What relationship expert Lori Gottlieb says we need to be happy at work

Trust, purpose, and EQ are what people are looking for in their relationship to work today.

By Sarah Murry — October 5, 2023

The global workforce is a moment of reckoning with the dominant narratives about work — the Great Resignationquiet quitting, and now, quiet ambition — each a new storyline about other ways of viewing work that have upended the traditional career ladder. It’s in this moment of questioning that internationally celebrated writer, relationship expert, and psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb is bringing a fresh perspective to one of the biggest stories of our daily lives: the one we tell ourselves about work.

It’s also one that we have the most power to rewrite. 

Perhaps best known for her bestselling books and as a quick-witted observer of the human condition, Gottleib has experienced many sides of work in her different careers. Before she achieved global acclaim and media punditry, she earned degrees at three top universities, was a film and TV executive, became a single mom by choice, and grew her own practice as a therapist helping people understand themselves and their relationships.

“When people hear the word ‘relationships,’ they think about partners, family, kids, friends, community,” Gottlieb says. “But you also have a relationship with work, especially given how much time we spend there.”

The focus is squarely on that relationship and how tools, products, and services make that balance better the inaugural HP Imagine event, which kicks off today and introduces groundbreaking solutions for work, life, and play, driving sustainable growth, and empowering a thriving hybrid world.


See all the news from HP Imagine.


The slew of new product and services announcements at HP Imagine — from AI-enhanced Managed Collaboration Services, to PCs with an entirely new form factors (the HP Spectre Foldable and Envy Move All-in-One), and a suite of OfficeJet and DeskJet printers with a new sustainable ink cartridge option — comes on the heels of a first-of-its kind survey by HP that revealed some surprising statistics about how people feel about work, the HP Work Relationship Index.

“You can see that expectations have changed significantly,” Gottleib explains. “At this point, 58% of knowledge workers say that their expectations of their relationship with work have increased, and that’s over the past two to three years, so much so that 83% of workers today are willing to earn less to be happier at work. That is a huge shift, but it doesn’t surprise me as a therapist.”

What also doesn’t surprise her: The reframing of work as one of the central relationships of our lives, one that deserves as much attention and care to how we feel about it as any other. 

“People don’t talk enough about work,” Gottlieb says. “Whether we’re doing it remotely or in person, no matter what industry we’re in – it’s what most people do for most hours of the day. This conversation is so important to have.”

The Garage sat down with Gottlieb to continue the conversation started with the Work Relationship Index and what it means for employees, managers, and business leadership.

A statistic that reads, "83% of workers are willing to earn less to be happier at work."

Only 27% of knowledge workers said they have a healthy relationship with work, according to the HP Work Relationship Index. What are some of the hallmarks of people who identified this way? 

Starting with COVID, people have said, ‘I’m really reexamining my relationship with work, I want to feel valued at work.’ I think people in healthy relationships feel really fulfilled and satisfied. They wake up saying, ‘I really want to go to work’ as opposed to, ‘I really dread going to work.’ These people want [their work] to be pleasurable because they do their best when they enjoy what they do, when they feel connected to what they do, when they feel like they’re included, and when they can bring their whole self to work.

When people come to you and say, ‘I’m really struggling to find my purpose at work.’ What kind of advice do you give them?

If I were seeing somebody in therapy and they said, ‘I really love this aspect of my job,’ I would say, ‘How can you find a way to do more of that?’ That’s the sweet spot. I think when people are saying they want empathetic leadership, they’re saying they want their leaders to really tap into that within their employees. Of course you want people to do what they’re passionate about because they’re going to be better at it.

What do you think employees are looking for from business leaders right now?

They want emotionally intelligent leadership, which means that there’s open communication, that people are valued, that people are offered the ways in which they can be most productive at work – which includes flexibility. Whether that’s working from home a couple of days a week or just the flexibility of life, like being able to go to a doctor’s appointment or pick up your kid from school, whatever it might be. I think that that really creates more trust. It says, ‘I value you and I trust you to get your work done.’

What can employers, CEOs, and managers do to help their employees foster a healthier relationship to work?

First of all, it’s really important for managers to embrace change and to say, ‘This is an exciting opportunity. This can really help me get the most out of the people on my team.’ The second thing is really to listen, and a big component of listening is curiosity.  I think there’s a way of listening where you hear what someone says, but your’e not really that curious about it. Ask a lot of questions. You can say three simple words: Tell me more.

There are four generations of people working together now, the Zoomers to Boomers. It seems like we’re hyper-focused on the relationship with those above us, but what about folks we work with closely during the day or in our role? What thoughts do you have on this intergenerational landscape at work?

People want an emotional connection and you can create that on an individual level by asking someone ‘How was your weekend?’ Or build time in to check in with each other at the beginning of the meeting before you get to the agenda, and people will feel more connected that way. And I think the multigenerational thing that’s happening in the workplace is so beautiful; it’s where you have that village built in. The people who take advantage of that are the people who are going to benefit the most.


Exploring the HP Work Relationship Index for a global perspective on hybrid work.