Are You Speaking The Right Language?
Business leaders are searching for solutions to help their employees stay productive, engaged at work and positive about the future. To maintain high levels of engagement, managers can find some answers in an unlikely resource.
The Love Languages Solution
Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate (1992) may seem like a questionable choice for finding management ideas, but the message is adaptable.
Drawing on years of experience as a marriage counselor, Chapman identifies five distinct languages for expressing value for others. If a significant person in our life honors who we are and expresses his or her appreciation in the “language of value” that we understand, then commitment and satisfaction are enhanced.
Identifying the Right Language
Chapman’s five languages are:
- Quality Time: When my executive director schedules a standing appointment with me every two weeks, she is speaking my language—Quality Time.
- Words of Affirmation: When I recognized an employee’s 20 year commitment to excellence by creating a certificate where each letter of her name described a talent or attitude she brought to her job, I used Words of Affirmation—Angela’ s language.
- Receiving Gifts: One of my direct reports helped me to recognize her language—Receiving Gifts—by frequently giving gifts to others (vegetables from her gardens, found items that reflect the other person’s hobbies, a special book or gumballs). When I want to recognize her, I find something she’s expressed an interest in—such as an antique-style screen door for the home she is remodeling.
- Acts of Service: When a manager takes over a duty or task for an overburdened employee, he is speaking the Acts of Service language.
- Physical Touch: This one may raise eyebrows. As a human resource manager, I certainly advise against inappropriate touching and every other form of harassment. But we all probably know someone who enjoys high fives, congratulatory handshakes, pats on the back or the boss coming out from behind the desk to sit next to them to have quality conversations.
Try it for Yourself
In The Enthusiastic Employee (2005), Sirota, Mischkind, and Meltzer state, “To receive recognition for one’s achievements is among the most fundamental of human needs” (p. 223).
But beyond recognition, employees need to hear employer appreciation in a manner and a language that is meaningful to them. According to Wagner and Harter in 12: The Elements of Great Managing (2006), “One of the most effective ways of improving recognition of employees is to discover the forms of feedback that mean the most to them” (p.58).
Spend some time this week observing others. Think back over workplace incidents to see if you can identify the dominant language of appreciation for yourself and others. Does the theory ring true in your experience?
Chapman, G. (1992). The Five Love Languages: How to express heartfelt commitment to your mate. Chicago: Northfield Publishing.
Sirota, D., Mischkind, L.A., & Meltzer, M.I. (2005). The Enthusiastic Employee. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School Publishing.
Wagner, R. & Harker, J.K. (2006). 12: The Elements of Great Managing. New York: Gallup Press.