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Use the 5 Languages of Appreciation on Employee Appreciation Day

Woman receiving a gift

Make your employees feel appreciated on Employee Appreciation Day (and every day)

Employee Appreciation Day is rapidly approaching. Want to make it memorable? Focus on the individual relationships you have with each team member by testing out a tried and true relationship concept: Love Languages (reframed for the workplace as Languages of Appreciation).

Every individual tends to give, receive and process appreciation in one of five specific ways: 

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Tangible Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

Think of a primary Language of Appreciation as your native language. You don’t have to try to understand or decode it – you just get it. Put another way, it’s the Platinum Rule: Treat others the way they want to be treated!

Why not just buy everyone a Starbucks gift card?

When you use someone’s main Language of Appreciation, your thank-you becomes way more meaningful. A few other things happen, too:

  • You take the time to know them when you individualize recognition, and that’s at the heart of any valuable appreciation!
  • You avoid the perception of being impersonal or too busy to tailor the experience to each person.
  • You learn what not to do. Often we feel the opposite of appreciated when we receive the opposite of our Language of Appreciation. For example, if you send that Starbucks gift card to someone who prefers Quality Time, they may wonder why you didn’t sit down with them to have that coffee. 
  • The ROI is guaranteed! Your budget can be bottomless and priceless when you use it right. Just get creative and you can give the best recognition without spending a dime.


How do you know which Language of Appreciation to use?

Take a minute to reflect on interactions you’ve had with each person on your team. People typically show appreciation to others in the same ways they want to be appreciated.


Does someone consistently give those around them compliments? Does it seem easy for them to give meaningful feedback? This person is likely to prefer Words of Affirmation.


Do you have a coordinator on the team who loves picking the perfect things for birthday celebrations or client thank-yous? This person probably likes thoughtful Tangible Gifts themselves.

Is there a volunteer on the team – someone who always jumps in to help out when others need it? Those folks are often best appreciated with Acts of Service.


Have you ever worked with someone who is a hugger, high-fiver or fist-bumper? If you work remotely, see if they use the hand emojis in IMs as a stand-in for these in-person actions. You’ve probably got a teammate who likes appropriate Physical Touch as appreciation of their hard work.

Note how different it feels to have one-on-one interactions vs. larger group meetings with your team members. If you especially notice true enthusiasm, sustained eye contact and engagement in one-on-one chats, you’ve probably got a Quality Time lover. (You’ll also know this person when they close their laptop and put away their phone to talk to you – because they expect the same in return.)

Venn diagram showing the overlap of the Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace

How to Incorporate Languages of Appreciation into your Employee Appreciation Day strategy

Words of Affirmation

Recognition and praise go a long way for team members who thrive on words of affirmation. Pro tip: They go even further with kudos for specific, special details about their work or when delivered in unexpected or unprompted situations.

Idea for these folks: Print and frame a word cloud made up of descriptors of that person submitted by the whole team or even collected from their partners and clients.

Appropriate Physical Touch

This one can be tricky at work, so proceed with caution and respect for individual and cultural differences. High-fives, fist-bumps, pats on the back … you name it! Connecting physically means truly connecting to these employees.

Idea for these folks: Create a secret handshake (or Zoom dance) that everyone performs together – including the recipient – to celebrate this person. The key is to get this person moving as part of their recognition.

Tangible Gifts

Some people feel shy about this being a primary Language of Appreciation since it can feel materialistic. Pssst – it’s actually the thought that counts, and having a physical item is a reminder that someone thought about you.

Idea for these folks: Upcycle an old trophy for something specific this person has done in their work. Got a handful of folks who like Tangible Gifts? Make it a traveling trophy!

Quality Time

Quality Time should specifically emphasize quality. That means having a distraction-free space when you meet, ensuring you’re on-time and doing more listening than talking.

Idea for these folks: A simple lunch or coffee meetup goes a long way to say “cheers” to this person, as long as you give them your undivided attention. Even more meaningful? Find out what they’re really into and spend time doing that (i.e., pickleball, trivia, sampling new food).

Acts of Service

People who feel appreciated with Acts of Service love it when you take unprompted initiative to help them out. It’s about seeing the hard work they put in every day and respecting it enough to do it alongside them.

Idea for these folks: Take note of tasks that frustrate them or are especially tedious and volunteer to take them on next time around. If that’s not possible, gift this employee an activity that will help them relax – send a prepared meal to a busy parent or a lawn service professional during a peak season at work.

Two Pivot employees chatting at a team event

Did you know that employees can feel their most undervalued and disconnected (and be their most unproductive) during organizational change?

Contact Pivot to learn more about how we can help your change effort succeed through strategic internal communications. Let’s connect.

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