There are many business books that have been penned over the years by very astute individuals on almost every topic. I came across one, this past year unexpectedly as the authors were typically writing about improving personal relationships and now had made the leap to expand their message into the workplace.
Our work relationships, as we know, are with people that we often spend more time interacting with on a daily basis then even our own partners, families, children and friends. So one could surmise that a book on relating better to your employees cannot be a book that is overlooked! Within the current climate of multi-generational employees making up the workforce, having more jobs then there are people to fill them, and a desire to retain talent, the more we know about valuing our employees will be a key to our success and to effective retention.
So, with Valentine’s Day coming up this weekend, the topic of how can we improve the Love (or Value) we have for our employees within the workplace, seems timely!
The premise of the book, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People, by Gary Chapman and Paul White, states that inherently there are 5 Languages of Appreciation. Each individual has a Primary Language in which they wish to be appreciated. If we appreciate them in that primary language, they will respond positively. If we choose to appreciate them in a different language, they will not respond as positively. In fact, they may not respond at all, no matter how extensive you have appreciated them. Their performance may not improve, your objectives may not be met, and you may be left at a loss as to why some employees have responded well and why have others not.
We all know the Golden Rule essentially states, “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” However, this new concept is a variation of this rule. Rather than treating others in the way you would want to be treated, “Treat others as THEY would like to be treated.” Easy, enough! For real impact, find out how they would like to be valued and then value them in that way!
If we want an employee to feel valued enough to continue to be motivated, perform to his/ her own best and be committed to the company, we need to understand the language within which they wish to be valued! Otherwise, organizations can spend a great deal of time and money THINKING they are appreciating their employees’ contribution and yet always missing the mark.
Understand your employees’ primary and secondary language of appreciation, then show your appreciation for a job well done and your employees will feel truly valued. So let’ s begin!
Words of Affirmation – is the language where you use words to communicate a positive message to another person. Be as specific as you can! Generalities aren’t effective. Providing affirmation of one’s character traits, although may be more difficult to determine, is even more powerful to the individual receiving the praise.
Quality Time – is the language spoken to those who want to spend time with each other. Perhaps after a project is complete, you hear an individual say how they think the group should all go out and celebrate! Or perhaps you have seen the individual who comes to your office, and makes themselves comfortable and asks how things are going or wants to tell you about their day, their weekend, or some life occurrence. This is the language of Quality Time being shown to you! Allowing the individual to spend time with you is how they best feel appreciated. Often this language is misunderstood in the workplace. People think it the person is trying to be buddy-buddy with the boss so as to gain advantage. It is a genuine desire to share time with their boss and suddenly they feel appreciated. Give the person your focused attention – this is quality time! Do not multi-task, do not lose eye contact, listen attentively – be present, and be engaged with the conversation.
Acts of Service – this language resonates with people who are of the mentality “Don’t tell me how much you value me, show me!” It is about people helping others and doing things for them– whether for the project he/she is working on or to simply help to make his/her day go more smoothly. Actions speak louder than words. It is about “service” or serving your fellow co-worker, or your subordinate, in such a way, that you are not enabling them to be less responsible, but instead are supporting them to be responsible by showing you value them in a way that works.
Tangible Gifts – this language is the most understood and is the one that is most easily used in the workplace. However, if there are 5 languages, is it possible that you are missing the mark a certain percentage of the time, while spending a great deal of money in the process? For those that have this as their primary language, they feel valued when they receive a gift card, or tickets, or a bonus for a job well done. The words may be said but the real proof is in that real gift that they can use, enjoy, and experience. This is a very powerful expression of valuing an individual to many, however it can also have minimal impact and can even turn people off, to those whose main language is not gifts.
Physical Touch – this language is one of the most difficult to translate into the working world. When thinking of all the other languages, you can quickly determine how the languages translate across your personal relationships outside the workplace and those from within. The phrase of “I Love You,” taking care of all the chores for a day, special gifts of jewellery or a dinner out, and spending time together at the beach are all examples of the previously mentioned languages and how they are used within a personal relationship. Physical Touch in the form of a hug or holding hands is also a clear example in a personal relationship. However, in the workplace, physical touch could be seen as inappropriate! Instead, simply appreciating one’s work with a handshake, a high five, or a simple pat on the back demonstrates the use of this language. As long as this language of appreciation is well defined in the workplace so as not to be seen as inappropriate, it can used and become highly effective!
Does this seem like way too much to gain this understanding versus buying everyone gift cards? Consider this – not investing in understanding how your team would like to be appreciated could cost you more! As mentioned by the authors, “When relationships are not nurtured by a sense of appreciation, the results are predictable:"
With the start of the New Year, performance reviews are often in full swing or about to begin. How will you show your feedback and appreciation? Perhaps investing in the 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace would be worth the read. A lesson learned could create an environment of improved communication, set the stage for continued positive performance and become a worthwhile investment in your important relationships.
(Perhaps if you read this book right away, the ROI could even help you make this upcoming Valentine’s Day the best one yet for you at home as you consider how you will show your appreciation!)