Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Gary Chapman and Paul White's book, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People (Northfield Publishing, 2012).
One of the best ways to improve your organization’s success is to show your appreciation for its people. When the people you work with feel appreciated, they’ll respond with loyalty and hard work, so your organization can retain its best employees and benefit from their contributions.
So it’s crucial to encourage people in your workplace by regularly expressing your appreciation to them. But some ways of communicating appreciation will fall flat with some people, while others will be effective. It all depends on what “languages of appreciation” your colleagues speak. Here’s how you can strengthen your organization by encouraging your colleagues through appreciation:
Recognize the benefits of showing your appreciation in the workplace. Appreciation benefits your organization by increasing both productivity and employee retention, and it benefits the people you work with by improving their morale. The top factor in employee job satisfaction isn’t how much money people are paid, but how appreciated they feel for their efforts at work. The more you encourage your colleagues by appreciating them, the more likely they are to work hard, and the more likely your entire organization is to succeed.
Give words of affirmation. People who speak this language feel appreciated by words that affirm something positive about them. You can either praise them for a specific accomplishment, affirm a personality trait you appreciate about them (such as how optimistic they are, or how well they plan) or affirm a character trait of theirs that you appreciate (such as perseverance, courage, humility, self-discipline, compassion, integrity, patience, or kindness). If you want to verbally speak words of affirmation, you can do so either in private, one-on-one conversations with the people you want to encourage, or in public, such as during meetings. Another way to communicate affirming words is through writing, such as in a emails, texts, or handwritten notes.
Give quality time. People who speak this language feel appreciated by focused attention. One of the ways you can give people quality time is by intentionally engaging in empathetic conversations with them, sharing your thoughts, feelings, and desires with each other in a friendly, uninterrupted context. Another way is to share experiences together, such as by going out to eat together and attending work conferences or after-work special events (such as sports games or concerts) together. You can also give people quality time through small group dialogue, in which you ask employees to share their ideas and suggestions for how to improve your workplace. Yet another way to give quality time is by working n close physical proximity with coworkers while accomplishing a project.
Give acts of service. People who speak this language feel appreciated when others serve them. You can serve your colleagues by helping them with specific tasks that they feel will ease their workload, whenever doing so is appropriate. If you choose to help a coworker with a task, make sure that the coworker welcomes your help, and that you complete the task the way he or she wants the task to be done.
Give tangible gifts. People who speak this language feel appreciated by receiving gifts. Aim to give the kind of gifts that would be personally meaningful to each person you want to encourage. In order to do so, you have to get to know what items and experiences the people who work with you value the most. You can get that information through a workplace survey, or simply by asking questions in your everyday conversations with colleagues. Keep in mind, too, that you don’t necessarily need to spend money on the gifts you give to people in your workplace, You can choose to give them some time off work (from some extra vacation days to the privilege of leaving work a few hours early one day), which they will likely appreciate as much as they would appreciate gift cards, tickets to events, or any other type of gift you can buy with money.
Give physical touch. People who speak this language feel appreciated by touch that encourages them. In the workplace, you must be careful not to touch people in any way that could be misinterpreted as sexual harassment, so keep your expressions of physical touch appropriately within the boundaries of what your colleagues are comfortable with. Some forms of touch that could be encouraging to people (depending on their personal preferences) include: handshakes, high fives, pats on the back or shoulders, and casual hugs.
Be aware of your own biases. Since you’ll naturally tend to express appreciation to others in the ways you best receive appreciation yourself, make an extra effort to communicate appreciation in the language or languages that you personally value least, so you won’t neglect showing your appreciation to all of your colleagues, regardless of whether or not they speak the same appreciation language you do.
Distinguish between recognition and appreciation. While it’s important to recognize people for doing a great job at work, it’s also important to appreciate every person in your workplace, regardless of their current performance on the job. If you only recognize people when they do something extraordinarily good, you’ll miss important opportunities to motivate everyone in your organization to reach their potential – which you can do by regularly expressing appreciation to all of your colleagues.
Don’t forget to encourage your volunteers. Just as you plan to show appreciation regularly to your paid employees, be sure to let your volunteers know often how much you appreciate them and their work. Keep in mind that people usually volunteer for two main reasons: social connectedness and perceived impact. So make them feel relationally connected to yourself and others your workplace, and let them know how their efforts are helping your organization accomplish its mission.
Develop a habit of expressing appreciation. Be intentional about showing appreciation to your colleagues every day – no matter how busy you are – by incorporating the appreciation languages into how you interact with them. After you make it a daily discipline to express appreciation to the people you work with, doing so will start to come naturally to you.
Adapted from The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People, copyright 2012 by Gary Chapman and Paul White. Published by Northfield Publishing, a division of Moody Publishers, Chicago, Ill., www.moodypublishers.com.
Gary Chapman, PhD, is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling The 5 Love Languages. With more than 30 years of counseling experience, he has the uncanny ability to hold a mirror up to human behavior, showing readers not just where they go wrong, but also how to grow and move forward. Dr. Chapman holds BA and MA degrees in anthropology from Wheaton College and Wake Forest University, respectively, MRE and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and has completed postgraduate work at the University of North Carolina and Duke University. For more information, visit his website at www.5lovelanguages.com.
Dr. Paul White, PhD, is a licensed psychologist who has worked with individuals, businesses and families in a variety of settings for more than 20 years. He received his B.A. from Wheaton, his Masters from Arizona State, and his PhD in Counseling Psychology from Georgia State University. He consults with successful businesses and high net worth families, dealing with the relational issues intertwined with business and financial wealth. In addition to serving businesses, families and organizations across the United States, Dr. White has also spoken and consulted in Europe, Central Asia, the Caribbean, and South America. For more information, visit his website at www.drpaulwhite.com.
Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles. Contact Whitney at: firstname.lastname@example.org to send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer.
Publication date: March 19, 2013