Why you should love your work

Just got a text message from someone in my team.

“I was telling my family last night how much I loved my job and they were like, ‘what?! You love your job?’ They were shocked as it’s so uncommon for people to love their job.”

My initial reaction probably lacked empathy, “that’s so weird! If you don’t love your job it’s your own fault!”

And then I checked myself.

I reminded myself that I’m incredibly privileged to have always been in a position where I could choose where I worked.

I also worked very hard on myself and my attitude during times when things weren’t great so that I could find time for joy and gratitude to get through the difficult times.

I have controversial ideas about this concept of love at work.

I think it’s the next big thing in leadership thinking.

three white ceramic pots with green leaf plants near open notebook with click pen on top
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Yes, LOVE at work. Think about it…

We’ve learned about the power of mindfulness at work.

We’ve learned how happiness impacts on productivity and outcomes.

We’ve discovered that growth mindset helps us to be better leaders, more strategic thinkers, and problem solvers.

It won’t be long until Harvard, Yale or Pen State start producing research about loving your job. Even better, maybe the University of Melbourne. Monash or UQ might beat them to the chase.

Here are three reasons I believe in love at work:

1. Food made with love tastes better

I’m a vegetarian and I can tell you when I eat at a restaurant how the Head Chef feels about “my kind” when I consume their food.

For example, a very popular Melbourne restaurant has one $40 per plate option for vegetarians and vegans (because they couldn’t be bothered coming up with two meals… no expansive restaurant, vegetarians and vegans are not the same).

As my meat eating friends are munching on what they say is the most delicious meal they’ve ever had, my dish has no flavour and includes raw carrot, and pickled onion. I ask if they can put cheese on it as the dish has no taste and am declined… “you can only order what’s on the menu… no changes.”

The message to vegetarians is clear. “Please don’t eat here. We don’t like cooking your food”

The opposite experience in a restaurant in Spain saw the chef come out of the kitchen and talk to my husband and I:

“What do you like to eat?” he asks.

“Anything without animals in it” we explain.

What came out of the kitchen that night was a work of art. Deep fried fig and goats cheese salad, and a pasta with some kind of lovely cream sauce with garlic. (We later learned the restaurant had two hats!)

It was clear to us the chef loved his job, and loved coming up with customised creations to tease the pallet of his customers. He rose to the challenge and put love into our meal no wonder his business was so successful.

2. People who love their job focus on the customer

Ever been served by someone who loves their job in retail?

How great does it feel to have them greet you with a smile, gauge how much contact you need, and create a great buying experience for you.

How about the opposite? Someone who doesn’t love their job?

Perhaps they don’t make eye contact? Perhaps they bark at you when you ask where something is? Perhaps they ignore you so they can talk to their colleagues? Often the shop floor is a mess. Clothes aren’t on hangers. Stock may be dusty or misplaced. You can see the lack of love.

I don’t know about you but I tend to walk out of those establishments because I want my money to support businesses that love their products and love their customers.

3. People who love their work pay greater attention to detail

A little while ago I did a 170 km hike in Japan which was part of the Kumano Kodo.

On one particular day my husband and I got a bit lost.

We’d walked about 30 kms and nightfall was upon us. We knew it was dangerous to hike in the dark because the area we were in had bears.

We had no idea where we were or how far from our accommodation we were.

I called our hotel and asked them for advice.

“We’ll come pick you up”

20 minutes later the hotel manager arrived in his car.

You can imagine we didn’t smell great (poor man) which is why I was impressed/embarrassed when we arrived and the concierge insisted on helping us take off our boots at the entrance to the hotel.

He placed slippers on our stinky feet and quickly checked us in.

He directed us to our rooms and told us to shower so we could sit down to a five course meal served by a delightful young woman who didn’t speak a lot of English but laughed with us all through the meal.

We were then directed to a private onsen (a Japanese bath with spring water). While we were there our beds were turned down ready for us to retire.

The efficiency of the entire experience was amazing.

The manager had told the conceirge everything we’d discussed in the car in order to help him offer us a customised experience.

The wait staff informed us when our private onsen was ready, and the next morning the manager offered to drive us to the bus we needed to take so that we could get back on the right path for the day’s hike. He’d remembered our plans for the day from our conversation the night before.

Clearly they loved what they did and it lead to a greater level of care, empathy and service.

The opposite experience was staying in a BnB in Canada recently. No one was there to meet us and so we had to wait an hour to get into the accomodation after another long day of hiking. The apartment was tidy but the bedding threadbare and gave us the impression that it wasn’t washed after every guest’s stay.

Actually, the place gave us the creeps and we slept in the lounge room with one eye open all night!

It was clear to me the owner didn’t love their work. We were income and that was it.

So what? How can I apply this idea of Love at Work?

1. As a leader use this concept to help your staff love what they do

Make sure you hire on motivation as a priority over experience and over competencies. It’s the difference between can the person do the job? and will the person love their job and go the extra mile?

2. As an employee find a way to love your work

If it’s impossible to love your job, start looking for a new one. (Sorry to be so brutal)

If we’re honest with ourselves there are so many things we can do to fall in love with our work:

  • spend more time with your customers and get inspired by what they do and how you can help them
  • identify the things you love most about your job and ensure you’re spending enough time on these tasks to motivate you to complete the more mundane aspects of your role
  • get closer to your colleagues. We should all have people at work who build us up and inspire us to be better. I make sure I spend one on one time with people like this every week.
  • put a little extra into your work. That spreadsheet would look better with a purple heading… that email would sound better if you make it a bit fun and a little funnier. Put a little extra love into your work just for the fun of it.
  • listen to music while you work. My colleagues often see me bopping along to some kind of Spotify mix while I’m tackling excel, PowerPoint or doing highly administrative tasks.

Let me know how you go.

Someone smarter than me is going to commercialise love at work soon and you can tell everyone you’ve been intentionally loving your job for years.

Love (always) Cholena

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