Appreciation Changes Everything

Behind every job description there is a person who desires to make a difference and feel valued. This is especially true for a startup. As teams are smaller, responsibility tends to be greater and passion can run higher. Without a sense of value, jobs can feel monotonous and it is even easy to feel replaceable. We, as humans and professionals, want to matter.

On average, a person will spend about 90,000 hours of their life in the workplace. Since this is roughly a third of an average lifespan, it is important and necessary to spend that time doing something that you love. As manager or team lead, it is important to know how to communicate appreciation to not only your team as a whole, but also to each individual team member.  This awareness may take extra attention and time but it will pay off in the long run.

Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, states,

Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival, to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.

Now, before you run out the door to buy coffee and donuts for the team, let me tell you that not everyone may receive that as encouragement.  The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace written by Gary Chapman and Paul White, lays out 5 different ways that appreciation can be received and communicated: words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, tangible gifts, and physical touch (now, now, don’t get all HR-ey on me…everyone loves a good fist bump now and then).

Word of Affirmation
Words of affirmation is language that many can relate to because most folks enjoy hearing that they are doing a job well. However, this language of appreciation requires more than a simple “good job.” People who feel appreciated through words, tend to need specific examples pointing out their accomplishments or affirming who they are as an person and employee. The more details, the better.

Quality Time
Quality time is another popular language and like words of affirmation, runs deeper than one may think. These individuals need face-to-face time where they have quality conversations or meaningful interactions. Days spent doing team building activities, going on a retreat, or a one-on-one lunch is right up this person’s alley.

Acts of Service
Acts of service is the labor language. These team members will feel so cared for if you check in and ask how you can help in any way. They feel valued and appreciated when the team or their manager comes alongside them to complete a task or to put some finishing touches on a project.

Tangible Gifts
Tangible gifts. I’m sure your mind just went straight to the bank but that is a common misconception about this language. These individuals receive appreciation through any type thought out or meaningful gifting. If you know your Marketing Director loves flowers and the color yellow, try putting daisies on his or her desk next week and watch what happens. You get the idea.

Physical Touch
Physical touch is probably the least popular of the languages, but that doesn’t mean it is less important. While there are obvious boundaries in place, these people often feel appreciated through a high-five, handshake, or even a pat on the back. Now start practicing that hand eye coordination because those high-fives are hard.

So while these languages are all very different and it may seem like a daunting task to ensure each team member is getting the type of appreciation they need, a little extra effort in this area goes a long way. 88% of employees that leave a job, report doing so for reasons other than their salary.  According to Chapman and White, most of the cited reasons were psychological in nature, including not feeling valued or needed.

Startup life is exciting and scary. As a Founder or CEO, you have to learn how to do more with less. So if communicating appreciation effectively can result in increased job satisfaction, create healthier relationships, and decreased burnout rates, then what are you waiting for?