Person-Directed Appreciation

October 10, 2017
Denise Hyde

Those that know me, or have had me facilitate a training, know that the phrase “I read a book …” is stated often. Well, it’s true, and here is one of my new found favorites. I read a book called The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman and Paul White. The team I was with last week got a little flavor of what I learned during the class!

Appreciation and compassion have been on my mind quite a bit lately. Maybe it has something to do with my work, other books I’ve been reading, the anniversary of my father’s passing, a personal milestone I will be hitting this week, or something that has been on my mind a lot. I’m not sure, but the timing of reading this book, and really processing the wisdom it has to offer, has really struck a chord with me. So, for what it is worth, I am passing some of that wisdom along to you.

Did you know that the authors did research and have found that only 12% of people leave their jobs for more money? The organizations that I train and support seem to believe that percentage to be much, much higher. In fact, they hang their hats on that judgement and bemoan the fact that they cannot pay employees enough to get them to stay in their jobs. It’s all a lost cause in their minds.

What the authors of this book say, based on their research, is that 88% of employees leave their job for reasons like not feeling trusted or valued by their supervisor or boss. I know I’ve left jobs for that reason. They also found that 70% of employees say they receive no praise or recognition at work. If you want a cheap employee retention strategy, I’m thinking that showing appreciation may be a good place to start!

The work that I do on a daily basis is all about creating person-directed care for Elders (or individuals accepting daily support) wherever they live. It is a real passion in my life. Through the Eden Alternative, we advocate for creating daily life and routines driven by the individual, not the convenience of their care partners.

Yet, when it comes to showing appreciation, it seems most leaders do a one-size fits all approach. Everyone gets a gift card, or a new pin for their name badge, or their picture posted in the lobby, or a free meal. Whatever exists in policy is what is used, regardless of whether it is meaningful to the individual being recognized. What is even more of a challenge is the mindset that leaders can adopt that says “They get paid for the work they do, why should I have to thank them as well?”

The key learning for me from this book, is that showing appreciation will overcome a lot of other challenges people face in their jobs. Appreciation comes in many different varieties. Everyone one has a primary, secondary and least valued language. When we know each other well, we can make that appreciation very person-directed.

Here are the five different appreciation languages. There are variations within each language to consider as well. Which language is the most important to you?

  1. Words of Affirmation – Do you feel appreciated when people tell you they appreciate you? What kinds of words are important for you to hear?
  2. Quality Time – Do you feel appreciated when people are willing to carve out time to spend with you? How often, how much time, and what is happening during that time that shows appreciation for you? (I’ve discovered that this is actually my primary language of appreciation.)
  3. Acts of Service – Do you feel appreciated when others step in and help you out? How can people around you do that in a manner that shows genuine appreciation? (I’ve discovered this is my secondary language of appreciation.)
  4. Tangible Gifts – Do you feel appreciated when you receive a gift from someone? What kind of gift? What do you need beyond raises or bonuses to know you are appreciated by those around you?
  5. Physical Touch – Are you the type of person that feels appreciated when you get a hug, or neck rub, or high five or pat on the back? Physical touch is a fundamental language of love and appreciation, but not always welcomed in the workplace. This is probably the least used language of appreciation in most work settings. However, the people I get to support work in the homes of Elders, and physical touch may be needed more than expected to show appreciation.

It is high time care partners get to know each other better and ask about the types of appreciation they each desire to really know they are valued. The Eden Alternative’s foundation is all about people becoming well-known and we advocate for the use of Learning Circles as a communication tool to assist in that effort. Set aside the old one-size fits all approaches and really expand your thinking. If you want a good employee attraction and retention strategy, the way you show appreciation to each other may be a good topic to explore with the whole team. I look forward to hearing how you are making appreciation a person-directed practice in your organization!

1 Comment. Leave new

Laura Beck, The Eden Alternative
October 10, 2017 10:57 am

Love this, Denise. It brings to mind a really magic moment that happened in a closed training I facilitated recently for a large independent living organization. While covering Principle Ten, we took some time for team members to publicly appreciate the natural leadership qualities that they saw in their teammates. They couldn’t stop sharing what they saw in each other, and everyone just kind of lit up around the room. I think that moment really redefined those relationships — and let’s face it, we sometimes don’t really see our own strengths sometimes. It is such a gift to have that mirrored back to us from others. Appreciation between all members of the team is vital to a team’s growth. With so many hours of our lives spent doing our jobs, knowing our team members value us and our efforts can really make the difference when it comes to how we experience our own sense of purpose.


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