Appreciation in the Workplace

You would be hard-pressed to find a better author combination to write a book about appreciation in the workplace than Gary Chapman and Paul White. Chapman, a relationship counselor and White, a psychologist, have merged the themes of individual appreciation and organizational behavior in a way that can drive high levels of employee engagement in their 2011 best seller, “The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.”

They claim there are five languages of appreciation in the workplace:

Words of Affirmation
As a Baby Boomer, this language of appreciation is my favorite. Hearing good things about my work from my supervisor, colleagues or customers is the ultimate high for me. Millennials tend to like this language as well.

Tangible Gifts
For others, receiving a tangible gift is a prime motivator. A gift card or tickets to a sporting event can send someone a lasting signal they are valued.

This language of appreciation should be implemented in coordination with the relevant gift policy of your specific workplace.

Quality Time
For some of us in the workplace, spending meaningful moments in authentic conversation is all we need. Checking in with a colleague to see how they are doing or taking someone out to lunch are just small ways to say you are important to me.

Acts of Service
Are you one of those people who sometimes get overloaded at work and your officemates roll up their sleeves and offer to help you catch up? If this really floats your boat than acts of service is your primary language of appreciation.

Physical Touch
With this language of appreciation, you have to be aware of the cultural and physical boundaries of physical affection in your particular workplace. In spite of differences in office decorum, physical touch for some folks is a huge motivator. A high five, a warm hug, a pat on the back can go a long way to making someone feel recognized and visible.

Finally, Chapman and White remind us to be cognizant of our unconscious and conscious biases when it comes to communicating languages of appreciation. Through confirmation bias, we think that everyone around us has the same language of appreciation that we do. Applying a language of appreciation inconsistent with the receiver’s language of appreciation can sometimes be just as hurtful as not appreciating someone at all. If Catherine’s language of appreciation is physical touch and I try to appreciate her through words of affirmation, she will hear and feel my attempt to value her as a foreign language.

Do you know the languages of appreciation of your colleagues and customers and do you implement them on a regular basis?

If you do then you are well on your way to spreading the light of positivity in a workplace that has been dark for a long time.

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Mark Hammer

What matters more to some people will, of course, vary from person to person, level to level, and role to role. For some of us, what’s missing from the list is simply being asked “Well what do *you* think?”. Consultation is a form of validation, and appreciation.