Archive for 5 languages of appreciation

The Top 4 Employee Needs to Fulfill for Greater Happiness and Productivity

Business Leader Inspiring Employees

If you’ve been following this blog and other science of happiness research, you already know achieving employee satisfaction is key to creating a sustainable and productive workforce.

It’s simple, really. More satisfied employees = happier employees = more engaged employees = more productive employees = a mutually beneficial equation for everyone.

A 2012 Gallup meta-analysis of 263 research studies conducted across nearly 200 companies revealed that highly engaged employees translates into significantly more dollar signs—22 percent more, roughly. The Q12® report, titled “Relationship Between Engagement at Work and Organizational Outcomes,” found a 0.42 correlation between engagement and performance. Organizations whose employees ranked in the top half for employee engagement were almost twice as successful, and those in the 99th percentile showed quadruple the success rate over those scoring in the 1st percentile.

So how do you cultivate that employee engagement? Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath explore this question in “The Power of Meeting Your Employees’ Needs” at the HBR Blog.

According to the article, a 2013 Harvard Business Review survey of 19,000 people suggests meeting the following four needs is the secret:

Delivering Happiness Frameworks1) Renewal (physical). Employees are encouraged to take breaks to stretch, exercise, get fresh air or even power-nap. They return feeling rejuvenated and energized, ready to barrel through the next big task.

2) Value (emotional). When staff members feel valued by their coworkers and especially their supervisors, they are more motivated. We explore this formula extensively in our blog posts on The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People (Part 1 and Part 2).

3) Focus (mental). Employees who are bombarded with distractions, competing deadlines and inane meetings lose focus and clarity about their priorities. Organizations that give workers greater control over their own schedules so they can carve out focus time for intensive projects will see a corresponding rise in productivity.

4) Purpose (spiritual). Feeling part of something larger and more important than one’s self is crucial to employee happiness. Tony Hsiesh testifies to the significance of this factor to Zappos’ success in his book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Passion, Profits, and Purpose (see the Happiness Frameworks sidebar, graphics courtesy of the Delivering Happiness website).

The more needs met, the more exponentially engaged employees will be. Satisfy one need, and employees will be 30 percent more focused, 50 percent more engaged, and 63 percent more likely to stay with the company. Satisfying all four results in employees who are 125 percent more engaged than those whose needs are not being met.

The following graph (courtesy of illustrates the remarkable correlation between satisfaction of these four variables and performance.

Effects of Meeting Employees Needs Graph

Daniel Pink’s research backs up these findings. According to Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, people need these three things to feel motivated: 1) autonomy, 2) sense of purpose and 2) ability to master their endeavor.

Pink discovered that employee drive goes far deeper than dollars. Offering rewards like monetary bonuses actually decreases motivation in the long run because it depletes the intrinsic motivation derived from the work itself. The carrot wears out quickly, and it becomes the goal of the work rather than the actual process. Businesses would do better to ensure the work itself is gratifying.

Organizations that invest in cultivating employee happiness and engagement by meeting their primary needs wind up healthier, happier and ultimately richer.

Chris Cook can help your company get started on that path. Contact her at 541.601.0114 or to chart a course toward your brighter future.

Let Me Count the Ways: 5 Love Languages for Better Communication

Couple Kissing in the Park
In our last post, we explored tips on building better relationships from couples guru John Gottman, PhD. We will continue this theme by drawing lessons on better communication from the #1 bestseller on marriage and adult relationships.

And while this may seem like a stretch for a business coach and consultant to be delving into, it’s not. When I coach, I coach the whole person. How you show up at work is affected by what’s happening in your personal life and vice versa. Please read on and see how this information can make your life better and more fulfilling in all aspects.

Over two decades after its original publication, Dr. Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts not only tops the marriage and relationships category, but it is also the #1 bestseller in both Relationships and Religious Studies—and it currently ranks #45 of all Amazon book sales (see Top 100 Books).

Clearly, Chapman is onto something fundamental, even life-transforming. So what’s the big secret? It’s simpler than you’d think. Practicing it is another story.

In-Love Phenomenon

Two years. That’s the average lifespan of the in-love phenomenon according to research conducted by psychologist Dr. Dorothy Tennov.

After the biological buzz fades, we need to make ongoing efforts to achieve a sustainable, mature love that is capable of surviving the 69% of unresolvable marital conflicts; the accumulation of irritations we may have once considered adorable quirks; the vicissitudes of time; and the daily stresses that life, work and family place on the relationship.

Love Tank

Gottman’s principles of positive and negative sentiment override can be mapped to Chapman’s metaphor of the love tank. When your love tank is full, you are more forgiving of your partner’s foibles because your emotional needs are being fulfilled (positive sentiment override). As poor communication erodes the relationship (negative sentiment override), the gas in your love tank dwindles, eventually reaching Empty.

How does a couple maintain a full love tank—or replenish an empty tank? By understanding and practicing each other’s primary love language, Chapman contends.

The 5 Love Languages

Each of us feels loved in different ways, and Chapman categorizes those ways as 1) words of affirmation, 2) quality time, 3) gifts, 4) acts of service and 5) touch.

Words of Affirmation

People for whom words of affirmation is their primary love language perceive compliments as expressions of love. This is not about flattery, generic praise, or simple thank-you’s—although expressing gratitude is always important. This is about specific praise of specific features and behaviors.

Contrast a generic response like “Nice” with a particular comment like, “I really respect how sensitively you handled that situation—you diffused the tension with humor and grace.” What the second phrasing tells the recipient is that you not only affirm and approve of her behavior but also that you noticed it. It is a way of letting her know she is not alone and that her efforts are appreciated.

Sincere, kind, and encouraging words do wonders to fill the love tank of a words-of-affirmation person. At the same time, negative and hurtful words can have a deeply damaging effect.

If the person you are trying to communicate with falls into this category, always remember, words are important.

Quality Time

Workaholics may think they are expressing their love by working hard to provide for their families, but what they often fail to realize is their partners would rather have fewer amenities in exchange for more quality time with their loved one.

Although watching favorite shows and movies together is enjoyable, this is not what Chapman means by quality time. You may both be in the same room, but you are focused on the television—not each other.

Rather, by quality time Chapman means one-on-one encounters where you have opportunities to look into each other’s eyes, discuss meaningful subjects and experience shared passions. These are the types of bonding experiences you practiced when first dating.

Cultivate your curiosity about your partner’s inner life, history and experiences and ask questions reflecting that interest. Find a shared hobby, project or even chore you can collaborate on. You may be surprised by how much closer you feel after performing a task together, whether it’s as simple as washing the dishes or as involved as rebuilding an engine.


For some people, gifts are a tangible expression of love. No matter how small, a gift communicates to your partner that you took time out of your day to think of him.

The more thoughtful and specific the gift, the more meaningful it will be. Maybe your partner cut his finger on a faulty can-opener in the morning. Bringing home a new one that evening tells him you noticed and empathized with his frustration.

Pragmatic individuals often cannot understand why giving their partner a bouquet of flowers matters because all they see is ephemera that will end up in the garbage days later. What they don’t recognize is the feeling of appreciation that wells up in the recipient, who sees not the dying stems but the beauty that symbolizes their partner’s love.

Acts of Service

Living daily life can be exhausting, especially for those who feel they are shouldering the burden of household responsibilities. Housebound partners may develop resentment for the working partner, who feels they have fulfilled their responsibility by trekking to the office each day and doesn’t see why they should help around the house as well.

For those who speak the love language of service, even the smallest contribution can alleviate stress and convey love. Cleaning the litterbox, washing the car, emptying the dishwasher—just 10 minutes of your time can lift the spirits of your beloved. It’s tells the other person you know and appreciate the stresses they are under, and you are doing your part to help relieve those stresses.


This seems like an obvious expression of love, but there are people who haven’t grown up with touch as part of their emotional vocabulary, so they may not realize how meaningful it is to their partners.

A person whose primary love language is touch may feel slighted or neglected by someone who doesn’t think to express their love through handholding, hugs or back rubs. The withholding partner may be completely oblivious to this effect and thus may be perplexed when conflict, resentment, or passive-aggressive behavior emerges.

All of these are a sign of a depleted love tank, and a gentle touch is the first step toward replenishing it.

Appreciation in the Workplace

Although the love tank metaphor is geared toward romantic relationships, it can easily be mapped to parent-child, sibling, friend, coworker, and employer-employee relations. In the workplace environment, it would be called the “appreciation tank.”

Indeed, Chapman has written a book specifically applying the above principles to that context: The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People.

We will explore this book in my next blog post. Chapman and coauthor Paul E. White show how coworkers and managers can use the appropriate language to express their appreciation, letting colleagues and employees know they are valued.

As we have repeatedly explored on this blog, feelings of being valued and appreciated are crucial to employee happiness—and ultimately productivity, performance and loyalty.

I encourage you to begin practicing languages of love and appreciation in all of your relationships. When you match the right behavior to the recipient’s language, she will not only feel valued, but you will experience the reciprocal effects of kindness and gratitude.

What is your primary love language? You can take the tests for Love, Apology, and Appreciation at the 5 Love Languages website. Have fun!