Home Professionalisms How to Communicate Appreciation on a Tight Budget

How to Communicate Appreciation on a Tight Budget


by Paul White, Ph.D., author of “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People
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Employees in the workforce are discouraged. Many don’t feel valued for the work they are doing, and are approaching burnout. Team members are having to “do more” with less resources.

At the same time, business owners, supervisors and managers are frustrated. Leaders know their team members are working hard and are getting worn down. Supervisors want to show their appreciation, but the organization doesn’t have the financial resources available to do much.

As a result, the leadership often feels stuck – they want to do something that will encourage their staff but they don’t know what to do.

Fortunately, there are positive solutions to this dilemma – there are effective ways to communicate appreciation and encouragement to colleagues in ways that don’t require a lot of money.

Feeling Appreciated is Critical.

Why is feeling appreciated so important in a work setting? Because each of us wants to know that what we are doing matters. Without a sense of being valued by supervisors and colleagues, workers start to feel like a machine or a commodity. If no one notices a person’s commitment to doing the job well, motivation tends to diminish over time.

When team members do not feel valued, the results are predictable:

      • Workers will tend to become discouraged, feeling “There is always more to do and no one notices whether I do a good job or not.”
      • Often employees will begin to complain about their work, their colleagues, and their supervisor.
      • Eventually, team members begin to think about leaving the organization and they begin to search for other employment.

Key Aspects for Communicating Appreciation in Ways that Make a Difference. 

We have found critical factors that need to be in place for appreciation to be experienced as authentic appreciation by team members.

For appreciation to be effective, it must be individualized and delivered personally.

Trying a general “just say thanks” campaign across the company will not have much impact. In fact, this type of approach can actually backfire and create a negative reaction from employees. Workers are skeptical of programs implemented from the top down where supervisors are given an instruction to “communicate appreciation for each team member at least once a week.” While we all want to know that we are valued, we want it to be authentic, not contrived.

Appreciation needs to be viewed as valuable by the recipient in order to be impactful.

Individuals have specific ways in which they prefer to be encouraged. Various languages of appreciation have been identified that are meaningful to different individuals (for example, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service.) The challenge, from the supervisor’s perspective, is to know what actions “hit the mark” to effectively communicate appreciation to a team member. To assist in this process, an instrument has been developed that business owners can use to find out which language and actions are most meaningful for their team members (www.mbainventory.com). Fortunately, communicating appreciation doesn’t have to cost a lot of money; it mainly takes interest and commitment.

Appreciation needs to be communicated using the recipient’s preferred language.

One of the challenges of effective communication is that we tend to communicate to others in the ways that are most meaningful to us. This is a natural tendency – to speak our own language. Although we will accept appreciation in various languages, we will not feel truly encouraged unless the message is communicated through our primary language. When messages are sent repeatedly in ways outside of our primary language, the intent of the message “misses the mark.” This is why thousands of employees are not encouraged when they receive a reward as part of the company’s recognition plan – it doesn’t speak in their preferred language of appreciation.

A Starting Point: Five Easy Ways to Express Appreciation to Your Coworkers. 

Obviously, it is best to know exactly what is meaningful to your colleagues. But there are also common actions that can serve as a starting point. Try one (or more) of the following:

1. Write an email. “I just wanted to let you know…”   “It is really helpful to me when you ….”

2. Stop by and see how your colleague is doing. Spend a few minutes just chatting and checking in on them.

3. Do a small task for someone spontaneously. Hold open the door, offer to carry something.

4. Buy them coffee, a drink, a snack or dessert. People always enjoy food!

5. Give them a “high five” when they have completed a task (especially a task that has been challenging or they have been working on a while). 

We have found that you can effectively encourage and show appreciation to your colleagues without spending a lot of money, but you have to know what “language” is important to them.


Dr Paul White

Paul White, Ph.D., is a psychologist, author, speaker, and consultant who makes work relationships work. He is coauthor of the book “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People“.