Tips for Expressing Authentic Appreciation

Dr. Paul White's picture

All employees want to be valued for what they do and who they are. This is obviously true for administrative professionals as well.  Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers.  In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued (and not because of money).  This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. have some form of employee recognition activities in place.

Most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism because they aren’t viewed as being genuine. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just doesn’t get the job done.

How do you communicate authentic appreciation?  We have found that people have different ways they want to be shown appreciation.  If you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark” (and waste your time and energy).  Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year (for example, at their performance review).  Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions.” A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did.  Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say.  How you treat them has to match the words you use.

It can be difficult to determine the language and actions of appreciation important to your colleagues – it is not a common topic of conversation.  Asking “How can I show you I appreciate you?” feels weird.  Probably a better question to ask is, “When you are discouraged, what is something someone can do that would encourage you?”  Additionally, we’ve created a simple online inventory that will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee.  You can then create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another.

Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for how they contribute to the success of the organization.  And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave.  And one encouraging lesson we’ve learned from working with work groups across the country – you don’t have to be in a position of authority to make a difference.  Everyone can impact their workplace environment by starting to communicate appreciation to those with whom they work.

Paul 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.