At our most recent Leadership Mastermind, we reviewed a recent statistic that showed for every one criticism, high performing teams have 5.6 positive comments. If we think about it, it sounds quite accurate. Even though we all want feedback, the heavy criticisms can sometimes add weight to our confidence, value, and goals, requiring us to need more validation.  Authors Gary Chapman and Paul White  created a common language when discussing and showing appreciation in the workplace, which is critical when providing feedback and helpful when creating a high performing culture. In their book, "The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace", they explain each of the five languages and how they are best utilized.


Words of Affirmation - Most common of the five languages, words of affirmation can be tricky. The people who value words of affirmation aren't simply looking for public recognition and everyone to tell them, "good job." It's more than that. Whether verbal or written words, they are looking for specific evidence and genuinely care to hear what people think. 


Acts of Service - Helping finish up a report, calling a potential or current client, or cleaning up after the work party can go a long with way with someone who values acts of service. With the don't tell me, show me attitude, people who prefer to receive acts of service are looking for someone to help them by doing and acknowledging that they are there to help. However, before doing something for a coworker, it is important to be sure they want your help and that you approach the work the same way they would. Don't make them clean up your mess or sacrifice your own work to help them.


Gifts - Rarest among the five languages, gifts can either be one of the best things or one of the worst. It is important when giving gifts to make it personal and show that you know something about them. A common mistake our team sees a lot of companies make is the giving of the 'company wide' treats and swag too often. From time to time it is great to show appreciation by giving a gift to all employees, but after a while or depending on the gift, it may have the opposite effect. 


Quality Time - People who value quality time are looking for someone to give them the time of day. It's not about spending hours and hours together. When someone who values quality time feels appreciation, it is because a supervisor or peer listened, maintained eye contact and didn't check their phone. They simply were there, collaborated, and were present.


Physical Touch - When Gary Chapman and Paul White first began putting the book together, they almost didn't include physical touch. However, after research and discussion with employees in companies, they learned this love language had value. Touch correlates to human connection. However, don't do it awkwardly or make other people uncomfortable. There is a time and place. It's easy to think of physical touch as a giant group hug, but in the workplace, it commonly shows up as a fist bump or high five.


It is probably safe to say we value each of these to some degree. We prefer to get lunch with our work buddy and want hear words of affirmation from our bosses. We may have a gift on our desk that has sentimental value, and while some of us said 'gross' while reading physical touch, we don't hate the occassional high five. 


All of us know how we want to receive recognition. We know what makes us feel proud and valued. However, while acknowledging how you like to receive appreciation in the workplace, think about this: when was the last time you made a team member feel appreciated at work and what language did you use to make them feel valued?

Categories: Communication, Culture

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