Loving at Work Requires Working at Love

Marcus Buckingham, in his best-selling book, Love + Work, speaks of the need to identify what one “loves” and emphasizes, if we are to be fulfilled at work, then we should do what we love. This rings the chime of millennials who seek purpose and fulfilment in their work. The self-interest of all of us (differentiated from selfishness as self-interest born of bad intentions) desires to love what we spend our time doing. This is true for me. I want to love what I do. I would argue that herein lies “the good of the other.”

St. Thomas Aquinas defined love as the choice to will the good of the other. Loving someone is a choice we can make as a business leader. The fact that others are autonomous and free to act as they wish makes loving another hard sometimes, but that does not change the fact that love or willing the good of another is, in fact, a choice. This idea is not complex.

What does “willing” mean? One’s will is the force that manifests in action that which is reasoned and understood. Our will makes our choice to love another come alive. But what if our reason and understanding is polluted with thoughts of the hordes of autonomous others with whom we work as less-than-us, greater-than-us, or less-deserving that us?

Will we love? Not likely. This is where the worldview of Christians is so important to the vocation of business leadership. If we truly believe every human being is created in the likeness and image of God, and we choose not to compartmentalize our faith, living what we believe in all domains, not just those where there is little friction with the greater culture, we open the door to love all those affiliated with our business. While this requires courage, it is a clear and essential choice if you we want to live our Christian faith in all facets of our lives.

Now, what does “the good of the other” mean? Here things get a bit more complicated. Let’s get “the other” out of the way first. In business, let’s define “the other” as all those stakeholders associated with a business, but especially our employees; those specifically entrusted to our direct care as business leaders. What’s “good” for our employees?

Let’s connect the dots between several progressive thoughts here. First of all, movements like DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) hint at important cultural forces.

As a business leader, willing the good of our employees demands that we work to know those with whom we work, understand how they are gifted and blessed, what their temperaments or pre-dispositions are, and do the challenging work of matching what we know about each employee to the processes, jobs, and work required in our business. In this idea manifests the concept that work was made for man, not vice versa. This is the essence of “humanizing” business, an effort boldly undertaken by the Chapman Institute for Leadership, among others.

Buckingham in his book quotes research from the Mayo Clinic indicating that the tipping point for fulfillment at work through the use of one’s gifts and strengths is 20%. That’s it! If we can find elements of work that stroke and leverage the uniqueness and talents of our employees, just 20% of the time every day, we’ll find recruiting and retaining talent much more effective.

Little did you know, but we just proved the idea that love at work has more than merit. It’s an essential movement in the US workplace and must be led by those whose worldview enables it, Christian business leaders. At your next strategic planning session, will you discuss how to “will the good of the other” within your business enterprise? Loving at work requires working at love.

Image: Nenad Stojkovic, Flickr.

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Dave Geenens

Dave Geenens is assistant director of the Thompson Center for Integrity in Finance and Economics at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. An Associate Professor in the School of Business at the college, Dave has over thirty years of executive experience that he brings to his 12+ years of academic teaching and adminstration. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree and MBA along with a CPA license (inactive). Dave have written four books and speaks to companies and groups about the integration of faith and work and the critical role Christian virtue plays in both effective business leadership and the protection of free markets and liberty.