5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace

Something in our nature cries out to be loved by another. Isolation is devastating to the human psyche. That is why solitary confinement is considered the cruelest of punishments.  Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts

In his book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, Gary Chapman talks about the five different ways love can be communicated. The premise is that not everyone “hears” love spoken the same way. 

How can we apply these in the workplace? 

Because we live in a very politically correct and regulation-based society, we have come to a place where we go to extremes to treat everyone the same. The issue with that is that everyone is NOT the same. There is, however, one common component to all: we need to feel appreciated for the work we do. Now you may be thinking that means writing a big thank-you note to each person on your team, and they each will feel appreciated, or giving them each a gift card to a coffee shop, or giving them a raise. But perhaps you’ve noticed that if you do this for everyone, some are elated while others seem to have a ho-hum attitude. Why is this? Do they not realize your sacrifice? 

No, the problem is that they do not all speak the same language of appreciation. 

Let’s apply Gary Chapman’s five languages to appreciation in the workplace. 

Words of Affirmation
Have you ever noticed an employee’s eyes light up – or brim with tears - when you offer sincere words appreciation? These are those whose appreciation language is “words of affirmation”. This can be written or verbal, spoken in a private meeting or in front of others. The key is to be sincere and to specify something they’ve done in particular that you have noticed. This comes across as true appreciation and not flattery. 

Quality Time

This is usually important to the more detailed people on your team. If you’re a fast-driven big-picture extrovert, don’t steamroll your introverted detail-minded team members. Instead, ask their opinions, give them plenty of time to process their thoughts, and then listen intently to what they have to say. Just…listen. To them, that is a note of appreciation. 

Acts of Service

There was an executive assistant whose husband was diagnosed with leukemia during a “routine” doctor visit. Their lives went from normal to life-critical in one afternoon. Her boss and his wife immediately went into action, visiting him at the hospital and arranging for help to carry some of her workload. They provided food and sent flowers. You can bet the assistant felt very much appreciated at a time when she needed it most.

Tangible Gifts

This may surprise you, but money is NOT always the only motivator for an employee. Managers who feel that an annual pay raise is enough to make all employees feel appreciated are mistaken. It is good, but it is not the language of all. That said, there are many for whom it truly IS a measure of value. These employees need tangible incentives – pay raises, gifts of appreciation, written thank you notes, and certificates they can post on their wall. 

Physical Touch

This one is no longer accepted in the workplace, but there are those for whom that personal connection is still very important. So, while you may not be able to give the proverbial pat on the back, you can take the time to learn about their personal interests and ask about them occasionally. Encouragement goes a long way with those in this category. 

I challenge you to do something weekly to speak the language of appreciation to each of your team members in a very individual way. This has the power to create a team with an unbreakable bond.


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