Photo: Obi Onyeador

Love Starts with Leadership

Around here we celebrate Valentine’s Day sentiments all the time. We tell each other how much we appreciate, cherish, are wowed by, awed by, impressed by, and value each other. It’s not in our culture deck (we don’t have one since we’re always flexing and morphing to grow and change with the world of work). It’s not in the rulebook and it’s not even in any of the job descriptions. It’s just in the ethos of TalentCulture. 

I’m showing you a glimpse of how we work to make a point: all that love? It’s up to me. Daily, I’m aware of a deep sense of responsibility: I founded this company, and it’s up to me to make sure we’re all feeling good about it and great about each other. It has to be that way: the people come first. And if we’re going to love each other it has to start with the leader. So, my lovelies, here’s the closest thing to a box of chocolates I can give you all: 4 tips on how to bring more love into the workspace, whatever shape that space takes:

Be emoji-ional

Consider your favorite brands, and then, if you would, reflect on a conversation you may have had via chat, or a text, or on a social media platform. I love that brand. I heart that brand. Or you may have dropped literal heart emojis on someone’s text recently to express your absolute affirmation for their observation or idea. 

Social media has made it stunningly easier to express our feelings in a lighter, more informal way — which is far more appropriate for the workplace than any written declarations, let’s face it. The more we blend social into our workspaces, the easier it is to spread that love around. 

Get inspired.

Going back through the amazing posts we’ve published on, I realized we’ve always been interested in love. So, dear readers, here’s some reading material. Love and its impact on the office has plenty of angles, including a new post by guest contributor Rebecca Shaw on a recent UK office romance study. The research uncovered a disquieting gap between how women and men perceive work entanglements — and puts the onus on HR to help equitably and safely untie the knots. 

A post on why engagement comes from the heart bears a re-visit, bringing up the value of emotional currency. Kevin Grossman, a longtime member of the TalentCulture family, wrote about the dance between love and money — and managed to bring prog-rock band Rush, AC/DC, Apple and Southwest Airlines under one “culture rocks” umbrella.  We tend to feel very emotional about our work — from colleagues to culture — and it helps to remember that this isn’t new, we’re just getting better, and smarter at dealing with it. 

Take a love inventory.

We do a lot of work with amazing HR tech innovators — and lately we’re covering a lot of ground on the subject of engagement and experience for both candidates and employees. A strategy that comes up again and again is actually asking your employees how they feel. Now that we have access to highly effective tools that can scale to needs and growth — such as surveys, check-ins, feedback and recognition platforms — there’s no excuse for ignoring your workforce’s emotional state of mind. Inaugurate a new campaign to find out how your people are doing, and that should include anyone on the workforce, from freelancers and independent workers to payroll employees to executives. We tend to overlook our own needs as much as anyone else’s, and leadership behavior models the behaviors that the workforce is going to adopt. 

Conduct surveys of employee/workforce sentiment  — short and sweet and frequent is better than long, arduous, and one-time. Include yourself and other leaders and high-level managers as well as the whole workforce. Use the data to reveal the realities of your work culture and workspaces, share it with the workforce, and then start taking action to remedy the weak spots. Transparency and action taken on feedback are definitely part of modern leadership’s love language. 

Practice emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence isn’t a new concept: it’s become a twenty-first century chestnut at this point. It has to do with how skillfully we manage our relationships and ourselves, and it’s been proven to correlate with our ability to perform. But I’m frequently struck but how far away from EQ we’ve gotten. Like many concepts that make a splash and send ripples through the HR field, EQ’s novelty has receded. A great piece in Inc. by Wanda Thibodeax introduces its close “cousins,” cognitive intelligence, success intelligences, and cultural intelligence (CQ). 

But EQ is just as important as ever. When we talk about using tact to deliver un-great news to job applicants, that’s EQ: and it’s akin to letting a suitor down easy because, well, they’re human. When I wrote about the power of some leaders to reach their people, one of the key factors is emotional intelligence — though these days, I’d gather other traits, such as kindness, honesty, respect, letting go and partnering as all part of being emotionally intelligent. Evolution is consolidation in this case, and we’ve come far since that piece first appeared, though with over 700,000 views by now, it’s clearly still hitting a sweet spot. To be perfectly honest, that makes me happy.

The bottom line — to feel love you have to bring the love yourself. It that means you spend a bit more time practicing some much-needed self-care, then do it. Get that box of chocolates, do the yoga class, plan the marathon training, go on vacation, take time to do something good for the planet, or volunteer. Whatever works. It’s your job to make everyone else feel good about themselves and the value they bring to your organization — and that means you need to feel good about yourself and your value as well. Go get yourself a Valentine-y card, then get everyone cards too, and watch the love start to catch on. 

Photo by mnm.all

Work, Love, Gossip, Power: The Thrill and Toll of Office Romance

We all know that office romances happen. But on what scale do they happen, and how exactly do they affect those involved on a professional and personal level?

A recent workplace study by Viking surveyed 2,000 office workers in the UK to uncover the true experience of dating a coworker. Those surveyed were professionals aged from 18 up to 65+, including temporary trainees, executives, middle management, senior management and board members. Participants were from a range of industries spanning from marketing, advertising and PR through to energy and utilities, banking and finance, and leisure and tourism.  

The study found that office romances are extremely common. Almost three-quarters (74%) of office workers aged between 25 and 34 said they had been involved in a romantic relationship of some level at work. Further, 59% of workers surveyed who had been involved with a colleague had made efforts to hide their relationship from others in the workplace, including management and HR. 

Some of the most fascinating facts, however, came when looking into the differences between men and women. There are marked differences in how the genders handle office romance, and how the impact it has on workplace productivity and wellbeing. 

Women Are More Worried About Office Gossip

In any office environment, people talk, and an office romance can quickly become the hottest new water cooler gossip. Understandably, this was found to be a real issue for those who had been involved in an office romance.

The study found that more women than men are worried about gossip in the workplace – when asked about the biggest downfall of an office romance, 46% of women said being the subject of office gossip, compared to 36% of men. You can understand why this number is so high; office gossip does not only bring worries about a loss of reputation in the workplace, but also makes it highly likely that managers or HR will catch wind of the romance. With many workplaces viewing office relationships negatively, people are worried that office gossip could ultimately lead to more serious consequences, including reprisals or even the fear of losing their jobs over their workplace romance. 

However, interestingly and despite the fact women are more concerned about gossip, men are far more likely to keep their office romance a complete secret. 22% of men said they would tell nobody in their office about their relationship, while only 5% of women reported the same.

Women Are More Likely to be Romantically Involved with Their Manager

An interesting angle to consider, especially from an HR perspective, is power disparities when it comes to office romances. It was only two months ago that McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook was fired following a romantic relationship with an employee that violated the company policy. So, on a wider basis across the UK workforce, how common are relationships between management and those they employ? 

Overall, across the study, 15% of workers said they had been romantically involved with their direct manager. Looking at the gender split, this statistic is broken down into 17% of women, as opposed to just 11% of men. The study also looked specifically at upper management, finding that 7% of women and 6% of men reported being involved on a romantic basis with a company director or CEO. 

This brings about a whole host of further issues. While any office romance can be complicated, the disparities of power between managers and their staff mean we need to address the need for psychological safety should these relationships occur. If a lower-ranking member of staff finds themselves in a tricky relationship with an upper-ranking manager, they may be understandably worried of the repercussions or retributions this could bring. HR staff need to ensure there is a safe space and a sense of security when it comes to these difficult conversations, so staff feel like they can come forward and discuss their issues without fear of backlash on their career and professional standing within the company. Further still, with the study finding that only 33.6% of employees knew of and understood their company’s policy on office romances, it is clear that organisations need to be doing more to ensure there are fair, clear, communicated policies in place.

Women Are More Likely to be Negatively Affected 

As well as analyzing the who and the when of office romances, the study also looked a little closer at the psychological effects on those involved. We understand that office romances happen, but do we understand exactly how they are making the workforce feel? 

Again, the study highlighted a number of interesting differences when it comes to gender – it is clear women and men are affected differently by romance in the workplace and women, on the whole, are having a much harder time dealing with the consequences of their workplace relationships. 

According to the study, women find it more difficult to keep their personal and professional relationships separate. One question put to those who had been involved in office romances was whether they found it difficult to avoid letting personal feelings affect professional decisions. Almost double the number of women (31%) said they did, compared to just 16% of men who reported the same. The study also found the quality of work of those involved in office romances was reduced; almost half (47%) of women believed their office romance decreased their productivity and creativity throughout the working day, as opposed to only a quarter (25%) of men. 

An important topic for both HR and business professionals is employee wellbeing at work. How are office romances contributing to stress levels and the overall workplace wellbeing of those involved? Interestingly, 23% of men who had been romantically involved with someone at work reported that the relationship had actually reduced their stress levels in the workplace, compared to just 13% of women. At further look into overall wellbeing in the workplace uncovered that almost a quarter of women (24%) said that their office romance had a negative effect, with just 15% of men saying the same. 

While this study shows us that office romances are as prevalent as ever, it also highlights huge disparities in gender, and how men and women both approach and are affected by relationships at work. Overall, women in a workplace romance are more worried about the consequences and more affected by the negatives of the relationship – whether that be office gossip causing stress, or the relationship itself leading to a decrease in performance and a loss of reputation at work. Men, on the other hand, don’t seem to share these concerns, or at least not on the same scale. This gives us an insight into gender issues, and a hint at a double standard within the workplace, suggesting what is acceptable for men isn’t always acceptable for women. It is clear that there is still much to be done when it comes to workplace cultures: companies need to encourage an environment where men and women both feel equally safe and secure in their jobs.  

As with any personal issues at work, it is important for businesses to be aware of the problems that may arise with an office romance, and to create a safe space where those affected can talk through their issues without fear of repercussions. This will allow the company and HR department to adapt their approach to workplace relationships in the best interest of the business and encourage a safe, comfortable, productive working environment for everyone.