VALENTINE’s Day is not just about flowers and candle-lit dinners. It is an opportunity to contemplate the power of love and the promise of happiness when you find the only one for you. “The one” doesn’t have to be a person. It could be a job, especially one that offers fulfillment and satisfaction.

Research indicates that love is good for you. You perform better and live longer. You feel happy, care-free. Everything seems possible. You feel less stress; love really is good for your heart. Love for your job is positive, too. Happiness at work fosters team spirit, while good health supports high productivity and quality outcomes. Unfortunately, true love for the job is rare. A 2017 Gallup survey found that 70% of employees were “actively disengaged”. They are indifferent, confirming that the curse of “present-ism” afflicts many companies. The lovelorn are frequently misunderstood. It is the same at work. A total of 89% of bosses say staff leave for money, while only 12% of job-movers say money prompted their exit, according to talent-retention expert Leigh Branham’s book, The 7 Hidden Reasons Your Employees Leave. You stop being faithful because you are out of love. Clearly, finding something to love about your job is key to a lasting relationship. This prompted the inclusion of a “love test” in questions put to job candidates and clients over several months.

They were asked the question “what is the one thing you love about your job?”. Many said that the coffee breaks, the great cappuccino and water-cooler moments when they could chat to colleagues. The office bar or on-site drinks also featured strongly. A chance to unwind with co-workers was cited as greatly appreciated. Altruism and the opportunity to make a difference were also mentioned. People love to feel their work matters – that what they do improves lives or addresses social problems. Technical proficiency was found to also instil love. Change, unpredictability and surprises were also cited. People love facing the unknown, not knowing what to expect from day to day, but coming out on top. Many love to learn. They felt their position gave them a chance to broaden their knowledge and ask questions. Wow moments –those occasions when you complete a project or champion an idea and see the impact on your company and industry – also fosters love. You love the company for believing in you and letting you take the initiative.

However, negative feedback was frequent. Some confessed that they loved the day the boss was away, “because he’s crazy and impossible to work with”. Others said that they simply loved going home, while many said they loved Friday and a weekend away from work. So, what can we learn about love for the job and the chance to get the best out of your loved ones? Firstly, small things matter. Colleague interaction and socialising are important. Secondly, create a sense of purpose. People need to see the bigger picture and have a role in the bigger scheme of things. Also, change the routine when you can. Same old, same old is boring. People love change and challenge. Some even love occasional chaos for the thrill of conquering it. Building learning and development into the job also helps. It is worth the effort. When people love their job, you will love the results.

Michelle Moss is a director at Signium Africa (previously Talent Africa), a leading South African-based executive search and talent management company servicing sub-Saharan Africa. You can visit

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