The ‘love languages’ at work

Departments - Heart of Business

Employees value different forms of recognition, so it’s important to show you value them in a variety of ways.


While I am confident you regularly express appreciation to 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 to you, 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 need different types of appreciation in workplace relationships, as well, to feel valued. Though the languages are the same on the surface, the applications are different at work:

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.”

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. You can achieve “best boss ever” status by regularly taking time to say hello, inquiring how things are going, and asking 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.

Acts of service. Service employees show their love for your organization and 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.

Tangible gifts. Gift 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 a gift employee they are important. For example, if they’re an Ohio State fan and you get them tickets to a game, 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.

Physical touch. Touch employees 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, caresses and back scratches 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.

A certified Appreciation In The Workplace Facilitator, Sherene McHenry empowers organizations to generate exceptional motivation and success. Contact Sherene to learn more about what Appreciation In The Workplace training can do for your company. / 989-621-3763.