Paromita Naidu: Workplace love in 2022

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      By Paromita Naidu

      I am all for love in the workplace.

      A challenging perspective perhaps, but let me explain…

      I am not talking about a Zoom romance, a cubicle love affair or a stockroom dalliance.

      I am talking about love as the foundation for equity, empathy and justice in the workplace.

      Management professors Sigal Barsade and Olivia O'Neill discovered that "Employees Who Feel Love Perform Better". Their research revealed that the more love coworkers feel at work, the more engaged they are.

      I would like to take this one step beyond the traditional ideas of love like kindness and compassion.

      Cornel West once famously said, “Justice is what love looks like in public.”

      In wholehearted agreement, this South Asian single mom of two believes that love in the workplace must ALSO embrace the ideas of Dr. West, bell hooks, adrienne maree brown, and others.

      Active listening, a deep understanding of power, privilege, barriers, white supremacy, and colonization—as well as anti-oppression and Reconciliation, comfort with being uncomfortable, space in senior leadership for IBPoC, intentional hiring, being a living-wage employer, consistency across teams, and ensuring room for humanity + joy—are (absolutely) critical workplace skills.

      Most of us understand that in a capitalist system, everyone participates, and everyone protects their own interests. Capitalist and colonized societies do NOT require a love ethic to function efficiently. In fact, it’s mere presence is a disruption. And this interruption is precisely what I am interested in.

      There is no better time than the present lean hard into truly creating inclusion and safety for all.

      Affirming our colleagues in their voices + identities—is love in action.

      Ensuring presence over productivity—is love in action.

      Empowering conscious leaders—is love in action.

      Providing safe work environments and equal pay for systemically oppressed people—is love in action.

      Committing to practices of respect and care that do not cause further trauma nor place demands for educational or emotional labor on IBPoC—is love in action.

      Offering solutions that are built collaboratively—is love in action.

      Now realistically, these things are not always happening simultaneously or with immediate uptake and/or success. But there is a long game here. The point is to understand that rushing or ignoring love in the workplace will (usually) lead to employee retention issues, toxic work environments, trauma, unfair workplace practices and disengaged stakeholders. I would even suggest that creating a culture of love in the workplace as described above, could very well be an effective antidote to the “great resignation” phenomenon we are witnessing. Love is an anchor.

      But the kind of love I'm talking about, requires time. Time spent to reflect, listen, share, dialogue, practise, and identify actions. These are not considered soft skills anymore. This is not just about bringing your dog to work. This is not workplace baggage. These are not problems to be pawned off on employee-assistance programs. This is a new and different kind of workplace experience that brings meaningful impact, when sustained over time.

      Perhaps we begin by simply thinking about what this kind of love means in workplaces. Don’t be afraid. Be bold enough to add love and it’s implementation to your next PPT presentation. Tell your team to tell their teams to tell their teams that they can bring more than their dogs to work. Tell them they can expect a commitment to equity, truth, and justice.

      Conscious inquiry into the working of love in the workplace will reveal that love is one of the main catalysts that will bring fulfillment, meaning and purpose to people. Ultimately, love will lead to equity and justice and needed change we so desperately need.

      Paromita Naidu is an immigrant settler, living and working in the ancestral lands of the Qiqéyt First Nation also known as New Westminster, B.C. She is a single mom, and works outside the home as a senior manager of public engagement and education at a women's health foundation. Her lens and life are feminist and intersectional, and passions lie in equity strategies, community, and advocacy. Published in academic journals, as well as in mainstream media, her voice is sought by those looking for insight into Canadian social issues. BA, MA, MHA.