You’re a star ⭐️ I appreciate you 🤗 Here’s a token of my affection 🎁
Expressing love and appreciation for a significant other, family member, or friend can be as easy as sending a thoughtful text or gifting something special. But when it comes to the workplace, how can you appropriately relay your appreciation and yes, love, for your colleagues and team?
The concept of “love languages” is an oft-discussed topic in popular culture around how one expresses their affection towards their partner. They are broken into 5 behaviors:
- Words Of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Receiving Gifts
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
First popularized by a book published in 1992 by Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages are interpreted as the ways in which an individual would like their partner to express their love for them.
Not sure what that looks or sounds like? Observe how your partner displays affection to you. It’s common for people to display their affection in the manner in which they prefer to receive it, as that is the language they understand.
However, the purpose of love languages is actually to identify your partner’s preferred language, which may be different than yours. By understanding how your partner prefers to receive affection, you can then affirm them in the language they understand, and vice versa.
So for example, if your love language is Receiving Gifts, you may instinctively turn around and shower your partner with little presents, often without occasion. While a nice gesture, let’s say you find out your partner’s love language is actually Quality Time. With that understanding, you might swap your next trip to the gift shop with a weekend getaway instead.
You may need to dial back on the candy-grams, but understanding the professional love language of your coworkers can do wonders for your work relationships.
Finding Your Team Love Language
Without sounding weird, these concepts can also be applied to a work setting—albeit with a few important adaptations (no, I’m not advocating physically touching your coworkers.) Your teammates’ different work styles are a fundamental part of understanding how to collaborate effectively and get more done together. Being aware of their “love language” might give you a better perspective. Let’s break it down:
Words Of Affirmation
Ask yourself this: are you a team cheerleader, or are you more of a “put your head down and get the work done” kind of colleague?
Studies have shown that giving thanks to your teammates improves motivation and morale. When someone has a great idea or executes well on a project, do you acknowledge it publicly?
One study from the American Psychological Association found that over half of the job-seekers polled reported that they felt under-appreciated or under-valued at their current job. These feelings can be avoided by instituting a culture of gratitude at your company.
One way to speak more words of affirmation is to incorporate team wins or bravos into meetings. Add a standing agenda item that gives employees an opportunity to shout one another out for something awesome they executed on.
You should also be generous with your praise: acknowledge when you think someone has a great idea. Make a point of saying it in a meeting with others, or in a Slack channel. Even a couple fun emoji reactions will do 💯👍
Spending “quality time” with coworkers doesn’t just mean seeing them outside of work, or even going to lunch with them. It also means making time for their projects, and understanding their goals. Investing time into reading their project pages and reports, and then engaging with them on their ideas, is a table stakes way of spending more time with colleagues.
If a coworker feels like their work exists in a vacuum as if they are siloed on their own island, it may lead to them feeling like there is a lack of quality time spent on their efforts.
Brainstorming and feedback sessions are great ways to make a teammate feel valued. Some employees can really thrive in a group environment, and feed off that collective energy. This inspiration derived from quality time can lead to better output.
Positive company culture is also an aspect of quality time. Making space to discuss topics not related to work, organizing ice breakers, and scheduling company outings are also ways to get quality time as a team. These social activities also make folks more comfortable reaching out to people when it is time to collaborate on a work project.
This one might sound weird: why would you give your co-workers presents?
There are a few ways to interpret this love language in the workplace.
The first is mandated from an HR-type of team. For example, at Atlassian, if someone goes above and beyond, an employee has the option to send that person a “Kudos,” which is a thank you card that includes a $25 Amazon credit or a donation to a charity of their choice.
Another way to give gifts is to institute generous employee perks. Employees often report feeling valued by their company if they are provided subsidized life benefits: free food, compensated gym memberships, and birthday acknowledgements (with cupcakes) are great ways to make an employee feel special with gifts.
Acts Of Service
Everyone knows that one person at work that will go the extra mile to make sure the work is getting done. Chances are, this person’s love language is Acts Of Service. This means that they feel valued when others chime in to help them solve a complex problem or navigate blockers with them.
If you see an employee taking on too much and subsequently drowning in work, offer to take something off their plate. Or sometimes an act of service is simply anticipating that an employee will need X or Y resource, and going out of your way to find it for them. And when problems arise, jumping into the trenches with someone to help fix it is a true act of service.
Physical Touch (Let me explain...)
Okay, so this one needs a few tweaks to be applied to a work context. In the traditional philosophy of love languages, the “physical touch” behavior is equated to intimacy. At work, this can be interpreted as emotional intimacy, or rather, empathy.
Demonstrating empathy at work can go a long way in perpetuating a culture of employees who feel seen and valued. Taking time to recognize an employee’s circumstances, and helping them to navigate work in a manner that suits their lifestyle can be a way of speaking an employee’s love language.
If you don’t have plans that night, offer to attend a late meeting for your colleague who needs to pick their child up from school. If a natural disaster or humanitarian crisis is happening in the location of one of your remote teammates, let them know you are available if they want to talk.
If a coworker suffers from chronic illness, create an environment that is safe for them to share when they might be struggling.
Professional + Love Languages = Great Team Communication ❤️
So which professional love language speaks most clearly to you?
Think about when and how you feel most valued at work, and communicate your style to your manager. Then, more importantly, think about your immediate teammates and try to understand which language they like to hear, too. It’s most likely that everyone prefers a different style.
Communicating to coworkers in their preferred professional love language may help you collaborate better, leading to a happier and more productive work environment.
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