Sales, Marketing and Communication

Speak the language of your coworkers

Do your coworkers seem demotivated? Is the mood down and tense at the office? Perhaps it is because, you don't recognize your coworkers the right way.

Even though you appreciate your coworkers and think that you are good at remembering to give praise, and that you faithfully hand out Christmas presents every year, it doesn't guarantee that your coworkers feel that you acknowledge them.

According to Gary Chapman there's a difference on what makes people feel acknowledged. For some words of praise is the right thing, while for others the praise completely misses its target. They may prefer it if to talk to you or perhaps eat lunch together.

Gary Chapman call these preferences “language”, and this implies that you can talk actually speak different languages, even if your native language is the same. If you know your coworkers’ preferred language of appreciation, you can show your appreciation in a much more efficient way.

The five languages of appreciation

Below, we review the five languages and provide a guide on how to find out which languages your coworkers speak.

1. Confirming words

Employees that are motivated by confirming words, values verbal praise and appreciation for their effort. When you speak this language, you confirm a positive feature about the person.

For confirming words to be effective you must be specific. The more you are able to “catch” a person working on an assignment the way you want it to be solved, and you aim your attention towards this assignment, the greater the chance that he repeats the action, because he feels acknowledged.

Ways to use confirming words (different dialects)

  • Praise an achievement or skill
  • Praise a character feature, for instance, endurance, courage, humility, self-discipline, compassion, honesty, etc.
  • Praise the personality, for instance optimism, aggressivenes, proper, spontaneousness, planning, logical, intuitive, etc.

Where and when?
Where and when to praise your coworkers depends entirely on their individual preferences. Some prefer being praised one-on-one, while others would like to be praised in front of others. A handwritten message is also a possibility.

2. Quality time

Spend time with your employees – either on the job or outside of the job depending on what your employees prefer. Some need time and attention from their boss. Give these people focused attention. It is not enough just being near them, for instance, sitting in the same room. What these coworkers crave isn't physical presence, but attention.

Ways to offer quality time (different dialects)

  • Quality conversation
  • Sharing experiences
  • Conversation in small groups
  • Work near employees who solve a project together

Where and when?
Be aware, that many employees experience that there's a difference between what they want to do with their colleagues and what they want to do with their boss.

3. Favors

When others lend a hand, people who speaks this dialect are motivated. These employees often live by the code: “Don't tell me that it matters – show me!”

How to do a favor

  • Make sure that your own areas of responsibility are clear, before you help others.
  • Ask before you help – does the person need help?
  • Do it voluntary.
  • Help with a positive attitude.
  • Do it their way. You are the one who's helping. They know how they want it done.
  • Complete the assignment. However, you can make the person aware that you only have limited time.

4. Gifts

For coworkers that feel acknowledged by receiving gifts, the right gift can really be a clear message of gratitude, appreciation and encouragement. However, it can be difficult to give the right gifts, which is why many companies hesitate doing so.

In this context it is not about a raise or a bonus (which we all appreciate), but about non-monetary gifts.

How to give gifts

  • Give them to the people that appreciates them
  • Give a gift that has value to that person – for instance, what is his/her interests?

5. Physical touch

According to Gary Chapman, physical touch is rarely the preferred language in a workplace. A high-five or a pad on the shoulder can be fine, but for most people physical touch is the least important way of showing appreciation at work.

How to find out the primary languages of appreciation of your coworkers
By noticing how your employees behave you can gain a qualified idea on what language they speak. Most of us use the same language for giving appreciation that we wish to be acknowledged in ourselves.

  1. Observe their behavior
    Notice how your employee show other people appreciation. We have the tendency of treating/acknowledging others with the same language that we wish to be acknowledged in, ourselves. So if your employee often share praise, her language of appreciation is likely to be words of praise. If you have an employee that shakes hands, gives a pad on the shoulder or touches people’s arms, physical touch is probably his primary language.

  2. Notice what they ask of others
    Another indicator on what language your coworkers speak can be gained from being aware of what they ask from others. If a colleague often asks for help on a project, quality time is most likely her language of appreciation. The employee who asks you to bring “freebies” from the trede show, values material gifts. If you have an employee who often asks: “Does this look right? Have I solved the assignment well enough?” You can acknowledge him with a word of confirmation.

  3. What are they complaining about?
    A last indicator of your coworkers’ language of appreciation is to be found by noticing what they are complaining about. In our complaints we reveal our deepest emotional pains. The opposite of what hurts us. is likely to be our language of appreciation. When some coworker complaints that someone never has time for him, quality time is probably his language. While the complaint, that only one friend gave a birthday present, indicates that this colleague’s language of appreciation is material gifts.

The 10 easiest ways of showing your employees' appreciation

  1. Give a compliment (say, “Thanks for…”, tell them that, “I am happy that you are a part of the team”).
  2. Write an e-mail (“I just wanted to tell you that…” or, “It really helped me when you…”).
  3. Drop by a coworker just to see how things are going. Spend a couple of minutes doing small-talk.
  4. Do something with your employees (for instance, eat lunch together).
  5. Hold the door or help carry something.
  6. Drop by a coworkers' office and ask, if there is anything you can help out with.
  7. Give coffee or cake.
  8. Bring a coworker a magazine about something he takes an interest in (hobbies, holiday destinations etc.).
  9. Give a high-five or a pad on the back when someone has finished an assignment (especially if it has been difficult or tedious).
  10. Give your coworkers a warm welcome with a smile and a handshake (and for instance say, “Nice to see you!” or, “How are you doing?”)

Source: Based on The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman and Paul White