Just a few weeks ago I got a phone call from a fellow Kidmin champion who was crushed and ready to quit. After prayer and some ‘laughter through tears’, she backed away from the ledge. My heart hurt for her as she was on the receiving end of neglect, disappointment, and feeling humiliated by her immediate supervisor. Just a few days later I received in the mail a flier from a local book store. When I saw The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People as one of the books highlighted, I stopped on my way into the office and purchased the last two copies.

Steven Covey, author of the bestselling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People states, “Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival, to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.” Gary Chapman of The 5 Love Languages fame has partnered with Paul White, a psychologist, speaker, and consultant who helps make work relationships work to offer a tool on how to encourage your co-workers/staff with intentionality and efficiency.

There is a distinct difference between recognition and appreciation. Recognition is about acknowledging behavior, improving performance which focuses on what is good for the company, and comes from the top down in an organization. Appreciation focuses on what’s good for the company AND affirms one’s value as a person which can be communicated in any direction – colleague to colleague, supervisor to team member, even team member to supervisor. Quoting a ton of research, they found that most people leave their positions not because of money (12%), but rather because of not feeling appreciated or valued (88%). (pg 35)

There are 5 languages of appreciation in the workplace.

  1. Words of Affirmation – Global praise does very little to encourage (“I appreciate you.”), but specific verbal praise for a specific job well done, affirming one’s character, and praise for positive personality traits will make the difference. The greatest tragedy is while most people genuinely appreciate the people they work with, they often neglect to verbally, or on paper, express that appreciation. This might be your language of appreciation when words shared have an edge, are not personally affirming, and you feel ripped to pieces by the words that ARE shared. This the language of appreciation of my friend above because words can cut her to the quick. And they have.
  2. Quality Time – If you enjoy people dropping by your office (or you dropping by theirs), sitting down in the chair, telling stories, checking on one another, this may be your primary language of appreciation. The key element to Quality Time is not proximity, but personal attention. “I don’t need a lot of time. All I really want is for someone to stop by my office occasionally and see how I’m doing. After five minutes, I’m bootin’ you because I’ve got a lot to do!” This might be your language of appreciation if you’re the one to coordinate “Taco Tuesday” with colleagues, enjoy quality conversations, weekly meetings, regular ‘touching base’, and shared experiences.
  3. Acts of Service – When others reach out to help and assist in getting the job done, this may be your greatest language of appreciation. If you get twisted when someone agrees to take on something to help the team then leaves it unfinished or drops the ball, this is you…this is me. Argh! This is my language of appreciation. When we can share in the task for the good of the organization and everyone does their part, I feel appreciated and I feel a sense of camaraderie with the staff as a whole. I’m all about the team, the big picture with many hands and faces, and everyone on the same page in service.  This is why a team approach to VBS, Fall Gathering, summer camps, and even Sunday school thrills me to the bone. When someone volunteers or signs up to take on something, then completes what they’ve taken on, I’m doing the happy dance! This is me! #bettertogether
  4. Tangible Gifts – Small items are given showing you know your staff personally. “Tangible Gifts is the least chosen language of appreciation through which individuals want to be shown appreciation. (6%)” This isn’t good news since most employee recognition programs put a heavy emphasis on ‘rewards.’  If your co-workers have an assortment (a LOT) of similar gifts on display all over their offices, this may be their language of appreciation. The greatest gift appreciated by most all staff? The gift of time. Time off. Permission to come in late or leave early. Having the freedom to take a longer lunch break. A supervisor trusting the staff member to get the job done without punching a clock. Comp time.
  5. Physical Touch – Though many conversations around physical touch in the workplace is controversial, all touches are not created equal. Touches of spontaneous celebration (high five, fist bump, congratulatory handshakes, pats on the back, side hugs) and those which communicate care, concern, support, and empathy can all communicate a variety of positive messages in relationships: a sense of trust, connectedness, and caring.

Want to discover your co-worker’s or supervisor’s language of appreciation without taking the assessment? Observe what they ask for over time (What did you bring me? = tangible gifts) AND listen to their complaints (How are they most easily offended, hurt, frustrated, disappointed?).

“In our work with church staff members and individuals who work for other non-church ministries, we consistently find a deep hunger for appreciation. These people are not looking for financial reward and rarely desire high levels of praise. But they honestly express the need to be appreciated for their time and efforts.  When appreciation is not forthcoming, they often become discouraged.  In fact, In our research on toxic workplaces, we sadly found churches and ministries to be over-represented, ‘missing the mark’ in their efforts to show appreciation.” (page 191)

Regardless of your position within your organization, you can make a world of difference in your organizational world by beginning to encourage and show appreciation to your colleagues and supervisors. What will you do this week to start the process?

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14