When do you feel most appreciated? Is it when someone tells you about a trait he admires? Or when someone sees how busy you are and takes something from your plate? Or maybe when someone spontaneously gives you free event tickets to thank you for your help?
In the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie spends about three chapters exhorting readers to appreciate others instead of criticizing them. That’s especially true in a work setting. All people – even the boss – need to feel valued by colleagues. The dilemma is that people can experience appreciation in many ways. If we’re not expressing our appreciation in a way that clicks with the person we are thanking, our effort will fall flat.
Fortunately, help is here. Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, and Paul White, a business coach and psychologist, have created a way to give meaningful appreciation in the office in the book they co-authored, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, and correlating survey, Motivating by Appreciation (MBA) Inventory.
They note that many factors attribute to job satisfaction – like salary, workload, level of responsibility and our own attitudes and personal life – but a key aspect is feeling appreciated. We want to know that we are valued and our work is important. And, of course, when people feel appreciated, they are more satisfied and loyal to their job and there is more engagement and productivity. Win-win.
Here is an overview of the appreciation languages:
Words of Affirmation
One way to express appreciation is to verbally praise the person for an achievement or accomplishment. More than just “good work,” the praise should be both sincere and specific – calling out a character quality that you see and admire or identifying an action she made and its impact on you or the organization. The second part to this “language” is understanding where and how your affirmation should be expressed. Just because someone likes to hear appreciation verbally doesn’t mean she wants to be called out in front of the entire company. Other ways to speak Words of Affirmation could be in a personal conversation, with a small team of colleagues or in a written note.
For many, focused attention is the best form of appreciation. This means creating a safe environment where you can have an empathetic dialog – free of distractions and interruptions. Whether it’s a scheduled weekly meeting or just popping into an office, people who speak the language of Quality Time want a personal connection through listening and sharing. And it can’t be done out of a sense of obligation. Instead, it needs a positive attitude and a relaxing setting.
Acts of Service
Helping someone with a project he is working on can send a powerful message of support to someone who speaks this appreciation language. And true leadership requires a willingness to serve – both to customers and to colleagues. To ensure Acts of Service are delivered effectively, include the following components: (1) ask if your colleague would like assistance, (2) do the task his way (not yours), (3) complete what you start and (4) work with a cheerful attitude.
When someone hears that he is appreciated, and that message is given in the right language so that it’s meaningful, he will feel encouraged and energized.
Not everyone is excited by verbal praise, quality time or having someone pitch in. But she could feel extremely valued with a gift certificate or evening out. Giving the right gift to a person who really appreciates it can be a special way to show thanks. The keys are to know that she is motivated in this way and to give a gift she will value. (So, not a mug or key chain.) And, ideally, it is accompanied with a written note, which makes it more personal to the recipient.
The Motivating by Appreciation assessment actually doesn’t include this as an option – for obvious reasons, since “touch” can be interpreted in a variety of ways, many of which are inappropriate. That said, it’s good to realize that the right handshake, pat on the back or high five can be inspirational. Pay attention to your office culture and each others’ behaviors to see if an affirming touch would be received as an expression of appreciation.
So, what do you think is your preferred way to receive appreciation? Most people can accept appreciation in all forms, but have a primary and maybe secondary language they prefer. The authors note, “We all tend to communicate to others in ways that are most meaningful to us – ‘we speak our own language.’” That means the way you naturally give appreciation is probably how you prefer to receive it. It’s good to know that, so you don’t have a blind spot and miss other ways to show thanks.
Appreciation is vital to the workplace – at all levels. It should not be put aside because we’re busy or because it’s hard or uncomfortable. When someone hears that he is appreciated, and that message is given in the right language so that it’s meaningful, he will feel encouraged and energized. It is important to your organization to make the effort to engage with your co-workers and express how you value their worth.