Acts of Service: A 5 Languages Spotlight

July 8, 2024 10:28 am Published by
Service industry collage images | Appreciation at Work with Dr. Paul White

“Don’t tell me you care; show me.” This is a phrase often said by those whose preferred language of appreciation is Acts of Service. For them, actions will always speak louder than words and they feel appreciated when others reach out to help.

More than 1 in 5 employees (22%) have Acts of Service as their primary language of appreciation (with another 15% having it as their secondary language). So over one-third of your coworkers value appreciation shown through practical actions that will help them do their work more effectively.

How you help out a colleague really is situation specific. It depends on the type of office or industry and on the role the individual has in that setting. A nurse in a hospital, an elementary school teacher, or a business office manager would each have their own list of acts of service that would be helpful to them. (Which is one of the reasons we have created industry-specific MBA Inventories.) But we’ve put together some basic suggestions for showing appreciation to those whose preferred language is Acts of Service.

Ask before you help. It is always critical to ask first when considering helping a colleague. Even when you know an individual’s primary language of appreciation is Acts of Service, you need to check with them first to see if they would like assistance on their current task. If you dive in to help when the coworker does not want help, it can create tension rather than encouragement.

Serve voluntarily. For an act of service to be encouraging to a colleague, the action needs to be offered voluntarily. An act of service done under duress of a supervisor ceases to become an expression of appreciation; it becomes an act of duty or obedience.

Check your attitude. There is an ancient proverb that says, “Work done with a cheerful attitude is like rain falling on the desert.” We think the opposite is also true. Work done with a negative attitude is like a sandstorm blowing through the desert. Receiving help from someone who is grumpy or who resents having to help is not encouraging.

Do it their way. When helping out a colleague, it is important to clarify how they want the task done. If you want your efforts to be appreciated, you must be willing to do it in such a way that the individual you are helping will feel that the task was done right and at the level of quality they desire.

Complete what you start. For those individuals for whom acts of service are important, one way not to encourage them is to start a task and then leave it incomplete. If you are going to help, make sure to get the task done. Or, alternatively, tell them how much time you have available to help.

Helping with a specific work project isn’t the only way to show appreciation to those who value Acts of Service. Other ideas for encouragement include:

  • Bringing them (or their team) some food when they are working long hours.
  • Offer to do some simple tasks – like filing or photocopying – so that they can focus on a higher priority.
  • Stay after hours to assist them at an event.
  • Volunteer to do some work for them that they dislike or are not good at, like collating files or fixing a technical problem with a presentation.
  • Provide extra assistance when they are getting ready for a big event or presentation

Discovering the specific service that would be most meaningful to them may be as easy as asking the question, “Is there anything I could do for you that would make your work go better this week?” Their answer may surprise you, and you will now have valuable information on how you can most effectively express appreciation to that particular individual.

Use the MBA Inventory to learn more about your (and your co-workers’) preferred languages of appreciation.

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Published by
July 8, 2024 10:28 am

1 Comment

  • Thank you, Dr. Paul, for the great tips on showing appreciation through Acts of Service. I really like your suggestion of asking a colleague what you could do that would help their work go better this week!

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