When you think of appreciation, you probably think first of showing thanks. A nod of acknowledgement or saying "thank you", all the regular things. You probably say thank you dozens of times in a week, even just to coworkers and bosses. If they got you some copy paper, forwarded you a document, or finally copied you in those emails you need, most any working person has shown their appreciation with a thank you. But that only speaks to one of the languages of appreciation: Words of affirmation.
A decade-long study conducted in workplaces around the world has found that while roughly half of employees like getting their appreciation verbally, the greater half can find words empty, and prefer to be shown that those around them appreciate them and their efforts. It can be as simple as demonstrating value and care in learning about you, enough to know what time is good to speak to you and what time is more invaluable to you, whether for work or personal time. Or it might manifest in one of the other 4 languages. But it's not just important for you to learn others' preferences, it's also important to recognize what languages you would like “spoken” to you in return.
Let's take a closer look at the languages of appreciation by following Joanne through her celebration of Taco Tuesday!
Words of Affirmation
While saying “thank you” is a part of affirmation, there is far more you can say to demonstrate your appreciation. In personal or in private, an employee might like an affirmation that you agree with their decision, the great work they’re doing isn’t going unnoticed, or that you enjoy their company. Just complimenting something you appreciate about them can do wonders! But there is a trick to it - knowing the how - such as whether or not to do it in a public forum, or if they’d prefer a written note as opposed to hearing it vocally.
Joanne decided to celebrate Taco Tuesday by hosting a taco bar for lunch in the breakroom. She had sent a mass email saying all are welcome to stop by and build their own taco. People trickled in at first, and then as soon as that lunch hour hit, there was a line out the door! Joanne watched everyone pass through with excitement, and when she recognized a masterpiece she wasn’t afraid to let them know! She’d say, “Now that’s how you build a taco!” Joanne loved to see their faces light up.
Time when you’re squarely focused on your coworker can be worthwhile! Listening intently, showing up on time, and communicating as much as is comfortable, are all important. Your time is valuable and taking time out of your day to spend with them - whether it’s a lunch out, a walking break, or lending a listening ear as they talk through a challenge on their project - can show you care, as long as you’re doing it for them.
In her setup, Joanne had arranged the room to allow for people to sit and enjoy together if they wanted to. She liked to see that most weren’t just taking their tacos to-go, but taking the chance to eat and chat before they got on with their day. She would hear them say, “Let’s sit here and eat these tacos together!”
Not everyone cares for the material things. Many people might turn up their nose at getting anything in return for their actions, but oftentimes a gift, when given with thought and care in reference to its recipient and their interests, can demonstrate the utmost appreciation. Try getting to know your colleagues, and give a gift you know they’ll enjoy!
At the end of the hour, she didn’t think she’d seen a member of her team, but thought they’d like a taco. Joanne decided to build them one, and hand deliver it to their desk. She arrived saying, “Here’s a taco!” They were so grateful as they hadn’t had a chance to stop for a snack.
Don’t go for unsolicited touch. Physical touch between colleagues in a business setting should be done only within the bounds of an employee’s comfort and your HR regulations. High fives and handshakes are probably what you want to go for, maybe a hug or a fist bump for someone you’re close to.
The team member that Joanne had decided to bring a taco to, was so excited and grateful! Since the two were close, they stood and gave Joanne a quick hug like they’d done before. They said, “Aww, let me hold you like a taco!” and the two laughed.
Acts of Service
This might be as simple as getting a stressed employee a cup of coffee, or taking a small task off of their plate. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, but it certainly can be. What’s something you could do for others around you? Bring in treats or volunteer to host an event. Big or small, simple or complex - just as long as it’s with the other person in mind!
Joanne’s invite had stated, “I’m hosting a taco bar - please come and enjoy!” Joanne had the idea to host a taco bar as a way to say thanks to her team, and to boost morale as their company scrambles through its busy season. Everyone was able to pause and enjoy some good food and fun together.
Check out one of our other blogs to read more about each of the languages of appreciation, and remember that showing your thanks can come in many forms - even virtually! And it’s important to learn how you and those around you would like to be appreciated.
What’s your language of appreciation? How have you shown others appreciation in their language?