How to be Authentic with Your Appreciation at Work

What is your most desired love language- or language of appreciation- at work? The Motivating by Appreciation (MBA) Inventory assessment can help you and your colleagues discern this. 

What makes giving and receiving appreciation at work so hard?  Often, it is the simple fact that we’ve been conditioned to follow the golden rule instead of the platinum one.

The golden rule says to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  So in context, if my language of appreciation is quality time, then the way I live the golden rule is to give you quality time because it is what I desire. 

By contrast, if I’m living the platinum rule at work, I’m doing unto you as you want to be treated, not as I want to be treated.  Therefore, if you desire acts of service as your primary love language at work, showing my appreciation to you in this way is how I will treat you instead of giving you quality time as my default. 

Research cited in The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace notes that 75% of people predominantly speak the love language they want to receive.  This is true of the assessment of love language outside of work for romantic relationships and kids and teens as well.

And it makes sense that we do this, because it takes less energy to give what comes naturally to us, and what comes naturally to us is what we want and need ourselves. 

The best leaders and colleagues (and spouses and parents) however, take the time and energy to know people well and customize their behavior towards what others need or what the situation best requires.  This is called self-monitoring.  Some people call it emotional intelligence. Others simply call it exhausting. 

And it is exhausting.  But what often wears us thin, wears us less thin the more we do it.  And the more we do it, the more people feel appreciated, and the less they crave it if they are getting it regularly enough.  They become less needy and we become less exhausted.  And they give more back to us and others when they are less needy too. 

So the next time you get frustrated with someone acting like they are unappreciated at work or simply acting in a way that is so foreign or different than you would ever behave and they are wearing you out, take the time to reflect on what makes them tick. 

And if you’re frustrated no one is taking the time to appreciate you, reflect on why that is as well.  You’d do well to notice how others are trying to appreciate you and realize that is probably how they want to be appreciated themselves. 

Having a discussion about what kind of “love” we all want and need, and recognizing we are all are different I think was the intent of the person who spoke of the need for the golden rule, to begin with.  Simply follow the example of meeting people where they are with what they need. 


How do you best show people appreciation at work? 

Mary Ila Ward

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