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Insight: The Five Languages of Appreciation at Work


Have you heard about “The Five Love Languages”? Well, you can thank Gary Chapman’s bestselling book of the same title, which hit the market in 1992. This idea was based on years of collecting qualitative data (ideas not numbers) by observing couples seeking relationship counselling. Not in a creepy way. Chapman is a relationship counsellor, so he was well placed to notice there were certain themes when couples talked about the ways they expressed love.

The love languages continue to be a valuable concept for couples wanting to develop a better understanding of their preferred way to show love. But would you be surprised to learn that there are similar patterns in relationships in other contexts, including workplaces?

As social beings, we find ourselves in various contexts that require us to navigate relationships. For many people, there is no more challenging context than a workplace. In “Atlas of the Heart”, Dr Brene Brown (2021) writes about the many and varied “places we go when…” and explores various circumstances to understand the emotions that come up for people in those moments. When exploring ‘places people go when searching for connection’, Dr Brown writes:

“...any discussion of belonging has to start with acknowledging that love and belonging are irreducible needs for all people…recent research shows that finding a sense of belonging in close social relationships and with our community is essential to well-being. What makes belonging essential for us is the fact that we are a social species. We can’t survive without one another”.

Our workplaces can be rich with many social relationships, but what about ones where we can’t seem to connect to a colleague or manager?

Understanding these workplace relationships can be challenging. You might feel overwhelmed or confused when your attempts to be connected and supportive in workplace relationships don’t quite hit the mark.

There is a valuable resource for you to consider, which could provide you with some cues to improve the quality of the trickier workplace relationships you experience – the 2012 collaboration between Gary Chapman and Dr Paul White, “The Five Languages of Appreciation at Work”. While similar to the five love languages in Chapman’s original book, these concepts have been adapted to make them more appropriate for workplaces. The authors say that everyone has a primary language of appreciation. So, assuming they are right, which of these languages speaks to you the most?

Words of Affirmation

Do you seek acknowledgement and feedback? Then this is likely your primary language of appreciation at work.


Quality Time

Do you feel more connected with colleagues after meetings, staff development days or one-on-one meetings? Engaging in these work activities allows you to feel appreciated through the act of spending time with others.


Receiving Gifts

Small gestures can be very meaningful ways for some people to feel appreciated at work. If that sounds familiar, receiving gifts is your language of appreciation at work.


Acts of Service

When a colleague offers you support and assistance when needed, does this make your heart sing? Then acts of service is your language of appreciation.

Appropriate Physical Touch

It is critical to understand that while a high five or a hug might be your way of saying “I appreciate you”, this approach needs to be navigated with care and caution. Ensure this language is a shared language before launching into a hug with a non-hugger.


Wondering how this helps with your workplace relationships?

Firstly, developing a greater sense of self-awareness can be powerful. Understanding how you seek appreciation in the workplace can significantly enhance the quality of your relationships across your workplace. It can also contribute to improved job satisfaction, which can be real gamechanger if you currently feel your contribution goes unrecognised.

Secondly, this insight can be shared across your team or organisation by inviting other colleagues or your manager to identify their own language of appreciation in the workplace.

If you are interested in finding out more about this topic, check out the resources available here. It might be just the information you need the next time you are trying to demonstrate your appreciation for a colleague or manager.

Or, if your workplace needs a more customised approach to improve the quality of work relationships or address existing team dysfunction, get in touch with me directly.

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