How to appreciate your employees when rewarding is not enough?


Let’s start with Stephen Covey’s quote from“7 habits of highly effective people”: “Immediately after the need for physical survival is psychological survival, that is, the need to be understood, noticed, appreciated, recognized.”


We experience the need for psychological survival every day in our lives. And the same mechanism works in our workplace. This is a real challenge for managers, who are responsible for building motivation, commitment and loyalty from their employees. And this, of course, directly translates into employee’s retention and a lower turnover rate.

If an employee doesn’t feel valued by a supervisor or colleagues, it feels like being just another accessory or a good.

“If an employee doesn’t feel valued by a supervisor or colleagues, it feels like being just another accessory or a good”.

Why is money and the word “thank you” not enough?


Research has shown that companies often use the same reward system for all employees. In addition, they try to communicate the same message company-wide or encourage the employees to “high five” or “thank” your colleague. Although it’s worth appreciating these actions, they don’t necessarily bring the desired results.

Why? Because just as each of us is different, each of us likes to be appreciated in a different way. At the moment, you’re probably asking yourself how to effectively choose a way to appreciate the members of your team?

Before I give the answer, let’s stop for a moment and explain the difference between “recognition” and “appreciation”.

“We mustn’t forget about one more important component to enable the effective appreciation. This is the individualized approach”.

Both definitions were described by Gary D. Chapman and Paul E. White in their book “5 Languages ​​of Appreciation in the Workplace”.

Recognition is all about improving your work performance and it focuses on what is beneficial to your business. Appreciation, on the other hand, puts emphasis on what is beneficial for both the company and the person.

We mustn’t forget about one more important component to enable the effective appreciation. This is the individualized approach.

Chapman and White based their work on Chapman’s first book “The 5 Love Languages” and they described 5 styles of appreciation in detail, explaining when & how to use them. What is the benefit of knowing the 5 languages? It will give you a chance to motivate your employees by finding the most effective and individual style of appreciation.

Language #1: Words of affirmation.


Words of affirmation serve to communicate a positive message to another person. When you use them, you verbally affirm the positive qualities of a person.

It’s easiest to appreciate someone for achievements, because they are easy to observe. It’s much more difficult, but more appreciated by employees, to appreciate their traits of character or personality.

One of the most important things, in both cases, is to avoid generalization. If you want to appreciate a person who speaks this language, do not use the phrase “Well done!” or “Keep it up”. Praise must be specific and  refer to a particular situation. In the case of accomplishments, it will be, for example, appreciating how someone managed a client, answered a phone call or prepared a presentation. In the case of character or personality, it can be appreciating a certain characteristic such as empathy, optimism, personal effectiveness, etc.

Lastly, always find the right place and time for words of affirmation, so that your appreciation does not have the opposite effect, especially for those who do not like public recognition.

Language #2: Quality time.


Quality time is about devoting focused attention to another person. And it is not about “getting along”, but about personalized attention and time allocated to the employee or employees. This can be done in several ways:

– a valuable conversation, i.e. a dialogue full of empathy in which both people share their thoughts, opinions and feelings.

– time to share your own experience, i.e. meetings where employees have time to get to know each other and talk to build a bond and relationship.

– dialogue in a small group, i.e. brainstorming session, sharing ideas and suggestions, which the supervisor listens to and appreciates.

– close physical contact between employees during the implementation of the project, for example, through a common workplace in the office or lunch (like me with my manger in the photo). This allows better conversation, sharing ideas or asking for help.

And of course, I can’t forget to mention the most important tool – listening. It’s intuitive and deep listening so that the other person feels being heard.

Language #3: Acts of service.


Acts of service are offering help to others and thus communicating care. For people with this language, actions mean much more than words.

Real leadership requires readiness to serve others – either your own clients or colleagues.

A few rules on how and when to help others:

  1. Make sure you fulfill your own responsibilities before offering help to others.
  2. Ask before you help.
  3. Serve voluntarily.
  4. Check your attitude – is it positive?
  5. If you help, do it their way.
  6. Finish what you started.

“Real leadership requires readiness to serve others – either your own clients or colleagues.”

Language #4: Receiving gifts.


Receiving gifts means giving the right gift to the right person and someone who will appreciate this award.

To use this language effectively, you need to remember one thing. A gift will be meaningful only if it has value for that person. Let me give you an example. If Maggie doesn’t like SPA, it’s unlikely for her to be happy with a SPA voucher. Yet again, individual approach comes into play. It’s helpful to ask yourself a question “what could make Maggie feel valued and appreciated?”

It is worth remembering that when we talk about gifts, we mean both: things (like books, sports equipment, cosmetics, sweets) and even more importantly, experience (tickets to the theatre, to sporting events or a few days off or restaurant vouchers).

A handwritten card with individual acknowledgments also works well.

Language #5: Physical touch.


When I first saw that physical touch was conceived as one of the languages ​​of appreciation in the workplace, I was surprised.

It turns out that touch is not the primary language of appreciation in the workplace and is the least important of all methods of appreciation. Nevertheless, there are a very limited number of touch situations that may have been appropriate in the workplace and may be:

  • A strong handshake as congratulations;
  • High five for completing the task;
  • Pat on the back with a compliment;
  • Put your hand on your arm and express a compliment;
  • Embrace compassion in case of a family tragedy.

I am aware that this language of appreciation can raise controversy and the question of whether it can be used in the workplace. I think that, as always, the best adviser is common sense and good knowledge of our colleagues.

Summing up.


As a leader, manager or business owner, think about your work environment and the culture of appreciation. How does it look like right now? How the 5 languages of appreciation can help you to build or strengthen it?

If you are looking for more information on how to build an effective appreciation system or you would like to change your current culture, please drop me a message and I will be delighted to help. You can find more information on our leadership development programs here:

If you are a leader, manager or business owner and you would like to be mentored or coached to become more conscious, effective and authentic leader, please contact me to explore further opportunities. More details about Core Energy coaching can be found here: COACHING


A few reflection questions:


  • How much do you feel appreciated by your supervisor? And by your colleagues?
  • What do you do when you want to appreciate your colleagues?
  • What activities make you feel valued at work?
My personal recommendations:

You can find more details in 2 books:

“The 5 love languages” by Gary D. Chapman

“5 languages of appreciation in the workplace” by Gary D. Chapman i Paul E. White

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