Over the past few years, the celebration of Valentine’s Day has expanded beyond romantic love. Leslie Knope’s Galentine’s Day is a brilliant example of this.
So in the spirit of a Valentine’s Day that celebrates all sorts of relationships and love, let’s talk about celebrating appreciation in the place we spend the majority of our time—the workplace.
Writing a business appreciation article with the theme of Valentine’s Day is seasonal and gimmicky, but don’t be fooled. This article about work appreciation isn’t a fluff, warm-fuzzy piece.
Gallup describes the current struggle to attract and keep their job-hopping millennial employees as a “war.” What does this have to do with appreciation in the workplace? Well as companies battle for recruiting and keeping the best and brightest, all of their clever “new ideas and approaches” are “overlooking the most easily executed strategies: employee recognition.”
So do your employees feel appreciated?
“Only one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days.”
This shows that statistically, quite a few of your current employees don’t feel appreciated. Either you’re not appreciative of your employees, or your expressions of appreciation aren’t being felt.
So let’s discuss effective ways to show employee appreciation in the workplace.
About ten years ago, The 5 Love Languages was a topic at every brunch. For those that don’t remember the craze, The 5 Love Languages became a pop culture phenomenon that inspired massive amounts of people to take an online quiz to discover their primary love language.
Often couples would take the quiz and realize that they were expressing love in a way (i.e., language) that their spouse didn’t connect with. It became a revelation and a helpful tool for people to connect more effectively in their intimate relationships.
Similarly, the 5 Love Languages can help coworkers and management express appreciation for each other effectively.
To make the 5 Love Languages more appropriate for a workplace environment, they rebranded the concept as a language of work appreciation. Exchange “love” with “appreciation,” and the theory easily adapts to office relationships.
But there is one problem with the Appreciation at Work. They include “appropriate physical touch” as a language.
“While we acknowledge that physical touch is less important in work-based relationships, and the potential for abuse exists, we still find that appropriate physical touch is meaningful. Usually, it occurs spontaneously and in the context of celebration—a ‘high five,’ fistbump, slap on the back, or congratulatory handshake. To not touch one another at all often leads to a cold, impersonal environment.”
High five, fist bump, and professional handshake are examples of appropriate physical touch in the workplace. (I would argue a slap on the back is not appropriate in the workplace). Yet as we’re already a culture struggling with sexual harassment in the workplace, it’s best to exclude physical touch.
Speaking to a millennial who strongly identifies with the language of physical touch in personal relationships, I asked her if she would feel completely appreciated if coworkers and bosses could could only use gifts, quality time, service, and words of affirmation.
She quickly responded that another primary love language for her is quality time. In fact, it’s extremely common for people to have more than one language of love or appreciation that resonates with them. So even if we leave out physical touch, bosses can still effectively communicate appreciation to their employees with this model.
“Personal, focused time and attention with their supervisor is highly affirming for some. But other enjoy different types of time—’hanging out’ with their coworkers, working together as a team on a project, or just having someone take the time to listen to them. And the type of time desired can differ significantly depending on whether it is with colleagues or with their supervisor.”
“Assisting in getting a task done can be extremely encouraging to a colleague. Helping a teammate ‘dig out’ from being behind, working collaboratively on a project that would be difficult to do alone, or just working alongside with them on a task, are all ways to demonstrate appreciation for their efforts.”
“The key to an effective gift in the workplace is the ‘thought,’ not the amount of money spent. Taking time to notice what your colleagues enjoy (chocolate, coffee, cashews), observing their hobbies and interests (sports, books, crafts) and buying them a small related gift shows that you are getting to know them as a person and understand what is important to them.”
“Words, both oral and written, can be used to affirm and encourage those around us. Some people prefer personal one-on-one communication, while others value being praised in front of others (but it is important to know that relatively few people like to receive public affirmation in front of a large group).”
Because of the 5 Love Languages cultural phenomenon, many people already know their love language. While we can assume that your love language in a private relationship is similar to your appreciation language in the workplace, it doesn’t hurt to make sure. That’s why we put together a quiz to help your employees pinpoint the language of appreciation that connects with them.
Also, it’s important to note that the quiz focuses on bosses. How your employees wish their coworkers would show appreciation may be different. (It would be interesting to ask employees to take the quiz a second time and substitute the word “boss” with “coworker”).
In short, ask your employees directly to identify the appreciation language that resonates with them, and then simply try to implement their responses into your management style. It will create a healthy work environment that employees appreciate and are looking for in a company. Like the Gallup article says, appreciation in the workplace is low cost and high impact.
(And Millennials, if you're looking for a a workplace that appreciates you, Jive Communications ranked in the top 20 on both USA Today’s and Business Insider’s Best Places to Work and Top CEOs list for large companies. The list was derived from Comparably—a compensation, culture, and career-monitoring website—using anonymous and public employee ratings. Check it out!)