Updated: Apr 14
You’ve probably heard of the concept of the 5 Love Languages, developed by Gary Chapman. But have you ever wondered how that concept might apply in the workplace?
Of course, I don’t mean in a romantic sense, but have you considered that much like each person has a “love language” that they prefer in a romantic relationship, each of your employees or team members has a certain “language” that they respond to best.
When you want to show appreciation or encourage a team member, each person may respond best to different methods. Some people may respond better to words of appreciation while others prefer a small gift or award. A generic thank you card isn’t going to cut it when you truly want to show how much you appreciate your team.
Making sure your employees feel appreciated is a critical aspect of leadership. A survey from the American Psychological Association found that employees who felt appreciated at work had better physical and mental health and increased engagement, satisfaction, and motivation in their job.
Happier and healthier employees are naturally going to be better for the organization because they will be able to show up to work and be in a more productive mindset than if they were stressed out and miserable. Feeling appreciated also means that these employees are less likely to seek another position, which reduces costly turnover for your business.
Creating An Environment of Appreciation
Now that you understand why it’s so important for your team members to feel appreciated, how can you make it happen?
First, take stock of where you’re currently at. What do you already do to show your appreciation? Some of us might already be on the right track, while others have a little more of an uphill battle.
As you do this, remember that your employees can’t read your mind. You may think it’s obvious that you appreciate the work they do, but sit down and really think about the tangible things you have said or done over the past week to share your gratitude. It might be less often than you think.
The most important aspect of sharing your appreciation is to make sure it’s sincere. Generic thanks or impersonal gifts will only frustrate your team because they will feel like you don’t care enough about them to give personal thanks.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, every person has their preferred way of being appreciated. If you take the time to get to know your team, you’ll start to understand what’s most important to each person. You’ll learn their goals and dreams, their strengths and weaknesses.
When you know that Jessica has been working hard on nights and weekends to finish her degree, you can throw a little graduation party when she finishes to show how much you appreciate that extra work she’s done for herself that will also benefit the organization.
Or when Steve stays late every night for a week to make sure a project gets done on time, you can get him a gift card to his favorite restaurant to say thank you. There are endless creative ways you can come up with to personally show your gratitude.
You Can Keep It Simple
Before you start panicking that there’s no time to do all of this appreciating, take a deep breath. It doesn’t all have to be grand gestures. One of the simplest things you can do is to take a moment to acknowledge your team members frequently.
Your employees are not just tools for your business to use, they are human beings. Treat them like one and you’ll be surprised how far a little attention goes. Say “good morning” when you see them in the office, ask how projects are going, or thank them for work on a specific task during a meeting.
Even if it’s an expected and simple task like a weekly report, a compliment like “Thanks for always getting these reports to me in a timely manner, I really appreciate your punctuality,” can brighten a person’s day and help them feel like a valuable member of the team.
Trust Your Team With Flexibility
Another great way to show your appreciation is to trust your employees and allow flexibility. The number of people working remotely has greatly increased over the past few years, and so have disruptions to routines due to illness, daycare closing, etc.
When you treat your employees like responsible adults who can complete their work without you hovering over their shoulder, you show your appreciation and confidence in their ability. No one wants to feel like their manager doesn’t trust them to do their job on their own.
Consider options to work from home, even if it’s part time. Let people leave the office a little early without penalty when they need to pick up their kids, go to a dentist appointment, or do whatever else needs to be done. Everyone has a life outside of the office, and that deserves their time and attention too. Your employees will feel more gratitude toward you for being flexible and it will help you gain loyalty.
Paint The Big Picture
In addition to allowing flexibility and placing your trust in your team members, it’s also beneficial to help your employees see the bigger picture of the organization’s work.
It can be easy in a large organization for employees to feel like they are just doing “busywork” and wonder why they even do the work they are doing. Show your appreciation to your employees by helping them understand the big picture and how they fit in.
When you take time to help everyone see where they fit in and how their contributions help the organization, they feel like their work is more appreciated and valuable.
On a final note, remember that your words matter, especially when it comes to praise. Think about the last time you got an unexpected compliment. It made you feel really good, right? It probably brightened your day and improved your relationship with the person who gave you the compliment.
Don’t underestimate the power of your words. You can inspire and motivate and encourage your team just by what you say. Choose your words carefully because they are powerful. Use that power for good and show your appreciation. It’s amazing how far a little “thank you” can go.
If you want to improve your personal skill in showing appreciation, you can begin with assessing how you manage your work relationships. Consider meeting with me to see how you can learn more about your overall relationship management using the Social+Emotional Intelligence Profile®. Schedule a complimentary session here.