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Not feeling the love? How to feel more appreciated at work

June 15, 2022

How much love do you encounter at work? I don’t mean romantic love (although I did actually marry Neil ‘the guy from finance’ 😏) but the sort of loving behaviour that enables people to flourish. I’m talking about listening with full attention, seeing things from another’s perspective, accepting people for who they are and setting expectations for them to rise to. For me, they are all expressions of love. Love for others, love for collaboration, love for having an impact on people and things.

A few weeks ago, I had my eyes opened more on this subject by Helena Clayton who is exploring the role of love in leadership. Helena’s research shows that whilst a majority of leaders believe love matters in the workplace, many feel uncomfortable talking about it.

Surely more human, loving workplaces is a good thing? Love helps us feel safe and when we feel safe, we can thrive. We know this instinctively when we consider the conditions in which children thrive. As adults, we still need the assurance of safety to be able to do our best work. Unfortunately, many systems and procedures seem to do the opposite, firmly dehumanising the workplace. 

I once met a participant on a leadership programme who was definitely not shy of creating a loving work environment. As a sales manager covering a large territory across South America, he spent a lot of time on the road managing his team of sales reps. Being away from home so much, he said he saw his team as his second family. His care for them, his belief and pride in them, was so clear. He inspired me to think about my own colleagues as a second family and it shifted my behaviour. 

I upped the amount of appreciation I showed them, looking for opportunities to point out the positive impact they were having on me, the team and the work we were doing. 

But did you know, we don’t all ‘hear’ appreciation in the same way? According to author and marriage counsellor Gary Chapman, people give and receive love in different ways. The five ‘love languages’ he’s identified are words of affirmation, acts of service, tangible gifts, physical touch and quality time. 

Learning to recognize preferences in yourself and others helps you see why you might not be connecting and communicate more honestly about your needs. 

For a bit of fun in lockdown, our family did the free quiz to discover your own love language. It’s turned out to be surprisingly helpful. For example, one of my sons loves a thoughtful gift (my least preferred language so I didn’t tend to think about it) and he’s realising how much it means to me to receive a simple ‘thank you’ (words of affirmation) or a spontaneous offer of help (acts of service). 

You can use this concept at work too. Look for evidence of colleagues’ love languages in action. Are they quick to volunteer help (acts of service), ready to offer a listening ear (quality time) or forthcoming with a congratulatory handshake (physical touch)? 

These clues enable you to adapt the way you offer encouragement and appreciation so the receiver ‘hears’ it, helping build positive working relationships. 

So what’s your love language? And can you speak the different languages of those around you to make life a bit more loving?

About me

I’m Celia Clark. I’m a career development coach based in the dreaming spires of Oxford. I help you think clearly about your job, in all its ups and downs, so you can be happy and successful in your work.

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