The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace

We chat to Dr Paul White, experienced psychologist & speaker, and co-author of book The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.

Dr Paul White is a psychologist, author, keynote speaker, leadership trainer & consultant who has been helping organisations like Microsoft and SHRM “make work relationships work” for the past 20 years.

He co-authored The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People with Dr Gary Chapman and based the work on Dr Chapman’s revolutionary and popular The 5 Love Languages. Their book has recently been republished with new insights added from Gallup and other current research into employee engagement and happiness.

Dr White’s work is all about helping people in organisations give the kind of appreciation that helps individuals flourish in their roles — whether they respond best to words of affirmation 💬, quality time 🕰, acts of service 🛠, tangible gifts 🎁 or physical touch 🤝.

“Not everyone feels appreciated in the same way.”

He argues that managers like their jobs more when the people in their team feel appreciated, because there is much less conflict to deal with.

“It’s not just about making people feel good… We want healthy relationships and people working better together.”

Through their research, Drs White & Chapman found that the one thing people don’t want to hear, is “good job” — even among people who feel most appreciated (and thus motivated) through words of affirmation. It’s just too vague, and could lean towards insincerity…

Dr White’s tips for great recognition:

  1. Use the person’s name, and if you’re writing it down, spell it correctly.
  2. Be specific about what was done and what the value is.
  3. Specify why it is important for you and/or the company.
  4. If you’re giving a gift, it needs to be personal & thoughtful.

Another interesting statistic that Dr White has found, is that 55% of people don’t receive appreciation through words of affirmation — “don’t tell me, show me.” Others hate being acknowledged in front of a big crowd, and for a meagre 6% of workers tangible gifts are valued as their top language of appreciation.

It’s clear that understanding your co-workers’ languages of appreciation is important, not only for the sake of their growth and happiness, but for the growth and culture of the company as well. Dr White believes that the biggest thing about appreciation is that it should not only be top-down; but peer-to-peer. There are times in life that you need some personal support, and this builds loyalty and trust between people and in their relationship with the company. We need to be acknowledged as human at a fluid, personal kind of level.

“People don’t want to be valued just for what they do… We are people, not production units.”

Enjoy! Hit play ▶️ above to watch the interview video.
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Timestamp notes:

0.33 — Who is Dr Paul White?

2.00 — The science behind the book, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.

3.15 — Why just saying ‘thanks’ doesn’t work.

6.50 — The most common mistakes with recognition in organisations.

8.04 — “It’s not about the big stuff.”

9.12 — Recognition: top-down vs. peer-to-peer.

11.50 — An average day for Paul.

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