The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace:
Empowering organizations by encouraging people
By Gary Chapman and Paul White, 2012 | Reviewed by Ingrid Sparrow, PT
As clinic owners, we are increasingly being told that business success is all about the numbers.
Yet in our heart of hearts we know that these numbers seldom motivate our staff. But here is a number that does impress: 7,000. This is the number of weeks that The 5 Languages of Love by Gary Chapman has been on the New York Times bestseller list, selling over 12 million copies and translated into over 37 languages.1 Dr. Chapman must be onto something!
Over his years a counselor, Dr. Chapman observed and tested how people expressed and received love, and he developed what he calls the 5 Love Languages:
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Receiving Gifts
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch
Each of us has one or two languages that we prefer above the others; learning your preferred language as well as that of those around you helps build a supportive and caring place to work. It is a version of the Golden Rule of Communication: Communicate unto others as they would like to be communicated unto.
Dr. Chapman’s original work was designed for use with couples and families, and he recognized that while his principles applied to the workplace, we are usually looking for appreciation rather that love at work. Along with Dr. Paul White in 2011, he wrote The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People.2 According to the authors, sadly 70% of employees say they receive no praise or recognition at work. And use of their approach can improve the workplace in the following ways: Express genuine appreciation to co-workers and staff, increase loyalty with the employees and volunteers in your organization, reduce cynicism and create a more positive work environment, improve your ability to show appreciation for difficult colleagues, and convey the language of physical touch in appropriate ways.3
As employers, we like to our employees to derive intrinsic reward from the work they do, but we also need to have systems of extrinsic rewards, which is where the use of these languages can help. As always, a great place to start is with yourself – what are your preferred languages? This is quick, easy and free to find out by taking his online quiz.4 And then do as he recommends: observe and experiment with your staff. Which language of appreciation do they respond to? One of my examples: my clinic employees a high-school student a few hours three nights a week. And I have learned that most of them value and actually need just a little quality time at the start of each shift. They usually have a worry or a triumph that they want to share from their school day, and it is a pleasure to see how they light up and are then able to focus after having had a chance to debrief with me. These few minutes make all the difference and are easy and rewarding for me as well.
1Chapman G. The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing; 1992.
2Chapman G, White P. The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People. Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing; 2012.
3The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. Appreciation at Work website. https://www.appreciationatwork.com/5-languages-appreciation-workplace-improve-employee-engagement/. Accessed January 10, 2020.
4Learn your Love Language. 5 Love Languages website. https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/. Accessed January 10, 2020.
5Podcasts. 5 Love Languages website. https://www.5lovelanguages.com/podcasts/. Accessed January 10, 2020.