The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace Review

Book Review: 

Many of us realize that we should express appreciation to the members of our family and to those with whom we serve at church but how about our workplace? We spend LOTS of time there. Our workplace plays an enormous role in our lives. Is there anything that we can learn that will help us to express appreciation to those with whom we work day after day? Gary Chapman and Paul White think that there is. They unpack their ideas in:

Gary Chapman and Paul White, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People. (Chicago: Northfield, 2019).

Some readers will know Gary Chapman’s work on “love languages.” His thesis is that we have different “love languages,” what people do or say that make us feel loved or appreciated. Chapman has identified five “love languages” which are:
Words of Affirmation
Quality Time
Acts of Service
Tangible Gifts
Physical Touch

This book is the result of the ongoing effort of Chapman and White to apply the love languages to appreciation in the workplace.

This book is well organized and full of very practical direction for understanding the different ways that coworkers feel appreciated and how to express appreciation in ways that take into account these differences. After several introductory chapters, the authors walk readers through each of the five languages of appreciation, helping the reader understand what they are and how to express appreciation in a way that another person will most fully feel it. The last half of the book begins with their introduction of an inventory that they have developed that is intended to help readers discover their own language of appreciation. They then go on to cover a number of concerns such as our personal blind spots, generational differences and how to overcome challenges that we might have in the expression of appreciation.

As a whole this little book is filled with practical advice that will enable the reader to think carefully about how she or he might express appreciation to coworkers, regardless of where one might be in the organizational structure. One of the encouraging observations of this book is that you do not have to be a boss to be able to appreciate others in the workplace.

As one might expect, there are several areas where the authors might need to do additional work or provide clarification. First, it is not entirely clear that observations about the nature of an individual’s most personal relationships can be directly carried over to relationships in the workplace. The authors are well aware that “physical touch” must be highly nuanced in the work setting and it is not clear that some of the other “languages” can be directly applied to that context. Second, their distinction between “recognition” and “appreciation” is somewhat artificial when considered in the light of contemporary “recognition” programs that are intentionally designed in to enable employes to express appreciation to their coworkers. Finally, they do not demonstrate enough awareness of contemporary recognition programs and software that provide extensive opportunities for individuals within organizations to appreciate and encourage those with whom they work.

Despite these limitations, the work of Chapman and White is a good contribution to a subject that most of us have not thought carefully about. The careful reader will find lots of help in his or her effort to encourage others with thoughtful appreciation.