It's Valentine's Day. Love is in the air – and if there's one thing people love, it's love itself. After all, romance novels are a billion-dollar industry. Billions of dollars in flowers and gifts are being exchanged between significant others as you read this.
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Not between employees necessarily, but between employee and employer.
Employees who love their jobs are more engaged, satisfied, and productive. They skip work less, they work better with colleagues, and they are less likely to quit. So why aren't more companies showing employees the love?
"The resistance to emotion in the workplace goes back to the Industrial Age," says S. Chris Edmonds, executive consultant, author, and founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group. "Humans were viewed as cogs in a wheel. They weren't supposed to have a life outside of work, much less experience or express joy at work – or anywhere else. Certainly the post-World War II workplace was influenced by the greatest generation and the baby boomers that followed them, but the influence was a deepening of the workplace as clinical, professional, quiet, and the like."
Edmonds says that love is a "loaded term," which may be part of why we don't associate it with the workplace.
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"[The word 'love'] assumes everyone hugs each other every hour, etc.," Edmonds says. "The power of expressing genuine appreciation is not about hugging or high fives – it's about validating others' efforts and accomplishments daily."
Edmonds cites a 2014 TinyPulse report that found only 21 percent of employees feel strongly valued on the job. In his eyes, this is a huge problem.
The lack of love in the workplace speaks to the generation gap that currently exists as baby boomers retire and Generation X and millennials move into top roles.
"Most companies don't quite know how to deal with the millennial generation, who want freedom, flexibility, and a variety of experiences in and out of the workplace," Edmonds says. "A recent Deloitte study found that companies will attract and retain millennials if they accommodate these desires and if they create a culture that rewards open communications, ethical behavior, and inclusiveness. The companies that do embrace these characteristics are – not surprisingly – viewed as great places to work."
The Language of Love (in the Office)
It's not enough that employees love their jobs. They need to know their jobs love them back.
In Positivity at Work, a 2012 book cowritten by Edmonds and Lisa Zigarmi of The Ken Blanchard Companies, Edmonds and Zigarmi describe the way in which positive emotions in the workplace can create psychological safety, boost engagement, and inspire proactive problem solving. The ten positive emotions Edmonds and Zigarmi identify are:
"When leaders use these terms to validate team members' efforts and accomplishments – and validate team efforts and accomplishments – optimism takes hold," Edmonds says. "People apply discretionary energy in service to team opportunities, customer needs, and issues."
If businesses succeed in showing a little emotional appreciation toward employees, the benefits are measurable.
"If companies focus exclusively on results and profits and ignore or minimize the contributions of their people, turnover increases, engagement decreases, and, over time, performance decreases," Edmonds says. Companies that ... create an organizational constitution with a servant purpose beyond making money, desired values and behaviors, strategies, and goals – then live that servant purpose, values, and behaviors – see employee engagement jump by 40 percent, customer service jump by 40 percent, and results and profits jump by 35 percent, all within 18 months of creating a purposeful, positive, productive work culture."
Of course, just saying it is not enough. While showing employees the love is important, it's more important to build a corporate culture where such language is appropriate.
"That's the trick," Edmonds says. "Sustaining authentic appreciation and care for employees every day."
Edmonds says the most important step leaders can take is creating healthy work environments where everyone is treated with trust, respect, and dignity.
"That kind of purposeful, positive, productive culture won't happen by chance. It happens only with intention and attention," Edmonds says. "Creating and aligning practices to an organizational constitution is the pathway to workplace inspiration. People do a lot of things right at work every day, yet very few get enough praise on the job. When I ask my keynote audiences how many get enough praise at work, only 10 percent or so raise their hands. Expressing authentic praise for efforts and accomplishment helps people feel valued and appreciated."