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Love [appreciation] languages at work

Today is Valentine's Day - a holiday encouraging us to tell the people we love that we love them and to make them feel appreciated. You could argue we should do this everyday, but I digress...

At work, we shouldn't shy away from telling the people we appreciate that we appreciate them.

When's the last time someone made you feel appreciated? What did they do?

People express their appreciation in different ways. Equally, people want to receive praise and recognition in different ways.

When I was a kid, my dad had us read Gary Chapman's The 5 Love Languages. He wanted to know what love language we spoke.

Chapman and Paul White since adapted this to discuss the workplace love language: appreciation. We've discussed this before, getting praise and recognition for the work you're doing and value you're adding is a fundamental need.

“Because we don’t normally think in terms of our co-workers loving us — the word appreciation fits much better — but it is meeting that deep need to feel that somebody cares about me, and somebody appreciates me,” says Chapman.

Same, same but different

Same, same but different. We all want to be appreciated but how we want to be appreciated varies. It's the same for most things:

  • Communication styles - we all communicate - but how we do it and what we look for differs. Joy Baldridge offers a great perspective on different Land of Languages.

  • Values - we all have values and drivers - but what those are vary

  • Strengths - you know where I'm going with this already...

It's human nature to interact and work with others in the way we like being worked with. It's always useful to remember there are different angles and approaches to nearly everything. No one is right or wrong, but they're different.

And while those differences are advantages, they can also cause unnecessary tensions if not addressed. Since you know the importance of recognising the contributions and strengths of your team regularly, you know the importance of recognising people's appreciation language.

In his book The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, Chapman describes five ways that people express their appreciation at work:

  • Acts of Service

  • Physical Touch

  • Tangible Gifts

  • Words of Affirmation

  • Quality Time

Let's quickly look at what each appreciation language looks like and ways we can speak that language to those who are fluent in it.

Acts of Service 🙏

Feel most appreciated when other people reach out to help. Actions speak louder than words to these people.

How can you show appreciation through acts of service?

  • Stay late to help them complete something

  • Offer to do a task

  • Help them clean up

  • When they’re busy, organise lunch

  • Bring homemade food into the office

  • Doing something for that person, like attend a tricky meeting / handle a complaint

  • Do what you say you will

Physical Touch 🤝

*Obvious disclaimer: this needs to be fit for purpose and extremely appropriate. There are much fewer options in the work environment to express this, but short, professional touches are powerful expressions to people who speak this language.

How can you show appreciation through physical touch?

  • Handshakes

  • High 5’s

  • Fist bumps

  • Touching shoulders or elbows

  • Brief hugs (esp. In emotional times)

Tangible Gifts 🎁

Feel the most appreciated and valued when they receive a tangible reward. This doesn't have to be monetary. It's less about the gift and more about the thought behind it. The gifts should be personal to the person - and meaningful.

How can you show appreciation through tangible gifts?

  • Make / go out for a cup of coffees

  • Have morning/afternoon teas together

  • Gift cards

  • Time off

  • Box of chocolate

  • Pay for a dinner

  • Tickets to sports / cultural event that's important to the person

  • Share a book or podcast

  • Remember work anniversaries

Words of Affirmation 👏

Simple, verbal affirmation to communicate a positive message about the person's character or achievements.

How can you show appreciation through words of affirmation?

  • Write an email and compliment them for a specific contribution

  • Tell others what a good job the person is doing

  • Praise them (their preference - public v private)

  • Give them encouragement

  • Write a specific list of things you like about their work performance

Quality Time 🕞

Feel the most appreciated when people are genuinely interested in spending time with them. Quality personal attention is vital. Deep conversations, shared experiences, small group dialogue and shared projects are great ways to speak this language.

How can you show appreciation through quality time?

  • Go to lunch with people

  • Have time each day to connect on topics outside of work (Stuff quiz, morning teas)

  • Stop by and check in with them

  • Put your phone down and give them your full attention (maintain eye contact)

  • Have team days

  • Get together outside of work (sports games, walks, activities)

  • Call just to chat

What's your appreciation language?

Not sure? Luckily there are resources you can use to help you identify them!

Here's an open-to-all resource developed by Better Thinking. The assessment asks you to think about which would make you feel the most appreciated and which is less important to you. You can do the scores through the link above, but here are some ways people show their appreciation.

Which ones would mean the most to you?

A team member...

  • says, "You really did a great job. I appreciate it."

  • unexpectedly does something in or around the office/house/garden that you appreciate.

  • brings you a surprise treat from the store.

  • invites you to go on a leisurely walk just to chat.

  • makes a point of giving you a handshake, *hug before leaving the office/house.

  • tells you how much he or she appreciates you.

  • suggests books, TV shows or movies you might like based on what they know about you.

  • volunteers to do a job for you and encourages you to relax.

  • brings you flowers/brings you a treat.

  • invites you to sit down and talk about your day.

  • tells other people about your recent successes.

  • receives a ‘high 5’, *hug from a member even if just passing from one room to another*.

  • cleans your dishes for you.

  • surprises you with an unexpected gift.

  • surprises you with a special outing.

  • shakes your hand, pats you on the back, *holds your hand or touches you in a loving, friendly way while at a public event.

  • praises you about one of your special qualities or abilities.

  • brings you lunch.

  • surprises you with a membership to something you've always wanted.

  • plans a special night out for you and him/her

  • drives you to an event when you need a ride.

  • tells you how much his/her friends/colleagues appreciate you.

  • takes the time to fill out the long, complicated application forms that you had hoped to find time for.

  • sends you something special through the mail.

  • kidnaps you for lunch and takes you out to eat.



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