December 6, 2011
Do you feel appreciated at the office? Does your boss or co-worker give you encouragement and make you feel empowered? Do you, in turn, make encouraging others part of your workday?
If you answered "no," a new language might help.
Paul White, a psychologist and co-author of "The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace," said office encouragement can, for example: decrease tardiness, diminish absenteeism, lessen turnover, help workers become more engaged and increase production. All of this, he said, means a business is more likely to survive in today's competitive environment.
And everyone should be involved in the process, White said.
"We started this for managers but it's the colleagues who really love this because they want to know how to encourage one another," he said. "Everyone can have a positive influence in their work space and work environment, whether you're the receptionist or the CEO."
But not all appreciation is the same for all people, White said.
"Some people really need the verbal encouragements, and others, it might be about acts of service," he said. "Just because you need praise doesn't mean that is important to your co-worker, so by identifying the people in your team's preferences, you can really be tapping in to what matters to people to see results."
After you've identified a person's preference for receiving appreciation, White said you have to make sure the delivery is genuine, frequent and individualized. "You won't get anywhere by lumping everyone together in a group email," he said.
Here are the five languages of appreciation in the workplace, according to White and his co-author, Gary Chapman:
Words of affirmation. "There's verbal appreciation, which is compliments or praise, or written forms of course which can be in an email or letter," White said. "Be specific as possible and tell them how what they've done impacts you and the bottom line. Maybe it's that you appreciate their character or that they are dependable. It could be as simple as, 'I appreciate your cheerful spirit.'"
Tangible gifts. "Most people want experiences more than things, so this can be tickets to movies or coupons to dinner or sporting events," he said. "By giving small gifts to those who value this type of appreciation, you are showing that you are getting to know your colleagues and think about them outside of work."
Quality time. "To some this is really key," White said. "It could be about going to lunch, or simply saying to a colleague, 'Just give me 15 minutes where I can talk to you and I know you're listening to what I have to say.'"
Acts of service. "Before you do anything for someone, you need to ask if they want help," he said. "And the acts will differ from setting to setting. A dental hygienist might want help cleaning up their work station and an administrative assistant might have issues with their computer. And whatever you do, don't instruct someone on a better way to do things without their asking you to. That may cause tension."
Physical touch. "This is the one that gives HR managers seizures," White said. "In the workplace this means spontaneous celebrations, such as a high-five when you've made a sale, or a fist pump or pat on the back. I tease that in New York, this can be just being within three feet of someone, but with some Latin business individuals that I work with touch is part of their culture."
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