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What businesses can learn from marriages during the pandemic

There is something romantic, even spiritual, about marriage during the pandemic. A couple exchanging permanent vows set against a backdrop of extreme uncertainty… what could be a more enduring image of romantic love?

The pandemic has changed how we celebrate marriages. When I got engaged in 2018, my fiancée and I planned a grand event. Then, the pandemic happened. Forced to rethink, we agreed to hold an intimate wedding in July 2020. It was a stripped version of what my wife and I had wanted, but we had no regrets. After all, the essence of marriage is celebrating love and committing before God and our closest loved ones as witnesses.

In a world of temporary transactions, instant gratification, and ever-changing environment, can anything still remain relatively permanent?

My experience and witnessing my peers also get married during the pandemic gave me a deeper appreciation of marriage as a covenant of love. Against all odds in history, from ancient plagues to the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps what has allowed our society to survive and thrive is how we treasure authentic human relationships.

Perhaps as businesses and other organizations struggle to survive the pandemic, we can learn from marriages in pandemic times.

At its core, marriage goes beyond win-win negotiations and transactions. It goes beyond contractual obligations to comply with the demands of the other. Rather, a marriage is a permanent covenant in which a couple commits to serve each other and allow each other to flourish. It is also a commitment to start a family with offspring nourished with love.

Businesses and organizations cannot anymore just rely on transactions to survive because these are short-term and anchored on convenience. Instead, they should cultivate authentic human relationships that are anchored on trust and commitment.

Consider the case of Gravity Payments, a US-based credit card processing and financial services company, whose founder, Dan Price, gave up millions in executive compensation to raise his employees’ compensation to about $70,000 annually. Mainstream business managers criticized this move, given the implications on minimum revenues needed to sustain it. When the pandemic hit, the mainstream business managers were almost proven correct — Gravity Payments was on the brink of bankruptcy. However, going against classical assumptions of maximizing self-interest without regard to others, the employees of Gravity Payments volunteered to give up their salaries, and went beyond their job descriptions to help their clients and the company recover. This created a virtuous domino effect in which Gravity Payments and its clients were able to withstand the initial shocks of the pandemic long enough to continue operating. Because of this sacrifice, the clients of Gravity Payments were able to survive.

Afterwards, this newfound stability allowed the employees to regain their salaries. This is a true win-win for everyone.

My takeaway from this case is that when businesses put a premium on cultivating authentic human relationships, people go beyond transactions and short-term contracts. We go beyond selfish self-preservation and harness altruism (and should I say, “love”?) for each other that is truly interdependent and mutually flourishing.

In a world where the only permanent thing is change, we need a sobering level of authenticity to cultivate a kind of love that aspires only to change for the better. Under the old normal, perhaps it was much easier to succumb to short-term convenient transactions. However, perhaps the pandemic forces us to put more faith in humanity. Perhaps it is time to retire a myopic view of transactions. What we need to survive, and even thrive, is a covenant that vows to be in authentic service of each other.


Patrick Adriel H. Aure is an Assistant Professor at the Management and Organization Department, Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business. As head of the Social Enterprise Research Network of the Center for Business Research and Development (CBRD-SERN) and as co-chair for strategic directions of the Lasallian Social Enterprise for Economic Development (LSEED) committee at De La Salle University, he advocates for social entrepreneurship.

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