The power of love in the workplace


Love at work

Science tells us that how we feel profoundly affects how well we work so how can we show a little more ‘love’ in the workplace – as leaders and colleagues?

In December 2012 Forbes published the results of yet another study exploring the key drivers of employee engagement, concluding that the quality of an employee’s relationship with their immediate supervisor or manager is the number one driver of employee engagement – FACT!

With February often labeled as the ‘month of love’, there’s no better time to reflect on the power of love and relationships at work. Just to clarify, I’m not talking about the type of love at work that’s usually found under gross misconduct in the HR handbooks! 

“Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness.”
Sigmund Freud

I recently stumbled across the Love at Work Foundation and the insights of Nigel Cutts, whose main goal is to ‘put love at the heart of business’. The underlying principle is that when we bring love into the world of leadership, great things happen. Businesses see their people (and profits) perform best when employees are genuinely loved and respected.

“Let’s start to put love at the top of the list of required expertise for our leaders of tomorrow.”
– Nigel Cutts, founder of the Love at Work Foundation 

We have enough data available now to validate that employee engagement really does influence and drive business performance. We also know that people are emotional first and rational second so if we want to get the very best from our people, we need to combine strong emotional connections with a desire to change, develop or grow. It’s a sure-fire way to ensure employees make a positive choice to change behaviour or take on new skills and ideas. 

So, how can you ‘give a little love’ as a leader so that your people feel genuinely valued, respected and loved? The Love at Work Foundation has a few valuable tips that I’d ‘love’ to share.

Self-Knowledge – Have an accurate self-image 

Self-awareness is a powerful attribute and tool for the successful 21st Century leader. Knowing what drives and affects your own behaviour enables you to be authentic and influence others in a more collaborative, respectful and engaging way. Invest time in your own personal development and take time to reflect – the heightened awareness of your own behaviour will make you more empathetic and aware of the factors driving your employee behaviours. 

Heart – See everything from the other person’s point of view. Treat them as you would wish to be treated 

“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
– John C. Maxwell

I call this ‘integrity’. Have the courage to foster an environment of openness and honesty; show that it’s ok to share your feelings at work no matter what they are. This will avoid people suppressing those counterproductive or performance limiting feelings or beliefs. 

Patience – Don’t expect everything to happen at once. Take small solid steps, one at a time and make changes you have really thought through 

Change at work, no matter how big or small, is likely to result in various feelings around uncertainty, insecurity, and fears of the unknown. Be prepared to support and respectfully manage the resulting reactions with as much transparency as you can. That way they won’t linger and cause more damage. 

Action – Nothing changes unless we do

I think this also requires us as leaders to stick to our promises – and avoid promising things we cannot deliver.

Communication – The more we communicate, the more we understand and the better we are understood

Openness and truthfulness in relationships leads to greater trust; greater trust leads to increased engagement, which then leads to great results. Happy people = happy customers = happy and healthy bottom line. In reality there are few organisational secrets that prevent regular, open communication with your teams. Meetings, briefings, forums, and appraisals – the opportunities to talk at work are endless. 

NKD Insights We see learning (and people) differently

Writing this article made me curious about the factors that influence my own colleague’s feelings of being valued, respected, liked or loved at work, so I decided to run my own little ‘engagement’ survey. 

Here are some interesting sound bites from the results:

What makes you feel valued at work?

– Acknowledgement and praise for a job well done

– Having my ideas listened to and discussed

– Being trusted to work autonomously

– Feeling that time, care and thought is invested in my professional development

What makes you feel liked at work?

– Being able to have discussions with colleagues at ease, not just work

– Having a quick chat with someone who takes an interest in my personal life

– Colleagues (friends) taking the time out to ask ‘how are you?’

– Being able to trust people and ask them for advice

What makes you feel respected at work?

– Having my opinion solicited on matters of wider importance to the company

– Being genuinely listened to and asked for my advice

– Being spoken to honestly

– People being respectful of my thoughts, feelings and ideas

What makes you feel loved at work? 

– Inclusion, a smile, friendly discussion, hugs and laughs to lift the spirit when you have a ‘blue day’

– Being missed when out of the office and people going out of their way to support me

– Banana bread! It appeared on my desk after I mentioned that it was my favourite!


“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.”
– John Ruskin

To all my wonderful colleagues who participated in the survey – thank you. Now you know why the hugs have increased recently!

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