While I am confident you regularly express appreciation for your employees, unless you’re expressing it in multiple ways, chances are some of them aren’t getting the message. That’s because not all employees respond to the same type of recognition and praise. Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Paul White, coauthors of “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace,” offer suggestions to ensure that each employee feels valued and appreciated. These may sound familiar, and that’s because Chapman is also author of “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.” There are many ways people can show that they love their partners, but some of those “love languages” are valued more than others, depending on what the person needs to feel loved. People likewise need different types of appreciation in workplace relationships to feel valued. Though the languages sound similar, the applications are different at work:
1. Words of affirmation. Employees who value words of affirmation feel appreciated and motivated when their contributions and efforts are verbally acknowledged. They appreciate being told “Thank you.” They are also grateful when they hear specific praise. Rather than saying, “Good job, everyone,” comment on a behavior you want repeated. For example, “Thanks for coming in early, Jim. I appreciate that I can always count on you.” Additionally, employees appreciate compliments on their character. “Sarah, I really admire that no matter what is going on, you stay good-natured and upbeat. I appreciate how much you impact our team and customers.”
2. Quality time. These employees need individual time and attention in order to feel appreciated and motivated. Giving them your focused attention and expressing a genuine interest in what they are doing conveys that they are valued. Regularly take time to say hello, inquire how things are going and ask if they need anything. Additionally, employees who value quality time above all else appreciate company picnics, outings to a ball game, after-hour get-togethers and other group activities. Such shared experiences provide a meaningful way for them to connect with you as well as with their coworkers.
3. Acts of service. Some employees show their love for your organization and for you as a boss by doing what needs to be done cheerfully and well without having to be asked. They feel valued and appreciated when you pitch in and offer to help without having to be asked. Having coined the phrase, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right,” it is imperative to employees who value service that you follow through on commitments and that what you do for them is done well.
4. Tangible gifts. Some employees feel appreciated and motivated when they receive tangible gifts they value. Your knowing what they like and taking the time and effort to acquire it tells staff they are important to you. For example, if they’re an Ohio State fan and you get them tickets to a game, a buckeye or something with the team logo on it, you will have a happy and motivated employee. Conversely, if they don’t like sports, sports gifts aren’t a good choice. Lastly, it’s important you know that their birthday ranks as a national holiday. Get them a thoughtful card and/or gift and you will be a hero.
5. Physical touch. Others feel valued and appreciated when they receive appropriate touch. It’s hard to go wrong with a handshake, fist bump or high five. A pat on the back also conveys value. Conversely, hugs can easily be misconstrued and therefore aren’t good choices for the workplace. If touch is your language but an employee recoils from your touch or stiffens, take it as a hint and don’t continue it in the future.
When employees feel appreciated, they work harder, and there is little they won’t do for you. When they feel unappreciated, the opposite occurs. Speak the language of each employee and watch motivation and productivity soar.