Love and the workplace is a combination with a bad reputation; the words “workplace romance” are enough to fill most HR executives with dread. Granted, a soured internal relationship can be a personnel management minefield and most HR departments will have their own horror-stories of mediating offices romances gone wrong. Romance is often felt to be an unprofessional distraction that has no place in a working environment – but should loved-up employees be feared by their bosses?
In an increasingly busy and demanding working world where the majority of our days are spent at our jobs, often our co-workers are our closest allies and it seems inevitable that strong relationships will be formed – be they platonic or romantic. We constantly promote team-building and a spirit of collaboration in our workforces, hoping that this will foster a professional bond and mutual understanding to drive the machinery of our organisations. It is therefore unsurprising that love and romance find their way into the workplace, whether that is in terms of companionate respect, an office relationship or discussion of private lives with colleagues.
A study by Harvard Business Journal entitled ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?: The Influence of a Culture of Companionate Love in the Long-term Care Setting’ (Sigal Barsade and Olivia A. O’Neill, 2014) involving largescale workplace surveys found that employees who feel love at work perform better. The more affection and understanding between co-workers, the better their health, productivity and motivation, and in turn client relationships were found to be more secure and profitable. The study authors encouraged managers to “…actively look for ways to create and reinforce close workplace relationships among employees” as part of a broader “emotional culture (that) can be based on love or other emotions, such as joy or pride.”
A happy-clappy environment of daily group hugs might not be for every business. But there can still be space for love in the workplace; rather than banning any mention of the L-word from the professional environment, perhaps organisations and employers need to be mindful of the changing work-life balance and take steps to manage these relationships in a mature and understanding way. Acknowledgement of the potential issues and developing thoughtful processes, as well as promoting a culture of communication rather than prohibition, will ensure that negative aspects of romance cannot encroach on day-to-day tasks in a dramatic way. When handled properly, the dreaded ‘L-Word’ and cultivation of an appropriate emotional culture can have a proven positive impact on a workplace, and on the morale of your workforce.
And in the spirit of a supportive, companionate ethos in the workplace – happy Valentine’s Day to all our beloved clients, colleagues and partners around the world!