Thought Leadership

Why love and consciousness matter to workplace culture

… with some help from David R. Hawkins

This post originally appeared on Jessica Kriegel’s LinkedIn. To subscribe to her every-Friday newsletter, also on LinkedIn, go right here.

I come across significant amounts of content on management styles, culture, psychology and human flourishing. I get to see, and collaborate on, some rich research in the space. For a few months now — and I’ll explain a bit more later in this article — I’ve been looking more into context around love at work, which I realize makes some people jump back and say “Love? That has no place at work.” But it does — and here’s a way to conceptualize the map to it.

This idea actually came about in discussion with Ron Paul, Ph.D. of the CULTURE PARTNERS team, with help from the David Hawkins map of consciousness. If you’ve never seen the map of consciousness, here it is:

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This is similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and other different overarching psychological theories you’ll come across. At the lower rungs of the consciousness map, you have survival paradigm theories like shame, guilt, apathy, etc. 

Sadly, the modern workplace has gotten too good at some of these lower-order consciousness emotions. “Apathy” is almost a synonym for “Quiet Quitting” and “Quit-Toking” and even “The Great Resignation.”

Shame and guilt are unfortunately how many managers end up managing; we call it a paradigm based on fear and scarcity, i.e. you always have to have the green light on, because if you don’t, someone else will, so the ax may swing for you soon. Those management approaches, while common, drive voluntary turnover, burnout, and organizational dysfunction. And they happen at the bottom of the consciousness map.

As you move up, you get into anger and pride. These are labeled as “reason and integrity,” and there’s some validity to that, but a lot of this section could be labeled “Ego,” and again, it’s common in management ranks at many places. Pride is obviously one of the seven deadly sins, and in workplaces I’d say that’s even more pronounced. Pride drives so much decision-making, i.e. “We’ve always done it that way” – which is both pride in the past and fear of change. Again, you’re seeing a lot of classic management blunders in these first two groups of the consciousness map.

As the map starts to get more positive, you get into acceptance, willingness, reason, and eventually love. 

We’ve been exploring the idea of love at work in our research and have received some positive feedback on that, but some say “love” and “work” were incompatible. Some feedback we’ve received is, why don’t you focus on:

How to make people give a sh*t.

I see these two things as one and the same.

The way you get employees to give a sh*t is to move up the consciousness map. No one is going to care about work or their connection to it if you manage from the lower rungs of this map. Hell, one of the words on the lower rungs is “apathy.” You will never get people to care about an organization and invest in its upward mobility and growth if you manage from fear and scarcity and anger. You might get a good six months to a year out of someone, but you’ll also burn them and break them in that year, and if they stay, they won’t be productive at the same level they came in at for a long time. 

So we know we want to manage from the higher rungs, i.e. reason and acceptance and love. That’s where we develop long-term, mutual buy-in. That involves:

  • Listen to your people.
  • Do it actively.
  • Do it again. 
  • Think of ways to serve amidst the chaos and pace of life that maybe aren’t as conventional. 
  • Release your attachment to what you want, and consider what the other person wants.

Some of these terms higher up the consciousness map can feel “fluffy.” When you talk about “acceptance” or “willingness” at work, it feels like someone is about to propose a guitar circle. And that’s not good, right? Because work is about being on, and being productive, and completing tasks, and at higher levels of management it’s about beating rivals and eating what you kill. What is, ahem, “acceptance?”

This is where we eventually need a full-scale management pivot inside some organizations, which thankfully is starting to happen. The anti-work movement has grown in the last five years. Employees today will turn down a great job with high pay if they feel the culture isn’t right. And that’s actually good news for leaders because good culture is when people give a sh*t and when people give a sh*t, companies succeed. You get to a good culture by leading from the top levels of this consciousness map. So when we talk about “love at work,” it’s about the way we get things done.

More on all this to come, of course, but love does have a key role at work – and if you want people to truly give a sh*t, love has to be paramount.

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