- By Kerry Hannon
What’s love got to do with your job? Apparently, quite a bit.
I just read the new book, Love 2.0: How Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do and Become by Barbara L Fredrickson, a pioneer scientist in positive psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Fredrickson’s message really resonated with me.
I was especially intrigued by the parts on how positive emotions and love can help your career by “drawing you out of your cocoon of self-absorption to attune to others.”
I often blog about finding ways to love your job. Some of the favorite articles I've written for Next Avenue and Forbes have been ones about second-acters who’ve done just that — pursuing their passions to, say, film a feature movie or open a red sauce joint.
(MORE: What to Do When You’ve Lost the Passion for Your Career)
The Falloff in Job Satisfaction
Sadly, though, older employees have experienced the steepest drop in job satisfaction over the past 25 years, according to the Conference Board research group. In 1987, more than 70 percent of workers 65 or older and nearly 60 percent of workers 55 through 64 felt good about their jobs; by 2011, their satisfaction numbers had fallen to 46 percent.
That said, I know plenty of people who’ve found ways to fall in love with their work again, even if they've been toiling for decades. They typically either have autonomy and flexibility in their jobs or are learning new things and meeting new people.
But Fredrickson has found that you can also find inner joy in the workplace through simple, practical minute-long exercises. Her bottom line: Find new ways to design your job around love.
I gave Fredrickson a call to find out more. Highlights of our talk:
Let’s start with the key question: What is love?
Fredrickson: Love is an emotion, a momentary state that arises to infuse your mind and body alike. Love is sharing one or more positive emotions with another person, a reflection that you are invested in each other’s well being.
What do you mean when you say, "Redesign your job around love?"
Fredrickson: Listening and supporting your co-workers can renew your energy, give you confidence and build resources to face tough problems. Feelings of connections and camaraderie spark resilience and a more positive work climate.
(MORE: In a Rut? 4 Ways to Get Unstuck)
Create games at work and find other ways to open up and connect. In our office, we started a weekly card game at lunch. It’s made a huge difference.
Are there ways we can use love to understand our colleagues better and improve our work relationships?
Fredrickson: Eye contact, it turns out, is crucial. New scientific evidence suggests that if you don’t make direct eye contact with a co-worker, you’re at a distinct disadvantage in trying to figure out what she really feels or means.
Accessing this emotion makes you wiser. You become more accurate, more attuned and less gullible. You intuitively grasp her intentions. It informs your next move.
If you work virtually and can't see your colleagues face to face, pick up the phone and speak with them. Much emotional information is carried by shared voice, as well.
What’s the root of unhappiness in the workplace?
Fredrickson: All too often the problem is people don’t take the time to truly connect with each other. Feeling pressured to accomplish more each day, you multitask just to stay afloat.
Every moment finds you plotting your next move, what’s next on your never-ending to-do list.
Increasingly, you converse with others through emails, texts, tweets and other ways that don't require speaking, let alone seeing one another.
Love requires you to be physically and emotionally present. It also requires that you slow down.
Maybe all you need to do is stop by someone’s office to talk about something that’s not work-related.
What are examples of micro-moment exercises we can do to make our work life more joyful?
Fredrickson: One of the most powerful ones is doing a day review at the end of your workday. Spend a minute thinking about your three longest interactions. Ask yourself how connected, how attuned, how close you feel to the people you were interacting with.
You’ll get a subtle cue reminding you that each of your social interactions is an opportunity for something more than just an exchange of goods or information. When you learn to cultivate these each day, it’s easier to let negativity roll by.
You also think people should reframe what you call their “self-talk.” What do you mean?
Fredrickson: Nearly everyone has some form of inner self-talk. Maybe you worry too much, second-guessing your every move, expecting the worst at every turn.
How many times each day do you saddle yourself with needless negativity?
Self-acceptance is the foundation for positivity. Lightening up on ourselves allows us to get more joy out of what we do.
(MORE: How Women Can Reinvent Their Careers After 50)
Ask yourself: "What is going right for me? What can I be thankful for?"
We can spend all our time focusing on what’s going wrong; problems grab our attention and pull us down that route. But we can also say, "OK, the problems are here, but what’s going well?"
When people ask themselves that, it can be a powerful way to change their inner chatter to let them feel more open, more alive and more likely to connect with others.
You also think employees should try to get joy from the success of their work colleagues.
Fredrickson: Focus on the good things that are happening to other people. It’s the "it’s five o’clock somewhere" approach. If you don't have something good going on in your life, celebrate someone else’s good fortune. Recognize it as a source of your joy, rather than resentment. It is not a zero sum game.