The Five languages of Appreciation for Employees and Leaders


Gary Chapman, in his book “The Five Love Languages,” describes five ways people express and receive love: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. These principles can also be successfully applied in the workplace, where we can talk about five languages of appreciation. Proper communication in these languages of appreciation can significantly boost employee morale, productivity, and overall satisfaction.

Each person naturally prefers one of these five languages over the others. This language is how they express affection and best understand when someone is trying to show them appreciation.

Imagine the following situation: if my most natural language of appreciation is words of affirmation, I will tend to express appreciation by telling people how great a job they did, how they helped me, or how much I value their work. On the other hand, when my boss praises me verbally, it will be much more valuable to me than just a pat on the back.

I might even feel that my boss doesn’t appreciate me if they only pat me on the back without saying anything. I don’t realize that, for them, this gesture might be their way of expressing appreciation for my work. It’s important to understand that everyone has their own way of expressing appreciation and to learn to recognize and respect these differences.

Let’s look at how each of these languages can work in the context of employment and leadership.

The Five languages of Appreciation

1. Words of Affirmation

In the workplace, words of affirmation mean verbal recognition and praise for a job well done. Employees feel valued when their work is genuinely praised. For leaders, it is essential to regularly provide positive feedback and recognition.

  • Example: “You did a great job on that project. Your attention to detail really made a difference.”

2. Quality Time

Investing time in employees shows they are important. Quality time can mean one-on-one meetings, team brainstorming sessions, or group lunches where people can openly express themselves and be heard.

  • Example: Regular weekly meetings where each team member can share their ideas and concerns.

3. Receiving Gifts

Gifts can be a symbolic way to show that you value employees. They don’t have to be expensive, but something that shows you remembered and appreciated their efforts.

  • Example: Small gifts for work anniversaries, holiday bonuses, or personal thank-you notes.

4. Acts of Service

Leading through service means helping employees when they need it. This can include supporting problem-solving, assisting with work tasks, or providing the resources and tools employees need to succeed.

  • Example: Helping an employee with a challenging task or arranging training for skill development.

5. Physical Touch

In a professional environment, this language is the least used due to boundaries and appropriateness. However, in some cultures, a handshake or friendly pat on the back can be seen as a positive gesture.

  • Example: Shaking hands at the end of a successful meeting or a friendly pat on the back as congratulations.


How to Identify Your Language of Appreciation

First, it’s important to know your own language of appreciation. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to find out.

  1. What makes me feel most appreciated in the workplace?
  2. Which gestures from colleagues or managers do I value the most?
  3. When do I feel the least valued at work?
  4. How do I show appreciation to my team/colleagues?


How Can You Know the Language of appreciation of Your Employees?

As a manager or employer, it’s important to identify the love language of your employees to ensure you are delivering praise in a way that resonates best with each person.

Here is a list of questions you can ask yourself to help identify your team’s workplace love languages:

  1. How does this person treat others?
  2. How do they communicate with others?
  3. What are their biggest complaints?
  4. What do they request most often?
  5. Which type of recognition do they usually respond to the most positively?
  6. What type of feedback do they seem to value the most?

These questions could be posed during one-on-one meetings or supervision times. By using active listening, you can better understand your employees, identify their preferred management style, and learn how they like to be appreciated at work.


Implementation in the Workplace

For leaders and managers, it is crucial to recognize the preferred language of appreciation of their employees. By speaking these languages, they can create an environment where employees feel valued and motivated. How to start? Here are three steps:

  1. Identifying Preferences: Have regular conversations with employees or ask them to fill out questionnaires to find out their preferred language of appreciation.
  2. Personalizing the Approach: Tailor your approach according to individual preferences so that each employee feels special.
  3. Regularly Expressing Appreciation: Regularly express your appreciation and recognize your employees through various languages to meet the needs of all employees.

The five languages of appreciation inspired by Gary Chapman can significantly impact the workplace. Leaders who understand and apply these principles can build a stronger, more united, and satisfied team. The key is to regularly and authentically express recognition and support in ways that resonate with each individual.


Reference: Chapman, G. D. (1992). The five love languages. Northfield Pub.


Author: Pavla Belostikova, MSc

I offer group training and individual coaching for key employees focused on increasing awareness of cultural differences, effective communication in an international environment, and leveraging differences for the benefit of employees and the company. If you are interested, schedule a free 30-minute consultation to learn more.