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Why We Must Bring More Romance to Work

by Lynette Silva

Book Cover ImageRecognize This! – Romance at work is about focusing not on the end goal, but the experience in getting there (and the people we get there with).

Today, I’m continuing my series of book reviews in preparation for the WorkHuman panel with the authors on “Unexpected Innovations: Changing How We Think about a Human Workplace.” (Be sure to register and use blog code DIBLOG100 for a $100 discount.)

It is possible to be both a romantic and a solid businessperson. In his book The Business Romantic: Give Everything, Quantify Nothing, and Create Something Greater Than Yourself, Tim Leberecht writes about business romance, but not the kind you might expect.

In my review of his book, I’d like to start at the end – the Acknowledgements. I admit to rarely reading book acknowledgements – at least before I started working at Globoforce. Now, I love them. They tend to serve as a perfect mirror of what “good recognition” looks like. Tim’s acknowledgements, however, gave me one of the greatest insights in his entire book:

“So here are my closing credits, the moment I’ve been waiting for. As I was writing them, it occurred to me that it might serve us well – as workers, consumers, and citizens – to begin each project, each tenure, each life endeavor with a draft of acknowledgements, pondering the question ‘Whom, in the end, would you like to thank and why?’ rather than ‘What would you like to have accomplished?’ This will hone our humility, our ability to estimate our own position in the world more realistically.”

This resonated so strongly with me because, in the end, we’ve accomplished very little alone. There’s always someone (or many someones) who helped us along the way, lending help, wisdom, heavy lifting or even just a heartfelt cheer. And that’s the first element of adding some romance to a more WorkHuman workplace – always be thinking first about the people around you.

Why does finding ways to be more romantic in our attitudes toward work matter? Because in many ways, we’re moving away from the consideration of what it means to be human in many aspects of our lives. Tim points out: “What was once the heart and soul of our education [liberal arts core curriculum], the foundation of our most basic notions regarding our humanity, has now become a field of study pursued only by dreamers and rebels.”

Because a workplace is nothing more or less than a group of humans collaborating together towards an end goal, we must put humanity back at the center of our work. Doing so is the essence of romance – seeking not the end, but the experience getting there. The people we get to share experiences with along the way, they help to define the meaning we find in our work and ultimately our lives. Tim uses a phrase I love – “modest moments of intimacy” – or creating ways for people to feel close and connected. What does this mean at work? In Tim’s words, “A good work experience is less about bland company values and manifestos and more about small moments of intimacy, humor, and pleasure.”

And this doesn’t have to be hard. We certainly can’t change other people, but we can change ourselves. So keep in mind the power and impact giving has on you. Referencing research, Tim says, “We constantly underestimate the importance of small moments of attachment… Those who engaged in casual social interactions reported overall more positive emotions.” That’s partly why Tim also encourages: “Force people to look up and interact. Bring departments together for no other reason than to discover each other.”

We find recognition to be a powerful way to do this, by making everyone responsible for looking up from their work to notice the good work and contributions of others, then recognize them for it. Tim references the research of Adam Grant (also a WorkHuman speaker) and his book Give and Take: “Companies should have a strong interest in fostering giving behavior as it enhances key aspects of their performance, including effective collaboration, innovation, service excellence, and quality assurance.”

How do we most typically measure employees today? Through the performance review, which is another reason giving everyone responsibility for recognition of the good work of others is important. Tim illustrates:

“We all wear masks at the workplace, too. We perform by completing tasks and accomplishing goals set mostly by others. But we also enact our own narrative by choreographing our interactions and playing different social roles. These types of performance have become ever more essential to our ‘performance review.’ The knowledge economy has automated many of our quantifiable, concrete tasks and left us with only the fuzzy space or subjective tasks: shaping perceptions; building and cultivating relationships; managing our reputation; curating and sharing tacit knowledge; earning respect, popularity, authority, and influence… If one were to grossly exaggerate, one could say we are no longer what we make or do – we are who others think we are.”

That certainly gave me pause to consider what others think I am. Am I bringing humanity to work? Are you?

Earlier posts in this series:

5 Reasons Surprise Matters (and how to embrace it)

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Why We Must Bring More Romance to Work
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Why We Must Bring More Romance to Work
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Recognize This! – Romance at work is about focusing not on the end goal, but the experience in getting there (and the people we get there with).
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