I love poetry, and at A Human Workplace, we often include poetry in our gatherings. So I was particularly delighted when NPR announced their “Love is…” poetry contest for school children on Morning Edition. Hearing the response of children to the invitation to write about love was so familiar to me because I hear the same response from grown adults everywhere when I talk with them about decreasing fear and increasing love in the workplace.
Using the word “love” about work is surprising and even shocking to most people.
When I use the “L” word when I speak or teach, it is what my colleague Darrell calls a mic drop moment.
“Love.” Boom! Then silence. Dead silence. Perhaps followed by nervous laughter.
But that’s also where the really important exploration begins.
“I found out I was diagnosed with cancer at my desk at work one day at 10 a.m. The doctor wanted to see me the very next day and told me to bring someone who wasn’t a family member. I got off the phone and looked around my cubicle. Then I went and told my boss who immediately brought in someone skilled and knowledgeable who sat with me to figure out what I needed to do in the moment. My boss made it clear that nothing at work was important in the grand scheme of things. She made it easy to turn my focus to my health.”
Hayley’s life had not been easy. Difficult pregnancies, a child with cancer, and her sister’s death had caused people in her life including work to gather around to support her in all kinds of ways. So when I asked her to tell me a story about a time when she felt loved at work, she had many examples.
But the story she told me in my research was, by comparison, silly and minor in her estimation. Still, it is the one she chose to share and speaks to the lasting positive impact a leader can have and the unexpected goodness that can come back to that leader in return.
Providing social services to the most vulnerable people in society is a very human endeavor. People often choose this field because they are compassionate and motivated to care for others. But social services can be some of the most physically and emotionally demanding but lowest paid work there is. This makes Carol’s story an especially heart-warming Love Story About Work.
Whenever I talk with people about the need to eliminate fear and indifference and increase love and safety in the workplace someone inevitably brings up the question of accountability. And when they do, others nod their heads in agreement and concern.
We are really, really worried about accountability.
I’ve been traveling a lot these last two weeks: Visiting New York City and then speaking in Toronto, Los Angeles, and the Pacific Northwest. And everywhere I go I can’t help but talk about The “L” Word. I bring up The “L” Word during informal conversations meeting people on the plane, in pubs and restaurants, on the train, at conferences. I’ll talk about it anywhere.
We have a lot to talk about! If we are going to really dig in to a conversation about something as apparently bold and controversial as moving from fear to safety by decreasing indifference and increasing love at work, then we’ll need a shared understanding of some basic concepts. ... To get us started, these next few blog posts will explore what fear is, why it is important, when it is good and bad, and what to do about it when it’s bad.
We go to work each day to earn a living so we can make a life for ourselves and our loved ones. But we don’t sign up to be humiliated, to be ignored, to be betrayed. We sign up for the workforce at 18 or maybe 21 to contribute, to do something we enjoy, or at least don’t mind, to make a difference in some way.
Some moments we never forget because in those moments something new begins. I remember when I asked my agency director, Chris Liu, "What is the most important job of a leader?" His answer was the beginning.