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What's Love Got to Do With It?

Feb 12, 2024

What does love have to do with work?  What does it have to do with leadership? How do you express love in the workplace? What are you passionate about?

If it’s okay to be passionate about your work – and your co-workers, isn’t it okay to bring love into the workplace? I’m not talking about romantic love, of course (although sometimes that happens), I’m talking about love of humanity and loving the job you are in, despite the bad parts.  Surely that’s okay.

This Valentine’s Day, whether or not you are with that special someone, can you think about the importance of love in your life on a bigger scale? What do you love? Who do you love?

In my work, I use a lot of assessments – diagnostic tools designed to help business leaders become more self-aware, because a high level of self-awareness is not only an important trait for leadership, but also the hallmark of emotional intelligence.  One such measure is the FIRO-B, which measures inter-personal needs – what we need from others, both professionally and personally.  It is one of my favorite tools.

The FIRO-B measures our needs for Inclusion, Control, and Affection.  When we discuss this with business leaders, there is always a bit of discomfort when we get to affection.  Why is that?  “The need for Affection relates to emotional ties and warm connections between people; it determines the extent of closeness that a person seeks.” There’s nothing unseemly about that.

Each of us scores along a continuum representing a low to high need of affection in the workplace, both in terms of what we express and in terms of what we really want.

If you are a person who readily expresses sensitivity, support, and openness toward others, you are high in expressed affection. You might initiate a desire for personal ties with your team members. That’s what we call an expressed need for affection – it’s what others see in your behaviors. On the lower end of the spectrum, you are more cautious and selective about to whom you extend warmth. In the mid-range, it depends on the situation – and on the person.

If you have a high wanted need for affection, you enjoy it when people share their feelings with you.  You also appreciate warmth, encouragement, and support from others.  These are things you want from other people, although they may not be aware of that – unless you tell them. If your need is low, you either don’t want warmth from others, or only from a select few.  And in the middle, it depends.

So, what about your workplace? Does it provide a warm, supportive environment or do people keep their distance? And how does this work for you? And how is it working for others? As the leader of the team, you set the tone, and you are the example that others follow – so, what does your behavior convey to others?

Affection is only one of the interpersonal needs measured by the FIRO-B. Together with needs for inclusion and control, it helps to paint a more complete picture of how your behavior impacts others and how their impacts you. Understanding your own needs as well as those you work with on a regular basis can improve both the success and productivity of your team. It also increases job satisfaction. When you know your own strengths, as well as your blind spots, it enables your leadership effectiveness.

We use this tool not only to increase self-awareness of leaders, but to help build team. If you feel you or your team can benefit from a diagnostic tool like this one, let’s talk about that might look.

Meanwhile, think about love in the workplace and in your life.  What role does it play? To what degree are your important relationships defined by expressions of warmth and affection? And, given the season, what will you do to enhance that?



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