Appreciating Your Team

A big part of engaging your team is showing them you appreciate their work.  You can do this in a number of ways.

In 1995 Gary Chapman published a breakthrough book titled, The 5 Love Languages.  The Five Love Languages discusses five ways to express and experience love in five different ways.  He has since written several versions of this teaching on how to understand the way you prefer to be loved / appreciated, and how to appreciate others in ways they prefer.


In 2012, he wrote, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People.  To summarize, he recommends:

  1. Words of Affirmation

  2. Quality Time

  3. Acts of Service

  4. Tangible Gifts

  5. Physical Touch

These five "languages of appreciation" can be an excellent way to recognize and praise your team. However, there are a few nuances and tips I want to discuss.

First, be wary when utilizing the Physical Touch love language in the workplace

It’s too easy to make a mistake, or intentionally touch someone inappropriately.  A high five is usually okay, an arm around the shoulder is risky, and a full-on hug can go terribly wrong.  When the subject of appreciation comes up with our Clients, I usually refer to Gary’s 4 Workplace Languages of Appreciation, not 5.

Know thyself first

Look at the list of love languages above.  Which is your most preferred method of appreciation? And your second?  If you just don’t relate to the list or don’t fully comprehend the list above, then you need to read one of the versions of the book.  Don’t hide behind “That’s not the way I was raised” or “That's not my style”.  Think about the times when you have felt appreciated at work.  When did someone take the time to make you feel special and how did they do it?

Buy the book and read it, or at least listen to the audio version.  Study it with an open mind.  Learn how to improve your ability to respectfully engage with others.

Explain to others how you want to be appreciated

Do not assume other people understand how you want to be appreciated or expect them to read your mind.  Tell them.  The beauty of Gary’s work is he simplifies our preferences into five categories. 

Communicate to others, as appropriate, how you prefer to be appreciated.

Ask your people how they want to be appreciated

We have a wonderful appreciation survey you can download here.  Part of the survey asks them to confirm their primary language of appreciation. 

Make someone your Gratitude Guru. 

Appoint someone in your organization who is great at appreciating others, giving praise, and making people feel special.  This individual is the owner of affirmation in your organization to make certain everyone feels respected, appreciated, and valued.  Setup tracking of significant recognition.  Do it sincerely, equally, and respectfully based on each employee’s preferences.

Be a role model

Do not let busyness crowd out time for Sincere Gratitude, the third strand of 3strands Leadership.  Make your people feel valued.  Even if you delegate primary affirmation responsibilities to a Gratitude Guru, leaders still have to regularly value people in ways they prefer.

Finally, do not appreciate people the way you want to be appreciated

For instance, I know a leader who gives gifts and promises to be nice, but the recipients do not trust the person.  As a result, the recipients view the gifts as insincere bribes and the promises as untrustworthy.  They prefer two of the other love languages.

Why does this leader keep giving gifts and making promises?  Because that’s the love languages they are most comfortable using.  When encouraged to use some of the other love languages, this leader responded:  “Oh, I could never do that…”  Big mistake.

Would you communicate in Russian with someone who only speaks Spanish?

Would you try to relate to an Opera snob by discussing punk rock or salsa music?

Of course not!  Then, why would you speak a language of appreciatio