4 ways to express your appreciation to your team

Benjamin Kluwgant · 25 Nov

For relationships to function properly, both sides need to feel mutually appreciated. The reality is though, different people respond to different types of appreciation, and in order for it to be received effectively and achieve the desired result, people need to be aware of the various ‘languages of appreciation’ and which one will be best received.

Everyone wants to feel like they matter. Just like spousal relationships and friendships, appreciation is key in keeping workplace relationships ticking.

When people are shown appreciation at the office, it positively impacts every facet of their work. Their productivity levels rise, their sense of fulfillment increases, their wellness improves, and they develop a true sense of loyalty to the people and organisation that they work with.

The thing is, the art of showing appreciation in an effective way is very difficult to master – especially when it comes to workplace relationships.

Every activity conducted by an employee is essentially an expression of their vulnerability, and since the whole idea of showing appreciation is that it makes a person feel safe when they’ve put themselves out there and are vulnerable, it can become quite complicated to achieve an effective result. 

One of the most common mistakes made when it comes to appreciation (in all relationships), is thinking that the gestures that make one person feel appreciated and valued work for everyone else.

Appreciation 101 is understanding that every single person is unique and different, and because of this individuality, each person will respond to different gestures of appreciation – and those aren’t necessarily going to be in line with the ones that speak to you.

But before we take a deep dive into the different pillars and languages of appreciation, it’s important to set the standard for environments that are conducive for the right type of appreciation to be shown and received.

Appreciation needs to be part of the culture

In order for it to be effective, showing appreciation in the office needs to be a practice which becomes deeply engrained into the culture of the organisation. The less often it occurs, the less meaningful and effective it becomes.

When the practice of showing appreciation is a core value, it creates an environment in which people can feel good about themselves and their work, which has a positive impact on all of the person’s affairs – both at work and personally.

Working in such an environment also helps people accept criticism graciously and encourages them to grow from their mistakes. Employees are far more likely to accept criticism and make an effort to improve based on that feedback if they’re hearing it from a source that also regularly gives compliments and recognition. Employees are better able to trust that the criticism comes from a good place and that the critic is doing it benevolently.

READ: Helping your employees improve with the right type of criticism

A great way to turn the practice of showing appreciation into ‘business as usual’ for your organisation is through using available technologies that automate the process and keep it front of mind.

Our Rewards and Recognition platform achieves exactly this. It reminds the people within your organisation about the importance of recognising their colleagues’ hard work and ensures that this hard work gets recognised, appreciated, and rewarded. By implementing such a system into your business’ daily routine, showing gestures of appreciation very quickly becomes part of the regular workplace environment.

If it’s genuine, appreciation will exist on all levels

One of the most common misconceptions about showing gestures of appreciation at work is that the higher a person sits in the organisation’s hierarchy, the less recognition and motivation they need.

A lot of the time, this ends up being because of the assumption that when people have larger salaries and when they are given broader responsibilities, they automatically feel valued, recognised and appreciated.

The reality is quite different though. When it comes to vulnerability – everyone is the same. It doesn’t matter how much a person earns or what title or responsibility they’ve been given. All relationships bring out vulnerabilities and showing gestures of appreciation helps people feel safe at their most vulnerable points.  

To avoid making such assumptions, it’s important to take a genuine approach to recognition and appreciation. If a business’ culture is to show their employees appreciation only in the form of a larger salary or higher-ranking job – then it has missed the point of the whole concept.

READ: Understanding the difference between benefits and fair pay

Appreciation in the workplace needs to be a two-way street

In understanding that appreciation needs to exist on all levels, the crossover between levels is also a really important point to emphasise.

Naturally, it is more common for a manager to recognise the efforts of their subordinate, and it’s standard for contemporaries who work within the same pay grade to frequently show gestures of appreciation to each other.

But environments that truly foster a spirit of gratitude and appreciation need to encourage employees to show gestures of appreciation and recognition to their superiors as well.

Appreciation in the workplace is all about breaking down boundaries and ranks and focusing on the human element of business. When it comes to making people feel like they matter, titles, positions, and team structures are irrelevant.

Now that we’ve set the standard for what a workplace environment that encourages the right type of appreciation looks like, it’s important to understand the different ways appreciation can be given, so when you do go out and look to recognise and appreciate a colleague’s efforts, you’ll achieve the intended outcome.

Drawing from Chapman’s languages of love

In the beginning of this write up, we briefly touched on the point of appreciation being an important part of all relationships – whether you’re at home, out socialising, and when you’re in the office as well.

While there might not be a whole lot of literature available about maintaining and improving work relationships, there are full books written on marriages and how to show the rights types of affection to a spouse – and while there are some very obvious differences between the two different relationships, they do share quite a few similarities.

In 1992, an American author named Gary Chapman released a book called ‘The Five Love Languages’. In this book, Chapman goes through five different methods through which genuine affection can be shown.

The bestselling book is filled with fantastic content, valuable insight into relationships and some really helpful tips for practice – but, the underlying message it tells its readers is that, in order for it to be effective, recognition and appreciation cannot be treated as a one-size-fits-all practice, and needs to be shown and given in a tailored fashion.

Appreciation can be deeply entrenched in your business’ culture, it can exist on all levels and crossover between management and employees, but it’s understanding and speaking the different languages of appreciation that makes people feel like they actually matter.

The 4 languages of Workplace Appreciation

Interestingly enough, four of Chapman’s five ‘love languages’ are also quite relevant to other types of relationships. So, here’s a brief overview of what those languages are and how they relate to showing the right type appreciation and recognition in the workplace.

Words of affirmation

Many people respond to appreciation when it is shown in the form of verbal praise.

Some people like public praise, but others feel appreciated when they receive positive emails, passing comments of praise and recognition of hard work (“you’re doing great!” or, “fantastic work on preparing that document!”), and progress meetings where they are told how well they’re doing.

With this particular category, there’s an important subtly to be aware of. When someone tells you that they prefer not to be publicly praised, that doesn’t mean that words of affirmation aren’t the language that they respond to. Knowing the environment in which the person wants to be verbally acknowledged comes together with speaking this language of appreciation.

Gifts and Perks

Offering thoughtful presents can go a long way for people whose appreciation language is gifts. Whether they be sentimental, valuable or just useful, receiving gifts is a fundamental appreciation language that has the power to make someone feel like their efforts are truly valued

By offering company members access to a range of ‘gifts’ ­– whether they are discounts at stores, exclusive access to enriching and fun experiences, or just being taken out for a coffee or lunch, gifts keep the people who respond best to this type of appreciation adequately recognised, motivated, and overall – happy.

The challenge with this language is that it can be quite difficult for workplaces to integrate a culture of handing out meaningful gifts and experiences to their employees.

Perkbox can help with this.

In order to make it easier for companies to cater for those who respond best to this type of appreciation, we’ve created a benefits platform that offers a wide range of valuable and useful gifts and perks to company members. A great part of this platform is that we’re constantly working on ensuring that the benefits and perks are kept up to date with the latest trends, and the platform can be accessed at all times – making it easier than ever for people whose language of appreciation is gifts and perks to feel appreciated at all times.

Acts of service

For some people, when their lives are made easier through acts of service – they feel like their efforts are appreciated.

From a workplace perspective, acts of service comes down to creating an environment where people’s needs are looked after.

Flexibility of work conditions, allowing them to bring their children to the office and making the workplace pet friendly, are all great examples of how to communicate your appreciation to those who relate most to acts of service.

READ: Supporting offsite and remote workers

Quality time

Appreciation and recognition are sometimes only felt by people when they are given undivided attention and dedicated quality time to express how they feel.

If you want one of your colleagues to feel cherished and you’ve identified that their language of appreciation is quality time – invite them out for a cup of coffee or a beer, keep your phone in your pocket and let them speak their mind. Doing so will allow them to feel like their work and opinions matter, and in turn, keep them from feeling that their efforts are unappreciated.

Make sure your social events are a mixture of activities and venues, so you don’t make your employees who fall into the categories of both sober and quality time miss out on all the quality time spent at the pub.

Encouraging people to share what their preferred language is

If you can manage to create an environment at the office that takes appreciation seriously, and people in the office are aware of the different languages of appreciation that are out there – the last step that needs to be taken is to identify which type language of appreciation each team member responds to.

Getting employees to share this with you will be made easier by having the culture of recognition we spoke about earlier. Mix this with a culture of transparency and honesty and you’ll be able to get even more insights from your employees.

Our Insights product helps you build that culture of honesty and trust. Your employees can take part in anonymous feedback collections that give you a huge oversight into how each team, location, and key driver are performing.

By giving employees the opportunity to share their feedback in such a way, your workplace will be well placed to act on this feedback, and continuously work on its appreciation culture, ensuring that everyone who identifies with your organisation, feels as treasured and appreciated as they truly deserve to feel.