Liberating Work With Agapic Love

 I am participating in a writing project on love and organizing in the workplace with some colleagues from the International Humanistic Management Association. It's been really fun to talk about love and organizing with such brilliant minds.

We had a conversation the other day and so many things stood out in how I understand love and organizing and I thought I'd share them here.

From Renato Ruffini on Liberating Work: Isn’t about freedom – it’s about connection. It’s about co-creating to create value for society – and through that – economic value for flourishing.

I love that - liberation isn't about freedom - it's about connection. Think about what you like about work the most. It's probably your connection to your colleagues and the work you do that really makes a difference for society.

Also from Renato Ruffini on the difference between erotic love vs agapic love in the workplace.  Now, I understand for westerners, the concept of erotic love in the workplace is probably limited to the porn industry. But Renato explained that erotic love is about reciprocity. Meaning - I give to you with expectation of getting in return.  This contrasts with agape which is about giving for the sake of giving.

In reality, both exist. Work for reciprocal exchange (erotic) and work for the sake of doing good work (agape).  The challenge is how we balance between the 2 forms of love in our work.  We need to have both in the workplace, but usually, we only have erotic and not agapic relationships in the workplace. So, think ... how much better would work be if it satisfied both agape and eros?

Renato also talked about Fraternity as the first form of Agape  but that we need to move to full agape. In other words, Humanism. 

This gets us into the nature of man. We all have a need for love.  In many people, this desire and need is not fully developed.  So we experience this form of love - fraternity, as very tribal.  This is not agapic.   Agape does not require reciprocity.  

When we get stuck in fraternity, we can become very tribal. This causes problems like racism.  Fraternity is a form of reciprocal love. If we move past that - into agape, we find the Gratitude.  But Renato made clear, the term Gratuiti in Italian doesn't mean what Gratitude does in English. It doesn't translate. Instead, Gratuiti is the opposite of reciprocity.

Basically, we need love and fraternity. But if we get stuck in fraternity and never move past that to humanity in total (ie: agape) then we don't reap the full benefit of love in organizations. We should instead, look to be gratuiti in our relationships.

  Don't require reciprocity.

Finally, my colleague Harry Hummels, who is seriously brilliant, in the spirit of agape, said, great leaders don't tell people what to do. Great leaders invite people to contribute as full partners to the mission of the organization. 

To recap:

  • Liberation is found in collaboration.
  • Don't require reciprocity to do good work
  • Invite people to be full partners with you!

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