Leaders: How to Make Your Employees Feel Appreciated


In case you didn’t know tomorrow Friday, March 1st is Employee Appreciation Day.  Employee Appreciation Day is celebrated in the US and Canada and is always the first Friday in March.  One of my favorite books as a leader is the 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman and Paul White that identifies give different languages of appreciation that leadership can use recognize employees and make them feel appreciated.  If you are a leader reading this blog, you want to make sure your employees feel appreciated.  If you are an employee reading this blog, the next time you meet with your leader, let them know how you want to feel appreciated.   

New January, 2019: The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People Paperback was released.   

I first heard about the 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace back in 2015.  I remember it distinctly because that following Sunday and I thought I’d take a long walk on a familiar walking path and listen to the audio book version.  Well, between construction on the now completed Gathering Place, Tulsa, OK, and getting lost,  I ended up with 30,000 steps and completing the audio book.  The very next day I went to work and started immediately documenting and then applying what I learned.  I have always tried to be a “Servant Leader” where I put the needs of my employees first  and helped them develop and perform as highly as possible.  So now, in addition to “How can I help you, “ I now I wanted to know just how each of my employees felt “appreciated”.  While some I knew because I’d managed them for some time, some I didn’t, and I will get to how I gathered this information, but first let’s look at the five languages of appreciation and some examples:    

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Words of Affirmation – Praise for Accomplishments 

  • One-on-One or in Public 

  • See the example below, there are now words of praise showing up in our LinkedIn feeds from both leaders and co-workers.     

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Quality Time - Giving the employee your focused attention 

  • Conversation - No distractions.  Don’t take the laptop, put the phone on silent.   

  • Lunch or go on a walk 

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Acts of Service – What can I do to help?  My favorite employee language of appreciation 

  • Many employees love for others to pitch in and help.  

  • Two things to keep in mind:

  • Do it their way since they may have their own system. 

  • If you start it, finish it!   

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Tangible Gifts – Physical gifts, does not have to be large or expensive.  My favorite language of appreciation for me 

  • Do they have a favorite candy or “go-to” for snacks during busy times?   

  • This is my favorite way to feel appreciated and can I tell you how many “honey buns” I would get?  It wasn’t pretty, but it sure made my day at the right time! 

  • Don’t want to go the food way?  Understandable – food can be hard especially because of the different allergies, diets, etc. Try time-off.  An hour or two off (or whatever your company can approve, more or less) will go a long way to make an employee feel appreciated.  Be creative.  

  • Include Thank You Cards with a handwritten note and be specific.  “Thank you for coming in on Saturday to make sure the refund checks went to the post office on time.” 

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Physical Touch – Handshakes, what else is HR appropriate?   

  • High Fives / Fist bumps are a quick way to show employees that you are appreciative of their efforts.   

  • For a more significant accomplishment, how about a handshake by a Senior Leader to show appreciation? 

My Method to Find Out My Employees’ Language of Appreciation 

 Leaders have their own style, some do questionnaires, so discuss with their employees and make a mental note or take notes.  There is no right answer if you are going through the process.   

 So how did I find out my employees’ language of appreciation?  It was during goal-setting time and as I met with each of them, I had them answer a question I wrote on the whiteboard:  “If you finished a big project, how would you prefer to be recognized?”   I gave them the five answers below and asked them to put a check mark by the answer that suited them best.  Some chose more than one and I asked them to rank their answers.  It turned into a great getting-to-know-you discussion as well.   

  1.  Tell me “I did a great job” in front of the team – Words of Affirmation 

  2. Take me to lunch and discuss the project – Quality Time 

  3. Nothing now, maybe next time offer to jump in and help for bigger projects. – Acts of Service 

  4. My favorite candy or vending machine item – Tangible Gifts 

  5. I’d like a High Five or Handshake – Physical Touch 

 Yes, I have a preference for Accounts Payable employees! Let’s make sure they feel appreciated.   

 Vendor Setup & Maintenance Additional Resources:   

  • Book:  “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People Paperback”  https://amzn.to/2NrNB6f by Gary Chapman and Paul White. 

  • Book:  “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People” https://amzn.to/2NqOQmh by Gary Chapman and Paul White. 

#stayhappy #puttingtheapinhappy #employeeappreciation #podcast 


Debra R. Richardson,


Debra is an accounts payable speaker, consultant, and trainer with over 20 years of experience in AP, AR, general ledger, and financial reporting for Fortune 500 companies including Verizon, General Motors and Aramark.

For the past eight years, Debra has focused on Global Vendor Maintenance, and implemented a vendor self-registration portal for 140k+ global vendors across five Accounting Systems/ERPs. In her consultancy, she focuses on internal controls and authentication to prevent fraud in the vendor master file.

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