Why the business world needs more love

CC-BY-SA Sergey Sosnovskiy

We love love, yet organisational management completely ignores it. Enough already, argues Stefano Tasselli, Assistant Professor at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). As one of Poets&Quants2018’s Best Under 40 Professors, Tasselli looks to old Greek philosophy to find a new approach.

“I was waiting at the airport and realised how many of the magazines at the book store are dealing with love. Love is on our minds, in our thoughts, our conversations.... It determines much of what we do, but we neglect it within organisational management. Why? I think it’s because love is personal and subjective, when we like to claim neutrality. Also, it runs on a different type of energy: it’s passionate, not authoritative.”

Eros, Philia & Agape

To ignore something so omnipresent, so relevant, seems like a mistake - and it is, Tasselli argues. If you try to talk about the subject, you immediately stumble on confusion – what kind of love are we talking about? To try and define love’s many different meanings, Tasselli decided to trace back three ideas from ancient Greek philosophy. Eros - the love for the self, Philia - the love in a mutually beneficial friendship, and Agape - the altruistic love for humanity.

The dilemmas these three concepts present hold the key to what they can do for modern organisation management, Tasselli believes. First of all, there is Eros, presenting us with the question of how to express our individual identity in an organisation that requires a certain type of conduct. Although you won’t be completely free, he argues, once you know your role in an organisation, you can use your Eros as an agent for what you’re trying to achieve.

Friendship or favouritism?

Second, there is Philia, straddling the fine line between friendship and favouritism at the work floor. How do you maintain an amicality that serves both, without giving up your neutrality in the organisation at large? On the one hand, people generally flourish at work when they feel they can trust those around them. On the other hand, ethics also need to be observed. 

Then there is Agape, a symbol of compassion and commitment, separating the givers from the takers. Like Eros and Philia, managing different shades of Agape requires a conscious approach: this love is affecting real dynamics, it has real consequences, it determines how satisfied workers are, how well they do their job. “Organisations should acknowledge all dimensions of love,” Tasselli argues, “the era in which love is a taboo needs to end.”

Best Under 40 Professor

As someone who teaches the subject of social networks within organisations, Tasselli seems to do just that. Students praise his charismatic, passionate, down-to-earth teaching style, Poets&Quants reveals. He consistently receives high scores in student evaluations, and “students often cite their appreciation for his inclusive classroom, where everyone is engaged and feels comfortable posing any questions.” Using his personal qualities (Eros) to give his students the trust (Philia) they need to improve the organisations they will work in (Agape), Tasselli seems to have embarked on his quest by bringing love to his own work floor.

Read Tasselli's paper 'Love and Organization Studies: Moving beyond the Perspective of Avoidance' here