By Mayra Coelho
Although ‘organizational culture’ has been deeply explored in management studies, ’emotional culture’ and ‘caring’ are subjects that only recently started to be investigated regarding their importance to the work environment. Considering the large proportion of our lives we spend with others at work, the relationships we forge with co-workers are not negligible. On the contrary, as has recently been examined, they impact individual flourishing, resilience, as well as employees’ satisfaction and teamwork.
As a researcher, I’ve conducted a fieldwork investigation in which I interviewed members of cooperatives and associations in order to understand the particularities of solidarity economy working culture. I wondered: if profit, high salaries, and bonuses are not the motivation, what would be driving the growth and expansion of the sector in Barcelona, for instance? I was surprised with the centrality of emotional well-being as the reason for people’s commitment to their organizations.
“What we want is to have a quality life, in fact, what matters most to us is that after work we are happy, it is what really moves us”, said one of the respondents. Another emphasized that “the objective of the cooperative is that people live properly, earning a living wage, doing a job that we like and fulfills us and with the maximum possible harmony”. In this regard, the promotion of care is fundamental, as it enables a work environment that supports healthy relational practices. “You join a space where you know that your emotions, your psychological situation, and your social situation will be taken care of”, stated another participant.
The concern with care, however, is not exclusive to solidarity economy organizations, more and more corporations are realizing the benefits of sustaining a positive emotional culture that centers on human development. Caring, in this sense, refers to the intentional promotion of life through a supportive environment and open communication, which facilitates the achievement of people’s potential.
A study conducted in the United States demonstrated that positive interpersonal relationships at work provide resources that directly support personal growth and development, blurring the boundaries between personal and professional identities, with implications beyond the workplace. The analysis showed that for employees in a caring environment, work relationships are not only sources of instrumental work-relevant support and resources, they also add meaning to the work, as employees experience positive emotions and ultimately find ‘satisfaction in life’, ‘achieving the highest levels of functioning and psychosocial health’.
Along the same lines, a recent research evidenced the positive relation of an emotional culture of companionate love at work to employees’ satisfaction and teamwork, which also reduces absenteeism and emotional exhaustion. Companionate love, understood as a warmth connection, ‘as feelings of affection, compassion, caring, and tenderness for others’, overflowed the limits of the working environment and also influenced the perception of clients towards organizations.
The practice of caring relationships can also enhance resilience in the workplace, as demonstrated in another study, which is a valuable attribute to keep pace with fast organizational change. Resilience is built up with support and friendships at work that strengthen autonomy as much as the ability to relate in multiple ways contributes to the capacity of adaptation to change. Caring and compassion promote this positive dynamic interplay between the self and others.
After two very unusual years amid the pandemic, between confinements and de-confinements, the importance of human connections for personal wellbeing was highlighted, and the impact of psychological and emotional health on work became clear. That is why corporations should care and take a broader and more integrated view of workplace relationships, in which the overall health and wellbeing of employees are promoted in an environment that supports healthy relational practices.
P.S. What I call “care” in this article, researcher Amy Bradly has already flawlessly named it “compassion”. And she will be inspiringly sharing this viewpoint on stage at Happy Conference 2022, next March 29. I would not miss it, by the way – at all.