Midway through our marriage, my wife told me that she does not feel loved, or that at least I am not expressing my love for her. It was, at the very least shocking, but mostly confusing for me. I thought of all the things I have done for her, including the gifts I bought, only to find out that she does not feel loved. That discussion eventually led us to the concept of the five Love Languages. In his book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, American author Gary Chapman theorizes that people express and experience love through five ways, namely: words of appreciation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. As it turned out, my wife’s primary love languages at that time were through words and physical touch, both of which were neither my primary nor even secondary, love language. There lies the problem: the love is there, but it is not communicated effectively.
These signs of ineffectiveness in the way people express and receive love, or appreciation, seem to go beyond the confines of a romantic relationship.
Over the past decade, we have heard more than ever the need to express appreciation to the people in our workplace. I believe that we generally accept the idea that appreciating our coworkers is beneficial. Awareness of the need for appreciation is already there, but why are we still hearing issues surrounding the lack of appreciation in the workplace? Is it because there is a lack of it? Or is it there but people are just not showing their appreciation effectively?
Appreciate with the most impact
If there is such a concept as a love language, there is also something similar for the workplace: appreciation language. I have heard stories about managers getting surprised upon knowing a member of the staff still felt unappreciated despite having received congratulatory remarks from managers and peers for a job well done. Could it be because the words of appreciation received did not really make a significant impact on the employee? Is it possible that the employee recognizes a different language as an expression of appreciation?
Like the five love languages, appreciation languages also revolve around words, service, gifts, time and appropriate touch (e.g., pat on the back, handshakes, fist bumps). Find out what sort of appreciation language is recognized by people in your organization. There are online assessment tools, or alternatively, you may observe your coworkers.
If we are to apply Chapman’s theory, we can find out the appreciation language of our coworker by determining the appreciation language that the person commonly uses. According to Chapman, people give love the same way they prefer to receive love. For people who express their appreciation through words, then most probably, that is also how they want to be appreciated as well.
After identifying how best we can appreciate our coworker, we should remember to express our appreciation in detail. Giving appreciation to our coworkers is part of the feedback process. It is often emphasized that we should be prepared to provide details when we give our feedback.
Although, the detailed part is usually reserved for negative feedback, we often forget that providing details also applies when we are showing our appreciation. Given that we are not accustomed to expressing praise, we sometimes limit our appreciation vocabulary to “Good job!” and “Great work!” But no matter how sincere those appreciative words are, there is a chance that those words will not be as effective as expected. If we do not discuss the details, the recipient of the appreciation might think that their output, in its entirety, was worth appreciating. Worse, the recipient might get confused, which could then lead to a feeling of being unappreciated.
I had a conversation with a friend about her experience with expressing appreciation. She told me a story about her staff. My friend was really happy with one of her staff’s output. She and her boss kept on congratulating this employee, telling him that he did really well. Soon after, however, my friend was shocked to find out that her staff felt unappreciated, or at least he was not really sure how good his output really was. The staff explained that the effort he put into this project is similar to the effort he exerted to accomplish previous projects. “So why am I getting the appreciative words only now, while I got none for my previous projects?” the worker asked.
My friend, still recovering from the shock, tried to explain why he deserved all the appreciation for this project, compared with the previous ones. She gave him details. She told him about the confidence that he exhibited during the presentation of the project. She also mentioned how he was able to beautifully capture all the important details and weave them into a dynamic story that was well appreciated by the stakeholders. It was only then that the staff realized why his performance for this project was appreciated. Without any details in the appreciation that he received initially, the staff did not know which part of his performance deserved such words of appreciation. Without the details, he was left confused, leading him to feel unappreciated.
Expressing appreciation is not easy for many, including me, but we still do it because we believe it is the right thing to do. It would be a shame if, despite our earnest attempts to express appreciation, it would be for naught, simply because we did not communicate it effectively. It would also be a shame, even a tragedy, if my wife would not feel loved simply because I had been too stubborn to adapt to her love language.
Anton Ng is a partner, Audit & Assurance of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading audit, tax, advisory and outsourcing firms in the Philippines, with 21 partners and over 850 staff members. We’d like to hear from you! Tweet us: @PAGrantThornton, like us on Facebook: P&A Grant Thornton, and email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. For more information, visit our Website: www.grantthornton.com.ph.
As published in The Manila Times, dated 21 March 2018