The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace–Waiting on Wednesday

Though I mostly read children’s and the occasional teen book for work, lately I’ve also been reading some management and leadership books. While I’m a Youth Services Librarian, I’m also the Assistant Branch Manager, which means I get to wear many hats. I’ve spent a long time training to be a good librarian, and I really enjoy programing and collection development, but management does not come easy for me. So, I’m reading books to get ideas and hopefully learn to be a better leader.

Today’s forthcoming book is one of these management titles, The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, by Gary D. Chapman and Paul E. White, found on Netgalley. While it isn’t specifically on management or libraries, it had a lot of great suggestions that I’ve already started to use. By the same folks who wrote the Five Love Languages, none of which I’ve ever read, the text offers insights into how different styles of communicating appreciation can be met with different degrees of success depending on how well it meshes with the recipient’s own style. There are actually only 4 styles here, but I could think right away how some of the staff at my branch have distinct preferences.

These are the four styles of offering appreciation (they cut out touch as being too fraught with complication and misunderstanding to be adapted from their other languages):

Style 1: Words of Appreciation
Not just saying “good job” this covers public recognition of all kinds, including written notes, employee of the month, and a range of other communications. I’m a verbal appreciator, and I love to hear that I’ve done a good job, but I know that sometimes I’ve told staff that they’ve done a good job and been met with shrugs or blank looks. I think this may just not be their preferred method of appreciation.

Style 2: Quality Time
For a boss or supervisor to take the time to listen to the thoughts and input of their staff can really show how valued the staff member is. Sometimes this can include other types of time spent together, like outside of work, or working together on a special project, like volunteering. I’d never thought of this as a way of showing appreciation, but I realized after reading this that my boss uses this as a marker of appreciation, and that it is probably my number two way of being appreciated. My boss is always willing to listen to me tell her about my program plans, even though she trusts me to plan them and doesn’t need to know specifics.

Style 3: Acts of Service
Helping coworkers or people one supervises to complete a task can be a form of appreciation. It isn’t one I am particularly strong in, and sometimes I have difficulty letting other people help me with my own work. Because it is a small library, sometimes it seems like I do a little bit of everything, so it is hard to see my efforts to make sure everything gets done as distinct from an act of service. One way I try to work better on this area is by making sure that my coworkers have time to work on their projects, doing the routine circulation tasks to give them time, and show them how important I think their work is.

Style 4: Tangible Gifts
Bonuses, rewards, or even extra vacation hours are all examples of tangible gifts, another area I’m not as strong on using to show appreciation. It isn’t that I don’t like gifts, but to me it is more the words of appreciation that come with a gift that are meaningful. I do know of several staff members who are very excited to get these types of examples of appreciation. The book does offer good examples of how this area can be used in situations where bonuses and expensive gifts are not appropriate, like with volunteers, non-profit workplaces, and where I work.

Overall, I would recommend this to anyone looking to find new ways to relate to their coworkers and staff that they supervise. I have talked to my coworkers about it, and have already started to use some of the things I learned reading it.

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