the same air, we hear each other's conversations or tapping on the keyboard, we hear them sigh, yet even though they sit right next to us, we seem to prefer to email them than to tap them on the shoulder. Why? Don't you want to know who these people are? Don't your care? Sure you might know their name from so and so department. What about who they really are?
is Our fear driving our loneliness?
When you go and get a coffee from the common area, does anyone say hello any more? I know what some people are thinking: I don't know them so I don't talk to them. So what if you've never seen them before! Say hi and introduce yourself. If there's no-one there, go and find someone to greet. One person told me she learned all the names of the janitors within a few days as a way to help their confidence in learning another language. There are lots of things you can do.
Did you know that 25% of Americans have no meaningful social support at all - not a single person they can confide in? In Japan, there has been a growing phenomena where many single people, after they retire, they become virtual shut-ins. There are no greetings (aisatsu shinai), no friends (tomodachi inai), no contact with others (renraku shinai). These are people who gave their all to a company, only to be left standing alone. People dying in their apartments and homes without anyone even knowing it for days or weeks until someone notices the smell. The average time between death and discovery of the body for men in 2006 was 12 days, for women 6.5 days. Can you imagine those final days, weeks, months of a person's life? How would you feel in those final moments?
"I'm gonna knock on your door!"
Imagine how different would it have been for those people if you had knocked on their door and given them a flower once in a while? Or yelled across the balcony and said, hey neighbor, Mr. so and so, it's nice day today do you want to come over for coffee or tea? Imagine what a smile you would have brought to their face when you shook their hand or looked them in the eye and told them good morning. I am certain these simple interactions would have made a lonely person very happy to know that at least one person could remember them - remember they are there and enjoy even a quick chat from time to time.
Now is also a wonderful time to pick-up a phone and call those people.... you know, the ones who changed your diapers, helped you with your homework, or cooked a nice warm meal for you on a wintery day? Do it today! Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today - they may not be there tomorrow. You may not be there tomorrow. How much time in your day does it take to make someone else's day brighter?
We need to be a bit crazy
I sometimes wonder about how society defines craziness. There are a few definitions of 'crazy'. The one I like the most is this one:
"Extremely Enthusiastic. Passionate. Excited".
I believe we need to have the courage to be this type of crazy more than ever before to reverse the isolation trend that we are seeing more and more at work and drive human connection; to create extensions of our family at work; to smile and laugh more; to see beyond labels that are stamped everywhere we look; to put job titles aside and create a culture of helping one another. I'll even say, hug each other and yes, I have experienced this magic in those 20 years - it's amazing when you share a personal story with someone how connected you become - especially after a long hug. You remember it forever! That's the love you can create from human connection. That’s the magic well all have and need to survive! That’s the power of creating together.
So if this seems not possible to do, then just even for a moment, imagine sitting at your desk, putting down that cell phone for a few minutes; turning-off email; just human to human, people sitting next to people, share a story - happy or sad with someone at work, hug and connect. Wouldn't it be a wonderful place to go to every day and not have to wait until Friday nights over a drink? Wouldn’t it be a great feeling on the way to work to know you have people who care about you and can look out for you in times of need? Who trust you to look after them?
Thank you for reading! This is an excerpt from an upcoming book and is also part of my keynote - "Which way did you go to work this morning?". Please let me know if you'd like me to deliver a keynote to your organization and by the way, a word of warning in advance, expect a hug from me if you do!