Colleagues- Love not too strong a word

Colleagues- Love not too strong a word


Submitted by admin on Fri, 02/14/2014 – 11:58

Dangerous territory, love. It makes you vulnerable and opens the potential for heartache. Is letting your guard down really worth it? At this phase in my life when it comes to people I work with, I have decided that love is worth the risk. Here is why.

Consider the alternative. Anyone who is gainfully employed will spend more time with co-workers than with family and friends. I have tried to imagine two different scenarios.

The first is one where my career ends without really caring for those I interacted with daily. That idea seems such a hollow waste. What if instead my colleagues become as dear to me as anyone else in my life. Either scenario is my choice, but the second would make my working years worthwhile regardless of what I accomplish. Seriously, it’s an exercise in humility to realize my achievements at work will be pretty short lived after I’m out the door.

I learned about loving at work from my entrepreneur parents who taught their children that relationships are the most important thing we can build. That is why for this post I chose the picture of my first colleagues–brothers and parents. My parents were in the “there will be a next life” camp which meant to them that relationships and character will be all that carry over. Alternatively, you’re of the mind that this life is all we get, then all the more urgency to spend it wisely. When we are gone, only legacy will remain. Will our lives have mattered to others and the planet? Either way, love will be the difference.

Back to my parents, I know now that people loved them because they loved people. Their work in a family business was not separate from who they were, but rather interwoven in their fabric. They loved their mission, their employees and customers. Genuinely and wholly.

Yes, it can get difficult if, as a manager, you have to do hard things. But consider this. While it is important to draw boundaries at work, i.e., you can’t be unreserved pals with people in your chain of command, I still think it’s possible and yes even important to love. I say important because love serves as a check on the other side of things. If you love someone, you can’t go rogue without regretting it. Love reminds me to treat people with fairness and with thought to their potential.

What about times when corrective action is needed? Love means that ESPECIALLY then I need to consider a colleague’s best interest. Love gives courage to kindly and even if firmly give someone an opportunity to improve. It means that my role as manager isn’t just one of holding people accountable, but rather one of coach to help them become better. This means mentoring, encouragement and setting high expectations.

Isn’t this what I’d hope my boss would do with me? (And this is, indeed, what she does. ) Herein is the golden rule. Treating people as we want to be treated is the one inarguable thread in all world religions and ethical frameworks. This is the standard by which all cultures measure morality.

I haven’t always been perfect on this and I’m still not, of course. Especially as a young manager faced with very tough decisions, I handled some things in a way I wish I could change. I really do. That is why I have decided to let myself love now. That is why I cried when a dear colleague retired recently. Why I still have lunch with former co-workers. Why I flew to San Diego for a former boss’s funeral. Because love is not too strong a word.