Research shows that 80% of America’s 156 million workers are unhappy, stressed out, or dissatisfied with their current jobs and/or companies—that’s almost 125 million people whose needs are not being met at work, where the average person spends over 90,000 hours in their lifetime.
If you have a team, doesn’t this just break your heart?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want anyone who works for me to feel this way. So I reached out to Marissa Badgley, Founder of Reloveution, who believes there is a better way. Here’s what she told me about building more loving work environments that systemically and sustainably support the real-life human beings that make a company’s success possible.
7 Ways To Build A More Loving Work Environment | Stephanie Burns
1. Systematize Empathy And Compassion
Many business cultures are built around competition, scarcity, fear, and efficiency. Yet data suggests that businesses centered around empathy, compassion, collaboration, and authenticity have higher employee retention, stronger employee engagement, and even greater profits over time. Reloveution believes that empathy and compassion are non-negotiables and believes that loving work environments not only look at how employees are empathetic and compassionate with each other but also look at the ways systems and policies are built to consider, acknowledge, and respond to people’s emotions and suffering.
2. Express Gratitude
The number one reason most Americans leave their jobs is that they don’t feel appreciated, with 79% of employees who quit their jobs citing that lack of appreciation was the reason they left. “Gratitude increases feelings of optimism, relaxation, joy, and purpose and is shown to reduce unproductive, unpleasant or toxic emotions for everyone at a company. Therefore, loving work environments have cultures, systems, and policies that encourage and permit gratitude to be expressed regularly and authentically, on individual and collective levels, and between workers at all levels of the company hierarchy.” says Badgley.
3. Give Feedback Not Criticism
Criticism shuts us down and puts us on the defensive while feedback, when delivered with compassion, helps people develop and improve. Loving workplaces normalize the experience of giving and receiving feedback, and ensures that everyone has the tools, mindsets, and buy-in to participate in the feedback culture. These workplaces have strong norms around how feedback is given, have systems for giving both positive and constructive feedback, and have leaders who give feedback to support and enhance the effectiveness, impact, and performance of others (rather than to demoralize or condemn).
4. See Humans Not As Assets Or Resources
Every person that we encounter at work whether a direct report, a colleague, or a supervisor is a human being with a story, real emotions, inherent gifts and strengths, flaws and imperfections, and natural human needs. “Loving workplaces give space for employees to get to know the stories of their coworkers, acknowledge and validate feelings even when they are unpleasant or uncomfortable, react with empathy and compassion when people inevitably make mistakes, and make it clear that every person matters not just for what they do but also for who they are.” remarks Badgley. “Leaders should also work to disrupt company policies or systems that dehumanize staff (consider: 60-hour work weeks, PTO policies, office layout, discipline systems, reward systems, communication methods, hiring processes and the like.”
5. Support And Maintain Authenticity
Loving work environments give safe space for people to show up as their most authentic selves, even when those selves don’t always look and act like the people in charge. When employees don’t have to worry about wearing masks, can be true to themselves and their beliefs, and don’t feel pressure to code-switch, they are more loyal, productive, collaborative, and innovative. And leaders who model authenticity and are truthful in the way they lead others are more trustworthy and relatable.
6. Heal relationships over fixing problems
“When something goes wrong, we often immediately shift into problem-solving and damage control. Loving workplaces understand that when a mistake has been made, when conflict is brewing, or when a problem arises, relationships between human beings are almost always affected.” says Badgley. In the wake of crisis, it is frequently more powerful to focus on restoring and healing relationships over dwelling on the problem itself. This means shifting from blame, fear and competition to empathy, compassion, and forgiveness, from “I’m writing you up because you were insubordinate” to “When you spoke to me in that tone in front of the client, I felt disrespectful and embarrassed. What can we do to ensure that we aren’t in this situation again?”
7. Trust and be trusted
Loving work environments have policies, procedures, routines, and benefits that show employees that they are trusted (nix the required note from the doctor, provide flexible work options, establish generous and easy-to-use time tracking systems, give time for passion projects or volunteering, etc.). In addition, a company must be trustworthy at its core. Without trust, no perks or benefits matter. Trust helps employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas, show up as their most authentic selves, accept change, receive critical feedback, and avoid hostility.
Building loving work environments and adopting these practices requires a high level of intentionality, lots of practice, and deep buy-in from everyone at every level of your company. But truly, the most powerful way to build and sustain a loving work environment is to be more loving. The return on investment is large and worth it.