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Books: The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace

As I continue to grow as a leader in a large high school, one of the things that I have intentionally been working on is how to motivate, encourage and strengthen the people that work with me. There are any number of factors that can make working in a school difficult: tough classes, tough schedules, tightening budgets, increased standards, and difficulties with students, parents or colleagues. With all of this going on (as it does in just about every school), it can start to wear or strain a staff. So how do we motivate, encourage and strengthen with all of this going on?

Recently, our counseling department picked up the book, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman and Paul White, as a book study for their team. It seemed helpful and a worthwhile endeavor for them, so I too decided to read it. If you have ever read The 5 Love Languages or The 5 Love Languages of Children, a lot of what is covered will feel familiar. What is new is how it applies to organizations. Individuals within any organization, and schools especially, can benefit from systems that both recognize and appreciate the individuals that work in them.  The 5 Languages of Appreciation are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Tangible Gifts and Physical Touch (major disclaimers are used for this last one because of the workplace scenario and appropriateness).

The authors argue that people have a primary and secondary language that they prefer to receive appreciation in and that people tend to give in the way that they prefer to receive. There are so many important pieces to understanding how all of this works that I would really recommend anyone who works with others (which should be just about everyone) to pick up this book. Appreciation is a two way street and everyone can benefit from the positive outcomes that come when we learn to do this for each other. This is true whether or not your working relationships are within an egalitarian group or within a hierarchical structure. Chapman and White summarize this relationship here while also distinguishing appreciation from recognition:
Recognition is about improving performance and focuses on what is good for the the company. Appreciation emphasizes what is good for the company and good for the person (which may sometimes mean helping them find a position that is better for them than their current role).
The relational direction of recognition is top-down, coming from leadership. Appreciation, on the other hand, can be communicated in any direction. Colleagues want to know how to encourage and support one another. (pg 23) 
I like to think that in the work I do, I already take the time to both recognize and appreciate those around me. However, as the authors have noted, it can be difficult for people to prioritize this important component of work. In my case in particular I am a task oriented person and can easily get lost in making sure that all of the t's are getting crossed and the i's dotted. With a task oriented personality such as my own, I have to carve out intentional chunks of time to make appreciating colleagues a priority. And of course with a personality trait so strong as that, it probably would not surprise anyone to find out that a task oriented person such as myself has the primary language of Acts of Service.

My only questions now are: what is your language and how can I best appreciate you?


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