What do love languages have to do with the workplace?
The nature of motivation is different for everyone, but underneath it all lay a set of ideals. Whether it’s a pat on the back, an award for a job well done, or some one-on-one time, we each have unique emotions attached to what makes us feel appreciated.
Our motivation is maximized when we receive our ideal form of praise, encouragement, or reward for our efforts. Since it is the job of a manager, leader, or boss to not only keep the company or department running but also to keep up a happy workforce; understanding what makes individuals tick is crucial for helping the bottom line.
In the 21st century, a thriving business tends to be based on relationships. Since 1995, relationships (couples) around the world have been learning from Gary Chapman’s seminal book, The 5 Love Languages. According to Chapman, the desire to be loved is our deepest human desire, and one that is often left unmet due to the differences in the way we express and receive love. He explains that in order for us to feel as though our deep-seated need for love is met, the love that we receive must make sense to us.
“Taking [The 5 Love Languages] into the workplace was a natural transition”, explains author Gary Chapman, who in 2012 in collaboration with Dr. Paul White released The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. “Because we don’t normally think in terms of our coworkers loving us — the word appreciation fits much better — but it is meeting that deep need to feel that somebody cares about me, and somebody appreciates me.”
Having been inspired by Chapman’s original book and understanding of these languages, Dr. White saw the need for the love languages in the workplace. “Every person is unique in the way that they feel love or express love in personal relationships, but it’s the same in how they feel appreciated and valued in work relationships,” explains White.
Thus, the 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace were born:
1. Words of Affirmation – uses words to affirm people
2. Acts of Service – actions speak louder than words
3. Receiving Gifts – people like things to feel appreciated
4. Quality Time – giving someone undivided attention
5. Physical Touch – appropriate touch (pats on the back)
However, large companies, with hundreds, if not thousands of employees can’t possibly take the time to invest in identifying each person’s language of appreciation, but department heads and team leaders can and should. Why? It is directly correlated to job satisfaction, increased employee productivity, and to the health of the organization. In order to have good health at an organizational level, the individual level must be taken care of first.
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford
Those words could not ring any truer. If a manager or leader can properly create and maintain a happy workplace, team members will seamlessly work together, be more productive, and more engaged therefore helping the company as a whole. “Work has become a barely bearable chore, with only 45 percent of workers in a recent survey saying they were happy with their careers,” explains Dr. White.
But it doesn’t have to be so. Staff on the front line want to encourage each other too. “What we found was that when we incorporate the peers, teams, and the colleagues along with the supervisors it’s a very powerful model that creates a positive snowball as far as changing the culture.”
When we feel valued and appreciated, we are able to perform at peak levels. Feeling cared for and supported increases our mental and emotional wellbeing, which translates into improved work performance. When we maximize our personal performance, we find ourselves with the time and ability to reach out and support our colleagues, in turn. Eventually, as team members begin to work in greater unison, they will begin to see the fruits of their shared labor and become more invested in their success as a team.
If the 5 Languages of Appreciation teaches us anything, it’s that no two individuals are alike, and that we each have our own unique desires and needs. While it may seem like a daunting prospect at times, it is the responsibility of a leader to learn which languages are most meaningful to her staff.
“Take quality time for example. It may be that some people want some individual time to talk with their supervisor, while others don’t want to meet with their supervisor at all,” explains Dr. White. “It just differs for everyone. So we created an assessment to help these people identify their top languages, and their least valued language (a blind spot for a manager), but also the specific actions and for whom.”
One of the best ways to discover how others prefer to be acknowledged and recognized is to practice experimentation and observation. For example, try taking your staff out for a one-on-one lunch once month. Observe the impact of your gesture — did they respond positively? Did they seem happier? Did you notice an improvement in their work? Did they pass on the gesture by doing something kind for a coworker? These are all indications of how effective that method of appreciation was.
While the ultimate goal of any plan or program to increase staff engagement is to improve the health and productivity of your organization, challenging yourself to create an environment where employees feel appreciated and valued can have impacts far beyond the bottom line.
While it may not be measurable, happiness truly is an invaluable commodity in the workplace — and one that is endlessly attainable. is thankfully in endless supply.
Have you made the choice to invest in happiness? Share your favorite ways to appreciate those around you. Leave a comment! Do you know what your language of appreciation is? Three lucky commenters will win a signed copy of the book!