When Tina Turner asked this question, it is safe to say no one though of it in terms of business productivity.  According to research by Wharton professor Sigal Barsade “companionate love” in the work place significantly impacts employee morale, team work, and customer satisfaction.  Companionate love is shown “when colleagues, who are together day in and day out, ask and care about each other’s work and even non-work issues.”

The initial research of Sigal Barsade and Olivia Mandy O’Neill, assistant professor of management at George Mason University conducted studies on the emotional culture of healthcare companies to understand the impact of shared emotions of people who work together.  Most research focuses on cognitive culture.

Barsade and O’Neill’s first study was in the health care industry where one would expect compassion to be an influencing factor.  Using a scale that measured tenderness, compassion, affection, and caring, the researchers showed that a shared emotional culture in which companionate love exists  impacts the outcomes and productivity of a company.

But in second study with 3,201 employees in seven different industries, the researchers found companionate love matters across a broad range of diverse industries such as real estate, finance and public utilities.  They found a culture of companionate love led to higher levels of employee engagement with their work, greater teamwork and job satisfaction, greater accountability among internal colleagues, and lower absenteeism and burn-out.  One of the most important findings was that a positive emotional culture reduces employee withdrawal from work.

We know that it has become increasingly difficult to differentiate with content and even skills.  Every sales organization is hard at work to set itself apart to compete and win.  Those of us in the sales performance industry seek to find ways to help salespeople differentiate through skills, strategies, tools, and in how salespeople brand themselves and connect with their clients. Barsade and O’Neill showed that companies with a culture of companionate love, create an important competitive edge internally and with customers.

So what does companionate love look like in practice?  At its essence it is as old as time.   But it may be absent in many companies because the drive to make the numbers puts so much pressure on people they easily forget to take the time for human connections.

Signal Barsade and Olivia Mandy O’Neill make it clear the simple courtesies  and small graces of how people relate to one another matter in an organization.  Organizations that have spaces with a “homey” environment,  that celebrate birthdays etc. send a message that people care about each other and its people matter.

To understand the full impact of what Barsade and O’Neill’s study proved just look at the emotional culture at Google.  It can be described as OTT with its free quality food all day (in the 90’s Bloomberg generously fed its team members and visitors from consultants to the Fed Ex guy/gal alike with healthy snacks throughout the day), free gym, free massages, generous parental leave etc. all of which secured its place as one of the companies on Fortune’s list of best company to work for.  But it is not so much all the perks but the story the perks tell about the character of a company and the deeply held corporate values it character informs.  What the researchers have shown and Google is living proof of is that the relationships among colleagues within the company matter to a company’s productivity and growth.

Management must begin to think about its company’s emotional culture or it will be left behind.  But each of us can do our part in small and big ways to check our emotional IQ and the emotional culture we are creating. As I finished this blog I had a 30 minute interview scheduled that had a tight deadline.  I took a deep breath and used the first 5 minutes to take extra steps to connect on the relationship level.  I learned about the client’s son’s scholarship and about a family burden.  Our call ran over a few minutes but it was far better than it might have been had I let the time pressure get in the way of companionate love.