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An Elephant in the Office

Love, that thing we have great difficulty even describing, is the only truly real and lasting experience of life. It is the opposite of fear, the essence of relationships, the core of creativity, the grace of power, an intricate part of who we are ”. – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, & David Kessler

We must study love. We must be able to teach it, to understand it, to predict it, or else the world is lost to hostility and suspicion ”. – Abraham Maslow

Workplace communities of love?

200 years ago a fable by Russian author Ivan Krylov introduced a wonderful metaphor – an elephant in the room. It is something big. So big that it fills the room. It simply cannot be ignored. It has great importance and potential value. But incredibly, we fail to see it! And if we do see it we refrain from talking about it. The metaphor accurately describes the possibility of workplace communities of love.

What is love?

The Ancient Greeks distinguished between the love of self, sexual passion, playful love, deep friendship, longstanding love and sacrificial, unconditional love for everyone. We can think of love as an isolated act, a feeling or emotion, a virtue (the highest), a state of being, or a power still directing the evolution of the universe

Is there a business case?

We have experienced a long era of business being single-mindedly focused on profit maximisation. Only recently have we begun acting in the area of sustainability/ regeneration in response to threats to the economy, environment and society. Even more recently we are realising that the human side of the business deserves urgent attention if these endeavours are to succeed. A shift to: ‘use things, love people’.

June Singer, a giant in the world of analytical psychology, “In our concerns with counting and weighing and measuring, with precise descriptions and careful evaluation, we sometimes fail to recognise or give credit to values that do not fit these criteria. Or, when we do recognise that such values exist, we split them off from the consciousness of the marketplace and relegate them to the categories of religion or the arts."

The human side of business, including love – the highest virtue – the most positive human quality – deserves a lot more attention in our workplaces because:

  • The ‘whole person’ is physical, intellectual, social, emotional and spiritual. Neuroscientist Rick Hanson points out that “ being cared about was crucial to survival ... and (mammals, primates, hominids, and humans) that did not care about being cared about did not pass on their genes ”. So, “Love is a natural upwelling current inside all. It doesn't need to be pushed or pumped, it needs to be released ."` The concept of loving others and giving unconditionally can be found in nearly every ethical and religious tradition down the ages. Delio writes “ We are born social and relational. We yearn to belong, to be part of a larger whole that includes not only friends and family, but neighbours, community, trees, flowers, sun, earth, stars. We are born of nature and are part of nature; that is, we are born into a web of life and are part of a web of life ”.

  • The sick and parlous state of our habitats, resources, communities and livelihoods; the shocking numbers of people who are homeless, hungry, thirsty, displaced, abused and trafficked; the unethical and self-interested behaviour of many governments and corporations – all combine to make a compelling case for an infusion of love on an unprecedented scale.