How to Motivate Employees Through Words of Affirmation

28 February 2022

By now, you might already know the five love languages of American author and marriage counselor Gary Chapman. He thought of the categories after talking to hundreds of couples in therapy who have similar issues and stories in their relationships. He noticed similar patterns and from his observations, he came up with five love languages: (1) Words of Affirmation, (2) Acts of Service, (3) Quality Time, (4) Physical Touch, and (5) Receiving Gifts. These encapsulate the five ways that people express and receive love. The way you express your love may differ from the way you want to receive love.

People often think that love languages are only applicable in romantic relationships. Of course, it will help if you know how your partner gives and receives love, but love languages are not only used in this context. It can also be applied in platonic relationships and in different settings. When you know a person’s love language, it makes it easy for you to understand them. This creates a positive environment that people are motivated to be in, one that is loving and accepting of differences.

Words of Affirmation

Some people judge others based on their love language, especially if it differs from theirs. People with the love language “Words of affirmation” are ridiculed by those who don’t understand the importance of words and the value placed in them as much as how someone with this love language would appreciate words. For most, words are empty because they can easily be said without attaching any deep meaning to them compared to the other four that are more tangible and require actionable efforts.

But it’s different for those who feel loved and express love through words of affirmation. Words are not just as twists and turns of the mouth. It’s the effort behind the words that count for them. The intention—why were these words spoken? The timing—when were these sweet words said? The sincerity—is it real? The details—what are the other specific factors that led to these words to be spoken? Those who put value in words often see if someone is being true to them or not. People with this love language experience butterflies in their stomachs when something they shared in conversation springs up again. They love receiving compliments that are solely for them and knowing why other people are drawn to them. If they’d know sometime in the future that a group of people talked highly of them behind their back, they would feel validated. They would feel appreciated when their efforts are recognized through words. They would feel comfortable when someone offers an ear, takes the time to understand their predicament, and utters words of encouragement.

On the flip side, since people with this love language react strongly to words, they will get badly hurt with a negative comment hurled their way. In any context, it is important to use words wisely---be it within a school, at home, at work, or in a romantic relationship. Children and students who feel strongly about words may be traumatized by words that they have heard about them in the past. Employees with this love language may be distracted when their work is not recognized or received well by their colleagues and bosses. In a relationship, lovers might feel unloved when they are not sprinkled with words of kindness and encouragement. And once this love language has been chronically unmet, students feel lazy to study for their exams, children let go of their hobbies, employees decide to look for opportunities in a different workplace, and couples go separate ways. Nobody wins.

Appreciation Language in the Workplace

There are many personalities in the workplace. Of course, it would be difficult or near impossible to fulfill every need of every worker in a team in terms of their love language. There are bound to be mistakes or loopholes when you try to adjust for each and every member of the team. At the end of the day, your goal is to still make a profit for the company and not address every individual concern of your employees. At the same time, you can’t also disregard their feelings because it might create a workplace with unmotivated and uninspired employees. Job dissatisfaction leads to unproductivity and inefficiency. The U.S. News and World Report discovered that almost 65 percent of workers felt unrecognized by their bosses in the past 12 months. According to“How Full Is Your Bucket?” authors Tom Rath and Donald Clifton, lack of appreciation in the office is a major determining factor for people to quit their jobs.

It’s not sustainable if you resort to giving gifts and incentives as a way of pleasing your employees. It’s the everyday grind that is important in people management. You simply have to recognize and thank them for every job well done. Specify what you liked the most in their report or presentation. Tell them they look good with their outfit of the day or congratulate them for not showing up late to work for a week. If they feel seen or heard by their bosses, these employees would most likely show more care about their jobs and the business as a whole. They’ll share with other friends and family about the amazing work environment they work in. They will recommend applying to the company to their peers. They will speak highly of the company to clients. The more workers feel appreciated at work, the more they will be motivated to give their best work performances.

Fill the office with words of affirmation by putting up photo albums of quotes on floating shelves. You may place them beside plants and diffusers to look more decorative.

You can also designate a wall where people could pin their compliments to one another. A corkboard, approximately 36 x 24 inches in size, can easily be mounted on a vacant wall where anyone can stick post-its to share compliments for any employee whenever they feel like it. You can also do this in a virtual workspace by making sure everyone is recognized and thanked for in a video conference. You may send ergonomic furniture to exemplary employees as a form of thank you.