How to use Love Languages in the workplace

Recognition and appreciation in the workplace today are more important than ever for employee engagement, retention, and talent. But how can organizations better understand how to appreciate and recognize employees? This blog post will share how to do this with the help of love languages.

In 1992, Gary Chapman published a book that would be a New York Times bestseller, The Five Love Languages. In this work, Chapman discusses the five ways to express and experience love. These love languages include words of affirmation, quality time, giving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Since its publication, love languages have improved relationships, helping individuals feel loved, cared for, and remembered.

Dr Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages. (Image Source: https://balance.media/communicate-love-languages/)

In the workplace, we show our teams we care through various practices that actually correspond to these love languages. For example, words of affirmation can involve saying “good work” to a teammate or thanking them for a presentation. Quality time can look like getting lunch and having a pleasant conversation. Physical touch could involve a [possibly virtual] high five. There are many ways to express ourselves at work.

A few years ago, I organized an offsite team celebration for the holidays. After thinking hard about the activities, I decided to poll the team to understand better how they’d prefer to celebrate the end of the year. Funny enough the activities reminded me of Chapman’s work, and so I further developed the five options to correspond to each love language.

I created a team celebrations poll based on love languages.

According to Chapman’s work, each person has one primary and one secondary love language. The theory is that people tend to “naturally give love in the way that they prefer to receive love, and better communication between couples can be accomplished when one can demonstrate caring to the other person in the love language the recipient understands.” (Wiki). This isn’t also true, however. The counter of receiving is giving. The options for the poll stayed the same, but the question posed includes “how would you most like to celebrate others?”

The future teams’ celebration poll included additional questions to throw a better celebration based on individual preferences.

Building camaraderie on a team is about rewarding interaction and autonomy. One way to do this is to bring attention to the interactions that promote recognition and appreciation between individuals. Speaking a shared and inclusive language around praise and gratitude is just one start to genuinely creating an enjoyable and supportive workplace.

This post shared just one approach for celebrating and recognizing team members based on relationship research. Good luck to everyone looking to celebrate their circle, employees, and or team members. Let me know in the comments how it worked out!

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Tiffany Jachja

Software engineering manager covering topics on software, personal development, and career.