We’ve all been there. It’s Friday. 5:05pm. The very important document that you’ve been hustling to finish for a very important client is already overdue. The client has called three times asking when it will be done. And finally, after laboring for hours, you finish. You rush down the hall to your assistant’s office so the document can be printed out and overnighted to your client and…
…your assistant has left for the day.
You scramble to find an overnight envelope in the supply closet, but, much to your chagrin, there are none to be found. Now, determined to get your client the document they need, you have to drive to whatever overnight drop-off location is still open, which, of course, is never anywhere close by. And after all of this running around…you’re late for your daughter’s dance recital.
Why would your assistant leave without asking you if you needed anything else? You weren’t going to ask her to stay late! You just needed to ask where to find an overnight envelope! Boy are you gonna have a heart to heart on Monday morning…
And then Monday morning comes, you enter your assistant’s office to talk about what happened, and as soon as the words, “we need to talk,” escape your lips, the argument begins: how can you think I’m not supportive after all the lunches I’ve worked through and nights I’ve stayed late and you only ever point out the things I do wrong but never the things I do right and…
It’s just a lose-lose. You feel unappreciated, your assistant feels unappreciated. So where does that leave you?
Needing to learn a little bit about the language of appreciation, is where. Inspired by Gary Chapman’s book, ‘The 5 Love Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace’ we’ve come up with our own vernacular—languages of office appreciation—which, really, just means speaking to your coworkers and colleagues in a way that is empowering, that shows appreciation and connection. That says, ‘I truly love this place and the people I work with.’
The premise of these five languages of appreciation is that people communicate appreciation in five different ways: words of affirmation; gift giving; acts of service; quality time and physical touch. In an office an environment, physical touch is not recommended—we recommend replacing this with eye contact. We believe that these five languages of appreciation can solve many of the communication problems at your small law firm or office. For example, in the all-too-common problem outlined above, if the boss used more words of affirmation and the assistant “spoke” with more acts of service, both parties would feel appreciated and understood—the whole issue could have been completely avoided.
We also believe that these five languages of appreciation are the reason why employee perks and bonus programs don’t work: if an employee’s appreciation language is “words of affirmation” and you’re trying to incentivize them with a monetary bonus, you’re not going to succeed in motivating them to go above and beyond for your firm or business.
The bottom line is this: learning to speak your firm’s language of appreciation—learning what makes your employees feel valued and appreciated—will only improve employee satisfaction and performance, loyalty and retention. But…how do you know which language any of your employees is speaking? A simple way to find out is by simply asking each team member to list out five acts that made them feel appreciated and valued at work. And you should do the same! It’s just as important that your employees learn to speak your appreciation language as it is for you to learn to speak theirs! Once you’ve made up your lists, it’s easy to identify patterns and determine which language resonates most with your team.