What We Know – Foundational Facts & Research about Appreciation

January 11, 2021 9:00 am Published by

Many of you know quite a bit about appreciation in the workplace, and have been actively engaged in applying the concept with your colleagues for years. Some of you know the basics and have a solid start, but are still learning about specific challenges and how to overcome them. And a number of you have only recently been introduced to the 5 languages of appreciation and are just starting to realize the differences between employee recognition and authentic appreciation.

As a result, I thought I would put together some information to summarize what we know about appreciation, how to communicate it, and give references to some of the research we’ve done – so that you (or your supervisor / manager) can confirm that our concepts are evidenced-based and not just theoretical.

Foundational Principles

We have been researching and developing our resources on appreciation for over a decade, and the best summary source is our book The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace (which is available in paperback, audio, electronic versions and in 23 languages — you can purchase them anywhere but our price on the paperback version is lower than Amazon and others).

The core concepts covered are:

  • Authentic appreciation isn’t the same as employee recognition.
  • Appreciation focuses on the value of the person, not just performance.
  • Not everyone feels appreciated in the same ways (descriptions of each of the 5 languages of appreciation).
  • Appreciation can flow in any direction, not just “top > down.”
  • Team members feeling appreciated results in a wide range of benefits for the individuals and organization (the focus isn’t just to make people “feel good”). We cite dozens of studies documenting the benefits in chapter two of the book.

Additional Foundational Research

We have continued to conduct and publish research on various aspects of appreciation.  Here are some of the additional research articles published:

Appreciation at Work training and the Motivating by Appreciation Inventory: Development and Validity. (2016). Strategic HR Review.

How do employees want to be shown appreciation? Results from 100,000 employees”. (2017) Strategic HR Review.

The relationship between the DISC personality assessment and the 5 Languages of Appreciation”. (2016) Training.

“Do Millennials prefer to be shown appreciation differently?” (2018).  Human Resource Management International Digest.           

These articles provide a good introduction to the core concepts we base our work on and I hope you find them useful.

Next week I’ll share more recent research we’ve completed including:

  • the relationship between the 5 languages of appreciation and Myers Briggs types (and subtypes),
  • the most preferred gifts desired by employees whose language is tangible gifts,
  • how remote employees prefer to be shown appreciation,
  • differences of appreciation preferences across cultures,
  • what is important to know in communicating appreciation to newly working from home employees.

We will also share articles that relate appreciation to specific work settings and industries including long-term care facilities, nurses, schools, veterinarians, and more.

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January 11, 2021 9:00 am


  • April says:

    I would love to hear your thoughts on showing appreciation using quality time and acts of service during COVID. Many employees are remote and those who are in the office aren’t gathering together making those two languages specifically challenging. I appreciate your input.

    • Paul White says:

      April, yes this is a challenge. We’ve created two resources to deal with the issue: a) the Virtual Appreciation at Work training kit, and b) the Remote version of the Expanded MBA Inventory. Also, we’ve completed and published research both on how remote employees prefer to be shown appreciation and how to encourage those who are working from home. These articles will cited and linked to in next week’s blog & newsletter. You should also be able to: 1) Google (my name + appreciation + remote) and find some articles, and 2) search the blog for past articles on WFH (working from home) employees and that should get you started. Dr. Paul

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