Love may be a remedy for fear and stress in the workplace

One of the participants that joined our workshop at the HRPA Conference on “Humanizing Cultures: The Power of Love and Compassion in the Workplace” was inspired to write an article on her experience for Great West Life – Center for Mental Health in the Workplace.  Thank you Julie Maltby for sharing this with us!


Toxic workplaces are the fifth-leading cause of death in the U.S., according to Stanford University professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of Dying for a Paycheck. Some Canadian workplaces have similar stressors.

Lorie Corcuera, co-founder and CEO of SPARK Creations, shared this finding and other compelling research in a presentation at the recent Human Resources Professionals Association conference in Toronto. “We take workplace unhappiness home with us. Even if we’re putting on a good face and saying, ‘everything’s fine,’ we’re still passing on the energy to our kids and they don’t know what to do with it.”

Of course, if you are unhappy at work, it does not mean you work in a toxic environment – and Corcuera is not advocating for office romance as the solution to discontent. She is committed to replacing stress with love to improve mental health in the workplace. Based on scientific studies, she and her team have brought love to many workplaces, including McDonald’s and Expedia.

Corcuera is not advocating for office romance as the solution to discontent.

Corcuera began her presentation titled, “Humanizing cultures: the power of love and compassion in the workplace,” by saying research shows most workplace cultures are fear-based – and the opposite of fear is love.

So, what does love at work look like?

“Love comes with connection, intimacy, caring, having a full heart, getting undivided attention, contentment and feeling joyful,” said Corcuera. Why would such positive feelings and behaviours be discouraged in the workplace? In a word, fear.

Corcuera identified the following reasons leaders might be afraid of a more loving workplace:

* Love is equated with intimacy that leads to office romances

* Love and objectivity are seen as mutually exclusive

* Love gone wrong can lead to conflict

* To love a colleague isn’t professional

* The science behind love and stress

When we experience human connection, we emit Oxytocin, known as the love hormone. “You can’t replicate it in a digital form. Nothing replaces oxytocin. The love hormone is associated with empathy, trust, bonding, connection and relationship-building,” said Corcuera.

Cortisol is the stress hormone released by humans during the fight or flight response. It protects us when we feel threatened, but Corcuera reported that too much stress can:

* Interfere with learning and memory

* Lower immune function and bone density

* Increase the risk for depression, mental illness and lower life expectancy

* Decrease resilience

“We have higher reported incidents of mental illness than ever before because people feel unsafe in the workplace – not because of physical threats, but cortisol is released when we’re afraid of anything. This also impacts relationships at work because when cortisol is released, there’s no empathy – we can’t release oxytocin at the same time as cortisol,” Corcuera said.

Tips to share more love at work

  1. Listen – without distractions or assumptions and without planning what you are going to say next.
  2. Show empathy. “Assume the best about the person’s intentions if they’re not behaving well. Maybe they’re just having a bad day; their behavior or words aren’t probably intended to be nasty,” Corcuera said.
  3. Ask someone who appears to be distressed if you can help. Show compassion.
  4. Forgive.
  5. Create a safe space. Do this by being vulnerable yourself.
  6. Get to know your colleagues and care about what matters to them.

Corcuera ended the session by telling the captivated audience that loving others begins with loving ourselves. “Loving myself means accepting that this is who I am and this is what I love about myself. Self-love makes you confident and attractive. Then others want to have what you have.”

Special thanks to Julie for writing this article!

Originally posted in Great West Life’s Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace on February 14, 2019.

We will be sharing this workshop at the 2019 WorkHuman Conference in Nashville on March 20, 2019!

Sharon Brown-John