Valentine’s Day — the day when romantic lovers spend time with the
people that make them the happiest. In short, Valentine’s Day is a time
to celebrate important romantic relationships. The relationships we hold
in our lives can bring us sublime happiness, extreme
unhappiness or something in between.
Unfortunately, our work relationships are often a source of unhappiness. Recent
data on unhappiness at work reports people are unhappy for 30% of
the time they are at work. This number rises to 40% when they spend
time with their boss. Time spent with co-workers isn’t pleasant either
with 28% of the time spent with them reported as unhappy.
Compare that to only 13% of time spent with friends and 15% with
family and there’s a problem, especially considering how much time we
spend at work each day. On an average 8-hour day, almost 2 ½ hours is
spent unhappy. Some of that can’t be helped – we can’t always pick our
bosses and co-workers, but it’s not a good way to live life.
While the office isn’t usually the right place to express romantic love,
in order to build better teams, it is good to recognize that people thrive in a
positive atmosphere. To understand this, the concept of love is a good
place to start.
At the heart of love is the idea of reciprocity – not only the shared
experience but also the way that experiences build on each other.
Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson calls this “positivity resonance” –
a virtuous cycle where behaviours build upon each other in a positive
way. You like being around your significant other because they make you
smile, laugh, or happy. You enter a relationship because you had an
excellent first, second or third date. In short, positive experiences
lead to us trusting the other person and they, in return, trust us.
When we’re seeking to build great teams at work, then this cycle of
positive experience building upon subsequent positive experience is
critical. People like to work with others that they enjoy being around,
and they will like being around them if there are shared positive
experiences. It follows closely the idea of "psychological
safety" at work – the idea that a team can be a safe space to speak
and make mistakes.
In many ways, love includes elements of the whole range of positive
emotions. From the quieter emotions like contentment, peacefulness and
serenity to the energetic feelings of joy, enthusiasm, wonder and awe,
positive emotions motivate and energize us to behave in specific ways.
One of the critical differences that neuroscientists identify between
emotion and cognition is that emotion is always connected with bodily
experiences, not just brain function. They ready us to act in the world.
In the workplace, the action is getting work done. How we motivate
ourselves and our teams to perform is tied to emotions, and happy
emotions lead us to do high quality work.
Emotions are a crucial part of our evolutionary history – they have
helped us to survive and thrive through the millennia. They are highly
functional and responsive, enabling us to navigate changes in our
environment. Emotions such as fear and anger are often referred to as
negative emotions as they help us deal with threats and are related to
our fight and flight mechanism – an essential part of our drive to
survive. Whereas positive emotions help us thrive by creating and
seizing opportunities. For example, enthusiasm is a mobilizing energy
that we can use to seize an opportunity. Curiosity is about exploring so
we can broaden our opportunities, and our understanding of the world.
Interest is about focus, helping us to understand more about our
Love in the Workplace
Love is often considered the supreme human emotion, the pinnacle of
human experience. While romantic love is what Valentine’s Day
celebrates, there are two aspects of love that psychologists identify
and are particularly relevant to the workplace: nurturant
love and affiliative love.
Nurturant love is supportive and challenging. It’s essential for growth.
The most common example of this is the love a parent may feel for a
child. In the workplace, it might look like mentoring a new employee.
Affiliative love is appreciative, caring and interested – the type of
love you need to build bonds with friends. In the workplace it helps us
connect to our colleagues. It can be a kind word, a note of appreciation
Both of these kinds of love are essential to building relationships with
other people, and especially within our teams.
How to Bring Love to the Team
So, how do you apply love and positive emotions to the workplace? Here
are some ideas of things you can do.
Take a Genuine Interest
The first step in building a relationship is to be interested in who
they are, what they say and what they are interested in. This rule
applies to all relationships, regardless of their nature.
Relationships are normally built on common ground first, and that means
relating to your team members. When team members talk about their
personal life, or their significant other, show interest. For most
people, life outside of work is the most fulfilling part of their lives.
Relating to someone on the things that bring them the most joy, not only
removes the barrier between a leader and a team member but also builds a
Taking interest encourages others to open up and trust. Building on that
idea of reciprocity, sharing your own interests is a way to encourage
your team to trust you as well. In this way, both parties become more
human, and more relatable.
Build a Place of Safety
At Friday, we talk extensively about employee voice and developing an open
relationship between employers and employees. That’s because it is
critical in creating an environment of trust. Honesty about work
expectations, listening to concerns, and taking steps to make the work
experience better are effective ways of building trust.
But that environment doesn’t always have to be serious. Trust is built
in many ways. Sometimes it’s a shared joke or a good laugh at a funny
YouTube video. Laughter, amusement, enjoyment are potent emotions in
building friendships and are an essential part of a team relationship.
It’s perfectly fine to take a little time-out, because these periods can
strengthen the bond of the team and increase productivity in the long
We believe that leaders need to be able to facilitate their teams in an
emotionally agile way. While teams need to be grounded and focused, the
work environment can also be a positive, supportive one. Building a
strong team is about reciprocity, the giving and taking that is
associated with the concept of love, and the agility to move between the
full range of emotions.