The five languages of appreciation at work

Find out your workplace love language here.

Hand pointing at You Are Amazing card on a desk next to a notebook, envelope, pencil pot and alarm clock

When it comes to romantic relationships and even friendships, we’ve learned that compatibility is quite important. Whether that comes down to shared interests, similar beliefs and values, or even how we express our emotions and love toward one another. But can the same apply to the office?

Gary Chapman outlined just that in his book The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. Twenty years after his bestselling book series on The Five Love Languages, which discussed the general ways in which romantic partners express and experience love, he adapted his theory to workplace relationships.

It’s important for us all to feel seen, heard, secure, and valued

However, just like understanding your partner’s preferred love language is crucial, it’s important to understand how different people approach work interactions in the office and beyond. Good news: the five languages can be reworked to fit into an office environment. Obviously, we knew right off the bat that some worked better than others – physical touch definitely doesn’t belong there. 

Nevertheless, it’s important for us all to feel seen, heard, secure, and valued. So perhaps we should pay more attention to picking the right languages to make work relationships easier and more positive. Here’s some tips to adapt love languages to workplace communication.

Words of affirmation = feedback 

The first love language slots perfectly into the workplace  – for the most part anyway. Dishing out praise in the workplace should only be given when it’s genuinely deserved. It can also translate into mentoring and offering all that you’ve learned to those in a more junior role. Alternatively, words of affirmation can relate to critical feedback. Whether it’s hard to hear or not – well-meaning advice is crucial to learning and doing better at your job. 

Desk with pencil pot, greeting cards and envelopes

If you think this could be your teammate’s workplace love language, you may also want to offer verbal acknowledgments of their good work. Alternatively, if it sounds more like yours, you may want to discuss setting up more 1-to-1s with your manager to let them know your desire to strengthen your skills and aspirations of progressing into a leadership role. 

Other ways of executing words of affirmation would be to tell someone what a great job they’re doing, share positive feedback publicly during meetings or in a group email… or create an email folder for yourself of all the positive feedback you’ve received.

Quality time = bonding 

In a world of hybrid and remote working, quality time – which translates to workplace bonding, can become even more crucial. If you or your employees thrive from interacting and sharing experiences, then this may be your primary approach to express your appreciation in the workplace. And it can be fulfilled in more ways than one, from collaborative projects to after-work drinks. 

Workplace bonding as a love language falls into the ‘non-work’ category, as it suggests slowing down a bit, getting to know a coworker, and giving that person your undivided attention.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be face-to-face. This works perfectly well remotely and can be performed as a check-in over Zoom, providing a lot of value too. 

Pile of notebooks and open weekly planner with handwritten notes

This language of appreciation can also lead to employees becoming more grounded and help with anxiety and other mental health challenges. 

Other examples of workplace bonding include ending a project with a team social, celebrating workplace highlights and anniversaries, and taking the time to support colleagues in need of a good chat.

Receiving gifts = new opportunities

You or others may take more delight in receiving tangible tokens of appreciation – perhaps in the form of material objects. Among the five languages of appreciation in the workplace, this one is perhaps the most creative.

When it comes to work, this love language can be reworked into celebratory gift certificates, event tickets, or even paid time off. Physical gifts are a great way of showing that you appreciate them and want to reward them for a job well done. Take it from Martin Agency and their custom Water Bottles and Notebooks.

Alternatively, gifts can also come as new opportunities. If you’re aware that your employees appreciate this, you can pop them at the top of the list for upcoming projects. If you consider this to be your own love language in the workplace, let management know. Should an opportunity arise, you’ll be top of the list. 

Water bottles and greeting cards on desk next to plant

Acts of service = support 

Acts of service can translate into support and care for coworkers. This language of appreciation suggests that actions speak louder than words, whether that’s checking in with someone over Zoom, sharing documents or resources that you’ve also found helpful, or even taking on extra work to free up someone else’s time. 

When it comes to this approach, it’s also helpful to consider these tips. First off, ask before spontaneously helping, so as to not step on anyone’s toes. Make sure it’s clear you’re volunteering – a favour is better when someone’s actually happy to do it. Be sure to clarify how your coworker would like the said task done. Finally, make sure you finish what you started. Definitely don’t bite off more than you can chew.

A few more examples of this workplace love language include supporting others at work with a check-in email or even making them a cup of tea, picking up lunch, or bringing them a treat when everything feels a little hectic. 

Physical touch = encouragement 

Finally, the last of the five love languages on the list is physical touch – the least to categorically apply at work. The language of physical touch should definitely NOT be explored here. At the very most, a fist bump, nod or handshake will do. 

And so this has been replaced with the work appreciation language of “encouraging touchpoints”. We can sometimes gloss over accomplishments, especially when work gets busy, but it’s essential for boosting morale. 

Make sure you inspire and motivate employees with words of advice or praise

If you’ve noticed that an employee responds well to encouragement, make sure you inspire and motivate them with words of advice or praise. Other ways of demonstrating this approach involve acknowledging people with eye contact or a smile, sending a virtual high-five over Zoom, setting up regular 1-to-1s, and cheering on your team as you approach milestones. 

Is your language of appreciation in the workplace employee gifting? Say no more. These customisable gifts say “thank you” like no other.

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