How about “compassionate love” in companies?

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If you went to some hard-charging executive talking about “compassionate love” within his workplace, he’d likely have a knife to your throat in about 32 seconds or less. But you know, this concept might actually have something to it.

First: We do have some research that “compassionate workplaces” (which is admittedly hard to quantify) have more profitability.

Second: We’ve got some context and research that more empathetic companies drive higher revenue growth.

Third is kind of a leap, but think about it for a second. Calling someplace like Wall Street “compassionate love” might be a bit much, but stop and consider what “compassionate love” is. It’s not sex. You’re basically discussing brotherly love. Now, in a culture like Wall Street, it’s ruthless and guys undercut each other all the time. But those same guys go out for drinks and have a fratty, bro-y, prankster culture among them. While they might slice each other’s throats for bonuses, yes, it’s still a vague form of compassionate love.

Hit this once before around the “boys don’t cry” problem of work. Us men cannot have babies, and that + a host of other reasons means we derive a lot of self-worth from what we “build” at work. But men are (generally) less emotive. So as men come to run companies, what does empathy and emotion look like? Often it looks like nothing other than a call center. Generic, targets are everything, and only ask a question if it relates to revenue. Those are the worst places ever to work, but sadly many departments and many companies are still like that. Compassionate love nowhere in sight.

But as tech bros and finance bros continue to enter the workforce, maybe this “compassionate love” idea is somewhere — like a firehouse.

Wharton work on compassionate love

Here’s some new Wharton stuff on “creating a happy workplace.” Approximately 921 articles about “creating a happy workplace” are published every six hours, and most of them roughly equate to toilet paper. Because companies, industries, and leaders are different, no one can truly know what makes “people” happy at work. They can know what makes them happy, yes. Micro/macro.

From the article:

With culture of companionate love, what you want to look for are things like, are people caring about each other? Are they checking in when somebody is sick? Are they making sure that they know how things are going with a particular individual? As a manager, you can model that behavior. If your employee is out sick for a couple of days, you can send them a note or give them a phone call and say, “Hey, just thinking of you. How are you doing? Is there anything I can do to help?” Those kinds of things really help to model a culture of love where people feel like others are looking out for them, that they care about them and that they matter in that organization. I think it’s not as hard as it might seem to model those things and to check to see whether you have a culture of joviality in addition to a culture of love.

Worth unpacking for a second.

“Are people caring about each other?”

This might be the central question of how we design and define workplaces today. I realize the Gig Economy is rising, so you’ve got a lot of people chasing their own thing. But this is a socially-isolated time for many. They are concerned about earnings, future job prospects, their kids, etc. We are all nervous wrecks.

We spend a lot of time at work. Some people hit that target and ring that bell for 12–14 hours/day, if not more. If you’re spending that much time at work, you’d hope a few people in the ecosystem care about you. The power of friends at work is real, as is the power of gratitude. When those things are missing and we just apply Industrial Age productivity metrics to knowledge workers, we create two things:

So how do we get better at compassionate love in workplaces?

It’s hard, but there’s a pathway.

Don’t call it “compassionate love.” Seems fluffy and execs will never get behind it.

Evaluate managers differently. A manager of others should be bonus’ed off his/her own productivity as regards clients/accounts (60%), then 40% how his/her people perform and rate him/her. I know most companies would scoff at that. But the thing is, a huge percentage of people only become managers because it’s the only way to make more money. They’re not doing it for the chance to manage others. So you need to remind them that they do manage others by tying their compensation incentives to that fact.

Work doesn’t actually work for a lot of people these days. We need to think on it differently. I do that each week in a newsletter with resources and research.

Have check-in systems: Root this in process. If you use portals or whatever, require managers to do X-amount of touchpoints/week with direct reports. It has to be at least 1/5th what they do with clients or stakeholders. Too many managers ignore their employees and focus on their accounts/bosses, which kills any shot at compassionate love.

Create events: People get lazy and don’t want to organize work happy hours, etc … but the places I’ve worked where these are normative usually have better relationships around the office. That’s increased compassionate love.

Remember that people are people: We’re all out here struggling with crappy bosses, unclear priorities, shifting demands, stress, etc. We can all use the support. Offer it up once in a while.

What else would you add on this idea of “compassionate love” in workplaces?

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