Is there a place for love in the workplace? Yes, but maybe not in the way you think. Today, we’re going to talk about finding a balance of power and love and why this is imperative to a healthy workplace culture.

Adam Kahane’s book “Power and Love: A Theory and Practice of Social Change” looks at the concepts of power and love and how, in any healthy society, they are in a constant state of tension. Both are necessary, and the culture becomes unhealthy if they are out of balance. After all, a workplace is a micro-social structure with traditions, norms and culture. So, why not embrace the workplace as a society to keep healthy? Taking this approach, leaders should work to ensure power and love are present in the workplace and equalized.

Power, Love, & Workplace Culture

The word ‘power’ is found throughout our traditional view of the workplace given the Western hemisphere’s historical penchant for structure and hierarchy. Many articles, blogs, books and training on leadership spend a lot of time referencing the different types of power present in the workplace and how their application can help or harm organizational culture. When looking to change culture, the focus is often put on power relationships and the communication of power.

However, unlike ‘power’, the word ‘love’ doesn’t weave itself into our dictionary of workplace concepts. Yet, Adam Kahane argues that love is critical at work and defines love in the workplace as a focus on collaboration, teamwork, and wanting group success. Sure, historically the workplace has shied away from the term ‘love.’ But the words of the most famous playwright in history “a rose by any other name is still a rose”.

(While we’re on the subject of workplace culture, here’s another post you can’t miss next)

Is there a place for love at work?

Love is, in fact, part of our concept of the workplace; we simply use different words to describe it.

So, how do power and love affect leadership, workplace culture, and an organization’s success? According to Kahane, ‘love’ is one’s focus on collaboration and ‘power’ is the ability to move initiatives forward.

When ‘love’ and ‘power’ are out of balance, workplace harmony and productivity will erode.

Ultimately, this can result in a toxic environment for the whole team. (Learn more about what your negative workplace culture could be costing you in this post)

As an illustration, here’s what he means:

  • Too much emphasis on “love” will result in a “peace monger” who lacks the decisiveness to advance any workplace initiative; nothing tangible is achieved
  • Too much emphasis on “power” will result in “a dictatorship” that lacks the ability to leverage the greatest asset in any organization; its people.

(Take a look at this post next about unchecked employee issues and the ripple effect they have on an organization)

Healthy Tension of Love & Power in Workplace Culture

Power and Love are in constant healthy tension, and strong leaders should be mindful of how to maintain that balance. Do you know a “peace monger” or a “dictator”? We all do, and now you can add these simple concepts into your social change practices.

A special thanks to our guest blogger, Chris McIntosh. Chris is the recipient of the 2016 Chancellor award for academic achievement in the Masters of Professional Communications program at Royal Roads and we are very honoured to have him share his thoughts with us.

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This article was first published in 2017 and was updated in 2021 just for you.