Brand EditorialEPMEPM: ProductivityInsights

5 Languages of Appreciation: Tanja M Jones

Everyone says you should make sure that your team feels appreciated, but just as different things attract different customers, there are different ways you should recognise your team depending on the way they would like to be recognised. And if you get this right, says leadership coach Tanja M Jones, you can enhance loyalty and productivity at the same time.

What is a company vision without the human resource to bring it to life? It is but a lonely framed statement on a dusty wall, lifeless and lacklustre. Without people, ‘lit-up people’, our organisational missions simply remain typed characters of potential, hanging in a frame of hope, yearning for a heartbeat.

What gives your business life is your people.  It’s  the individual and collective energies that show up every day. It’s those who work with the best intentions, fuelled by a desire to contribute. It’s those who crave someone like you to take notice and genuinely care.

Maya Angelou, the American poet and civil rights activist, once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Consider, as a leader, that your people come to work desiring to feel alive and make a difference. They want to belong to a tribe and know their existence matters. They need to feel appreciated and know they are significant. Let’s face it, we all want that, no matter what role we play.

Healthy communication is at the heart of every organisation and relationship. While interactions must be personal and unique, there is a misconception that appreciation in the workplace is all about making people ‘feel good and happy’. It is the individual’s responsibility to take care of their wellbeing and how they feel; we can make things better by being positive, but we are not there just to try and cheer people up.

According to the most recent SEEK Employee Satisfaction and Motivation Survey (2010) the number one factor that makes people happy in the workplace is ‘Appreciation’ (17 per cent), equal with ‘Quality of overall management’ and with ‘Variety and content of work’ a close third on 16 per cent.

Happy employees are motivated to raise their productivity, and they will also spread the word about their place of work. It is said that if staff are happy in their work they are 44 per cent more likely to stay in the job.

It is overall bad management and lack of appreciation that causes people to leave.

Interestingly, real estate professionals ranked number 1 in the list of the most stressed workforce  in Australia on 34 per cent, followed by Information and communication technology (33 per cent) and Sales and business development (also 33 per cent).

Real estate and property also ranked fourth in low employee advocacy, which leads to high turnover; this was alongside Marketing and communications (1), Engineering (2) and Advertising, arts and media (equal 2).

You’d be surprised at just how many people are turning up to work each day, going about their business, poker faced and seemingly occupied, whilst vacant inside.

The Society for Human Resource Management (USA) found that workers communicated that they felt like they were not being valued or appreciated, even though leaders and managers feel like they are expressing their gratitude and appreciation.

As a leader, it is vital that you develop the sensory acuity to identify when the well of your greatest resource – your people – is running dry. Here’s what to look for:

  • Discouragement
  • Irritability and resistance
  • Increased absenteeism or tardiness
  • Cynicism and sarcasm
  • Apathy and passivity
  • Social withdrawal
  • Negative work environment.

The impacts on your culture, sales, customer service and profits are toxic. If left unaddressed, you will find yourself time-poor and working in a highly reactive environment with little respect from your people.

Interestingly, what makes one person feel appreciated does not necessarily work for another. As a leader you can be sincerely expressing appreciation but you won’t be connecting with your teams. This is fundamentally due to the fact that we each give and receive different languages of appreciation. When we learn the language of those who work with and for us, and consciously speak it to existence, the dynamic radically changes.

International bestselling author of The 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman discovered, after many years as a relationship and marriage counsellor working with hundreds of couples, that there are five different ways that we experience and communicate love. He identified that we each have a predominate way love is expressed and received; we naturally use the language we favour, which, interestingly, may not be a direct match to our beloved’s.

Gary also discovered through a business associate that these same love languages can be applied to people at work. He teamed up with international business coach and licensed psychologist Paul White to uncover how to create better workplaces through authentic communication, as in all relationships this can mean the difference between success and failure. Thus, the book The 5 Languages of Appreciation was born. People need to hear encouragement and appreciation in their own language, the one that’s important to them; so remember to be authentic and genuine, make it specific and timely, speak from the heart and mean what you say.


WORDS OF AFFIRMATION – can be both for a specific outcome and a personal characteristic
QUALITY TIME – characterised by eye contact, listening not analysing, quality conversation, a safe environment
ACTS OF SERVICE – actions speak louder than words: staying after to help out, bringing food when team is working late, helping someone specifically
GIFTS – the right gift for the right person; not money but something they love. Avoid corporate branded gifts that lack imagination and personal thought
PHYSICAL TOUCH – observe how people react when something good happens: fist bump, handshake, high five, pat on the back. Need to have boundaries and ensure touch remains appropriate for the workplace.

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Tanja M Jones

Tanja M Jones is a Leadership, Mindset and Peak Performance Specialist. For more information visit