How do we bring our values into the workplace? 

Thinking about Love 

I was asked during a job interview about the values I bring to the workplace. I shared that I believe in manifesting love. I believe in bringing care and lifting up the well-being of my colleagues by consciously speaking and behaving as if my colleagues are special.

Even as I shared this with my interviewers, I felt a little odd, because this wasn’t something that I heard people talk about.

How do we have a shared vision around bringing love into the workplace? What does that look like? Especially when love is typically seen as too personal, too squishy, for our professional spaces.

I was thrilled to have a chance to read bell hooks’ book, All About Love, during a book group in our workplace. First published in December 1999, All About Love: New Visions is described by hooks as “providing radical new ways to think about the art of loving, offering a hopeful, joyous vision of love’s transformative power.”

Personally, I wanted to hear from the rigorous intellect of bell hooks ways to consider whether or not I am behaving in a loving way – be that at work, or in other aspects of my life – and how I might measure that. I wanted to hear from her how she is growing her own capacity for love.

And I wanted to be in conversation with my colleagues about how these ideas might affect how we, in the social justice arena, do our work.

Well, I will tell you that the book group conversation was lively and enlivening. Hooks is committed to asking herself and others hard questions, challenging us to change how we behave based upon new information and new insight.

She challenges:

  • the belief that we can be in relationships where we treat each other harshly and call it love
  • stereotypical gender roles and behaviors
  • our habits, beliefs and practices about love

Early on in the book, hooks shares her concern that there isn’t a good definition of love. She does a lot of research and talking to folks about it. And she finally lands on a definition from M. Scott Peck’s book, The Road Less Traveled, first published in 1978, in which Peck describes love as “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”

Hooks defines love as both an intention and an action. She writes,“To truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients — care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication.”

Hooks challenges us to think differently about what it means to tell lies (even so-called harmless lies to protect people’s feelings), to consider how we show love toward our children, and what it means to embrace a love ethic as the foundation for the work.

“Culturally, all spheres of American life – politics, religion, the workplace, domestic households, intimate relations – should and could have as their foundation a love ethic. Commitment to a love ethic transforms our lives by offering us a different set of values to live by.”

What ethics currently underlie our politics, religion, our workplace, domestic households, and intimate relations? Fear, materialism, domination, power and appearance are ones that come to mind, and hooks explores the role of fear and domination to thwart love in action and policy. Hooks encourages us to consider that,

“In large and small ways, we can make choices based on a belief that honesty, openness, and personal integrity need to be expressed in public and private decisions.”

After our workplace conversation, I was left with the question of how to turn insight into action. I believe it is through making a practice of the inquiry – how did I practice honesty today, how did I demonstrate openness today, how did I act in a way that matches the ideals that I hold?

By asking these questions of ourselves, and journaling our responses, even for a few minutes, we bring consciousness and awareness to a higher standard of loving.


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