Not Everyone Appreciates Your Type of Appreciation

Guest post By Dr. Paul White:

of the lessons that aspiring leaders must learn is:  to be an effective leader, you have to be
able to lead individuals who are different than you. 
If you don’t, you will only gather
and lead those who are similar to you. This, in turn, limits what you can
accomplish.  You actually don’t
want to lead a group of “Junior You’s” 
(although the idea seems intriguing, at first.)  You may be talented but you can’t do
everything, and to accomplish significant goals you need team members who are
different (and even significantly
different) than you.

The 5 Different Types of
Appreciation People Value

is a simple but foundational truth: not everyone feels appreciated in the same
Not everyone likes public
recognition or social events.  One leader
stated, “You can give me an award but you’ll have to drag me up front for me to
get it in front of a crowd.”  And for
many introverts, going to a “staff appreciation picnic” is more like torture
than a reward for doing a good job.  They
may prefer getting a gift card for a bookstore and staying at home and
reading.  Find out what they value and
communicate in that language.

people highly value words of affirmation—which
can be a simple compliment.  (“Jill,
thanks for getting the report completed and to me in time for the
However, other
individuals don’t value verbal praise because to them “words are cheap.”  One office manager reported that “John
compliments everyone all the time and that’s fine.  But what I really would like is just 15
minutes of his time and undivided
, where I can talk to him without distractions.” 
A third language of appreciation isacts of service.”  As one team member shared, “It’s not that
encouraging to me to get a bunch of praise for all the work I’ve done while I
continue to work long hours to finish a job. 
A little practical help would be quite encouraging.” 
For some individuals, a small tangible gift can be quite
meaningful.  This is not the same as
bonuses or additional compensation. 
Rather, it is a small gift that shows that you’re getting to know your
team members and what is important to them in their life outside of work.  It can be something as small as one of their
favorite cups of coffee, or a magazine about a hobby that they enjoy. 
physical touch
is the final language of appreciation that can be utilized
in the workplace.  While it is critical
that any physical touch is appropriate (not being sexualized or
unwanted), physical touch is actually common in many workplaces and cultures.
“High five’s” when a project is completed, a “fist bump” given when a problem
is solved, or a congratulatory hand shake when an important sale is made are
all examples of appropriate physical touch in work-based relationships. 

you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( was developed to identify the language
of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee.  You then can create a group profile for your
team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another.

not everyone desires to be shown appreciation in the same way that you do.  If you are going to build (and keep) a team
of diverse individuals, you need to learn how they want to have appreciation communicated.  If you don’t, your scope of influence will be
severely limited.

White, Ph.D
., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation
in the Workplace
and Rising Above a Toxic Workplace with
Dr. Gary Chapman.  Go to for
more information.