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Love thy colleague, says new study

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14th Jan 2014
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New research suggests that the more love co-workers feel at work, the more engaged they are.

I should point out that this is companionate love, not romantic love – productivity will not increase if the workplace becomes a free-loving commune (actually, I don’t know that. Perhaps it would?)

Companionate love is based on warmth, affection and connection. The survey suggests that workers who perceived greater affection and caring from their colleagues perform better than those that don’t.

The survey explored the influence of emotional culture on workplace outcomes. Employees who felt they worked in a loving, caring culture reported higher levels of satisfaction and teamwork and also showed up to work more often. In a follow-up study, people who worked in a culture where they felt free to express affection, tenderness, caring and compassion for one another were more satisfied with their jobs, committed to the organisation and accountable for their performance.

The study authors say that a culture of companionate love encourages side-by-side collaboration, the expression of caring and affection, the safeguarding of colleague’s feelings and the provision of tenderness and compassion when things don’t go well. Managers should look for ways to create and reinforce close workplace relationships among employees.

How can companies help create this culture?

First, broaden your definition of culture – don’t focus on ‘cognitive culture,’ such as teamwork, results-orientation or innovation. Instead, think about how you can enrich emotional culture as well, based on key emotions you want to be prevalent in the workplace, such as pride.

Second, pay attention to what emotions managers express to employees every day – the mood of role models and senior executives creates the ‘cultural blueprint’ for the group.

Third, consider how company policies and practices can foster greater affection and compassion among workers. Cisco CEO John Chambers wanted to be notified within 48 hours if a close member of an employee’s family passed away. At some companies, employees forgo vacation days or organise emergency funds to help fellow employees who need help.

Most importantly, say the study authors, are the day-to-day moments between coworkers, such as warm smiles and sympathetic ears, that help created a strong culture of affection.

Read the full article on the Harvard Business Review blog.

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