Creating Magical Connections in the Workplace: A Guide to The Five Languages of Appreciation

A common aspect across companies with thriving cultures is that appreciation for team members is present and tangible. Knowing that one is appreciated is not quite the same as feeling it, and this difference is crucial when it comes to workplace culture. According to a 2018 survey by SHRM, employee recognition has a positive impact of:

  • 89% on employee experience
  • 87% on employee relationships
  • 86% on organizational culture
  • 84% on employee engagement
  • 82% on employee happiness

At Reimaginez, we are grateful to be working with Leaders who prioritize their people and their culture and, as a result, whose talent is enthusiastic about showing up and contributing to their vision.

Like many other aspects of a thriving culture, appreciation for team members is best done on an ongoing basis and built into the everyday behaviors that embody your company’s core values. In particular, the end of the year is a special time for going the extra mile in your team member appreciation mission.

But what is the best way of showing appreciation for your talent?

A Framework for Exceptional Connection and Belonging

In 2007, Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Paul White published the book “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace,” in which they present a valuable framework for understanding the different forms of appreciation and how they resonate with the different members of your team.

There are three key aspects to succeeding at showing appreciation towards your talent:

1. Culture is the blueprint and the heart of everything you do in the company. Designing each of the five appreciation languages into your culture will make them unique to your company’s identity and contribute to promoting the ways of relating to each other you want to see in the organization.

2. Appreciation languages work similarly to the different languages around the world. If you speak to someone in a language they don’t understand, and they speak back in a language you don’t understand, you might capture bits and pieces of each other’s intentions, but most of the meaning will get lost.

When it comes to appreciation, each of us feels valued by others through different actions. Most people have a primary appreciation language they deeply resonate with and a secondary one. Does this mean they are entirely unreceptive to the other three? Not exactly. It means that if you “speak” to them in a language other than their primary or secondary, they will rationally understand you appreciate them, but they will not feel it as much.

This is why learning to be fluent across all five languages will help you show appreciation to each of your team members in a way that profoundly gets through to them. Bonus tip: for most people, their main language for receiving appreciation is also their preferred one for showing it to others.

3. Much like in languages around the world, each appreciation language also presents multiple dialects. Different team members will resonate better with different ways of communicating within the same language. For example, spending quality time with someone over a shared meal is different from doing it by inviting them to attend an event together. Being on top of these nuances will help create an exceptional experience for your team members.

Five Languages for Workplace Magic

Quality Time: The Gift of Attention

People who have quality time as their primary appreciation language deeply value opportunities to connect with others beyond the usual check-ins. This is especially true when it comes to Leaders offering mentorship, support, and guidance to junior team members.

Quality time can take many different shapes: going for a walk together, sharing lunch, working by the seaside, and inviting someone to come to an event with you, are all great ways of fostering a deeper connection with your talent by giving them your undivided attention. And, of course, a conversation over a cup of coffee remains a timeless classic.

Words of Affirmation: The Magic of Verbal Appreciation

For some people, the best way of making them feel appreciated is by going straight to the point and telling them. But, while it might seem simplistic and cliché, mastering this appreciation language is actually an art.

Frequent “thank you”s and “good job”s can be combined with more extensive and specific praise regarding anything from someone’s delivery in a certain project to how grateful you are to have them in the company.

The best way of getting through to them, however, depends on the team member: options include verbal acknowledgment in front of others, leaving them a note in their workstation, sending them a Slack message, crafting a handwritten card, or telling them in person.

Presents: The Art of Gift-Giving

Gift-giving in the workplace is a great way of showing someone you know them, you care about them as an individual, and you support their journey by investing in them. Explore our 2021 Gift Guide for High Achievers for some great ideas to add value to your team members’ paths and to let them know how much you appreciate them.

Acts of Service: The Gift of Practical Help

When gifts and verbal affirmation don’t seem to do the trick, we might be relating to a team member whose main appreciation language is more on the practical side.

Acts of service are a way of showing appreciation through thoughtful actions that are valuable and purposeful for the receiver. This implies getting to know the person and understanding how you can be of service to them: depending on the team member, it can be anything from making them a cup of coffee or picking them up at the airport to helping them out with a project or making valuable referrals for them.

Physical Touch: The Magic of Connection

Out of the five languages of appreciation, physical touch in the workplace is the most delicate. However, because nothing beats a good high-five or a pat on the back for those who truly appreciate it, it is important to keep an open and positive mindset around it.

What’s essential to keep in mind when approaching physical touch as an appreciation language is the social and cultural context: what’s regarded as appropriate physical contact varies between countries and communities. Being mindful of cultural differences and, of course, of each person’s preferences, is crucial for mastering this appreciation language and creating meaningful experiences.

Appreciation Elevates Culture

Showing appreciation to team members is a wonderful way of nurturing your company culture throughout the entire year. If you’re starting to experiment with the different languages, the end of the year is a particularly special time to show a deeper level of appreciation and bring additional magic into the workplace. As we previously mentioned, appreciation is the most effective and meaningful when it is aligned with your culture and the behaviors you want to create.

If you’re looking to elevate and further strengthen your culture, we are here to help.

Ready to Thrive?

High Achievers thrive alongside fellow High Achievers, and they attract each other.

We have worked with 1000+ founders and CEOs, and we have experienced first-hand how culture has an impact on everything, from interactions between team members to talent attraction and retention; from customer relationships and profitability to the speed of innovation and your ability to propel revolutionary initiatives that will wow your Dream Persona and leave a print in the history of your industry.

We have built proprietary frameworks proven to deliver transformative change in fast-growing companies. Below is a selection of our custom-designed projects on culture, leadership, and growth that can span from two weeks to a year depending on goals and needs:

Codifying Culture is designed to create a strong cultural foundation to be used for effective leadership initiatives, recruitment, and accountability.

Recruiting on Cultural Fit is a scalable and methodical recruitment model focused on mindset, cultural and value alignment.

Scaling a High Achiever Culture is designed to keep the best people, your High Achievers, performing and thriving.

Strategic Direction and Growth is often delivered as an off-site, followed by an executive coaching program for your management team.

Bespoke Programs are fully customized initiatives that span extensive cultural transformations as well as targeted projects covering culture, leadership, commercialization, recruitment, training, and growth.

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