Archive for Gary Chapman

The 5 Languages of Appreciation: Motivating Employees by Developing a Culture of Appreciation (Part 2)

Happy Employees Shaking Hands

In this post, we pick up the conversation about Dr. Paul E. White and Dr. Gary Chapman’s The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace begun in our last post.

The 5 Languages of Appreciation

Words of Affirmation

This is the most common form of appreciation expressed in the workplace, and it is especially important to practice with individuals whose primary language of appreciation is verbal praise.

Here are a few ways to apply words of affirmation in the workplace:

  1. Praise individual employees for specific accomplishments.
  2. Notice and affirm personal character traits.
  3. Focus on positive personality traits that benefit the workplace.

When you praise positive behavior, the employee is more likely to repeat that behavior.

Praise and recognition can be public or private; introverted employees may prefer a quieter approach, while others will feel most appreciated when praise is shared in front of coworkers.

Individual, one-on-one expressions of appreciation are the most valued and thus the most effective approach. Sending emails or texts thanking an employee for a particular project or praising a specific characteristic are also effective. In a world where nearly all written communication is digital, handwritten notes can be especially meaningful.

Quality Time

If an employee’s language of appreciation is quality time, she will respond positively to the following actions:

  1. Offer your undivided attention, like so:
    • Maintain eye contact while talking.
    • Don’t multitask.
    • Listen for thoughts and feelings.
    • Affirm those feelings—even if you disagree.
    • Observe body language and respond accordingly.
    • Don’t interrupt (the average person listens 17 seconds before interrupting—try to beat that record).
  2. Find opportunities to create shared experiences.
  3. Engage in small group dialogue.
  4. Be in close physical proximity while accomplishing projects.

Working side by side on a shared goal creates a sense of quality time, even if you are working independently.

Physical presence isn’t enough to create a sense of quality time, however—you need to be emotionally present, too.

Acts of Service

For those who value acts of service, actions speak louder than words. Here are several ways to express appreciation to those who fall into this category:

  1. Ask if they want help.
  2. Offer your service voluntarily.
  3. Cultivate a cheerful attitude while helping out.
  4. Do it their way (you want them to feel the task is done “right”; otherwise, the service could backfire and make them feel they’d be better off doing it themselves).
  5. Complete what you start so they’re not left with an unfinished task (or warn them in advance that you can only help with a portion of the project, asking if they still want your help).

Receiving Gifts

A thoughtfully chosen gift suited to the individual can have an enormous impact on people whose primary language is tangible gifts. On the other hand, a poorly selected gift can give offense.

We are not talking about raises or monetary gifts; it has to be personal to the individual for it to be perceived as an expression of appreciation.

Here are a few tips on gift-gifting:

  1. Reserve gifts for those who list gifts as their primary or secondary language as gifts will likely have little impact on others.
  2. Give a gift the person values.
  3. Gifts are not always a thing; it can also be an experience like tickets to the theatre or a favorite sporting event.
  4. Time off from work can be a greatly appreciated gift.

Physical Touch

While there can be appropriate expressions of physical touch in the workplace—a friendly high-five, pat on the back, handshake, fist bump, hand on the shoulder or hug during a personal tragedy—this appreciation language is the trickiest to apply in a work environment.

The interpretation of touch varies widely according to individuals, the organizational subculture, and a person’s history with abuse. The risk of physical touch being perceived as sexual harassment is high in a culture where touch has been so highly sexualized.

Our research reveals that touch is the least important language for the workplace setting. Individuals who may have a primary language of physical touch in their romantic relationship may have an entirely different language in the workplace.

For those who do value touch as an expression of appreciation, however, affirming, non-sexual touches can be important.

The safest way to tell whether touch is an appropriate form of expression for that individual is to observe the employee’s behavior to see if he uses physical touch as an expression of appreciation to others. If a person stiffens in response to touch, that’s a good indication they are uncomfortable being touched.

3 Ways to Discover a Person’s Primary Language

Three-quarters of people intuitively express appreciation in their own language. This raises two significant points: 1) you can usually guess a person’s language of appreciation by observing how they express it to others and 2) just because you convey appreciation through your preferred language does not mean the recipient will feel appreciated. If you do not share the same language, the expression will fall on deaf ears.

To informally assess a person’s language of appreciation:

  1. Observe their behavior.
  2. Listen to their requests.
  3. Notice what they complain about (this usually reveals emotional hurts related to their language of appreciation).

MBA Inventory

Chapman and White developed the Motivating by Appreciation (MBA) inventory to help individuals and organizations assess employees’ languages of appreciation. It costs $10 to take the standard test, but you will get an access code for free with your purchase of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.

After completing the MBA inventory, you will receive a report detailing your primary language, secondary language, and least valued language. The report also contains an action action checklist that others can reference as they learn how to express appreciation to you.

Individuals may wish to take the MBA inventory and then forward the report to their supervisors to open the lines of communication about appreciation.

Even better is if an organization decides to embark on an assessment process together. I would be happy to help facilitate the assessment and implementation process. If you are interested, give me a call at 541-601-0114 or email

More Details

Visit the Appreciation at Work website for a list of resources, assessments, training tools and videos on the research presented in The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.

Your Results

If you take the MBA inventory, tell us how it goes! We’re eager to hear how communicating appreciation plays out in your workplace and life.

The 5 Languages of Appreciation: Motivating Employees by Developing a Culture of Appreciation (Part 1)

Circle of Happy Coworkers

We’ve been exploring how understanding people’s primary love languages can help us develop stronger relationships in both our personal and professional lives. Now it’s time to examine those principles specifically in the context of the workplace.

For years, Dr. Gary Chapman had been wanting to apply the concepts developed in The 5 Love Languages to the workplace, but it wasn’t until he met psychologist and organizational consultant Dr. Paul E. White that he knew he’d found the right coauthor for this project. Their research culminated in The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People.

The Value of Appreciation

7 Habits of Highly Effective People author Steven Covey argues that psychological survival—feeling appreciated, understood, and affirmed—comes second only to physical survival in human needs.

Even so, employers who are myopically focused on the bottom line may not recognize the value of cultivating appreciation in the workplace. As we’ve repeatedly discussed in this blog, however, the recent wave of scientific research on happiness teaches us that investing in employee happiness, job satisfaction, and strengths yields higher profits and productivity, making this a win-win goal for everyone at the organization.

Why People Leave

A four-year study conducted by one of the leading exit interview firms reveals that managers could not be more wrong about the reasons employees leave. As many as 89% of managers believe employees leave their company for monetary reasons, but the fact is only 12% reported money as their cause of departure. A staggering 88% of employees said they left for other reasons—the number one cause being not feeling valued.

This is not an unusual phenomenon. Nearly 70% of US employees reported to Gallup that they receive no praise in the workplace. This lack of recognition creates a climate of discouragement and makes it difficult for organizations to retain quality employees.

According to research, employees favor recognition by supervisors over colleagues by a 2:1 margin. When that recognition is withheld, emotionally starved employees may start looking elsewhere for fulfillment.

The High Cost of Turnover

It is estimated that the cost of labor turnover on the US economy is $5 trillion a year. The loss of productivity, eroding morale, and time involved in hiring and training takes a hefty toll on an organization, especially when turnover is frequent. Far more cost-effective would be to invest in the people already there.

Managers’ Concerns

Employees who do not feel emotionally supported by their supervisors are far more likely to experience burnout. Employee turnover not only damages morale but also the financial health of the company.

In polling organizational leaders, White and Chapman discovered that managers’ five greatest concerns about employees are:

1) employees getting discouraged

2) employees experiencing burnout

3) employees feeling overwhelmed

4) the organization losing the positive culture built up over the years

5) managers not knowing how to encourage employees with limited financial resources

Developing an environment of appreciation helps combat all of these concerns.

Authenticity Is Key

Retaining your best employees begins with genuine, individual expressions of appreciation in the employee’s preferred language. Efforts to express appreciation must be specific to that person.

Authenticity is key. That’s why attempts to institute a companywide recognition policy often backfire—if expressions of gratitude are obligatory, employees will perceive those gestures as insincere, sparking resentment toward both their managers and the organization.

Culture of Appreciation

Establishing a culture of appreciation is a different story. By encouraging everyone at the company—supervisors and coworkers alike—to express gratitude and respect through the individual’s primary appreciation language, employers can boost job satisfaction and subsequently retention and productivity.

Stay Tuned

In our next post, we will examine the five languages of appreciation in detail: 1) words of affirmation, 2) quality time, 3) acts of service, 4) receiving gifts, and 5) physical touch. We will also share tips on how to gauge a fellow employee’s language of appreciation—and look at tools you can use to help cultivate a culture of appreciation at your workplace.

More Details

Visit the Appreciation at Work website for a list of resources, assessments, training tools, and videos on the research presented in The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.

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!