5 Workplace Love Languages
This tool references a blog written by Caileen Kehayas Holden at Career Contessa called What's Your Workplace Love Language?
The Five Love languages is a book from Dr. Paul White and Dr. Gary Chapman that helps couples build a stronger relationship by understanding the ways they show love toward each other. However, as the 5 love languages website says "the wisdom behind The 5 Love Languages® translates to just about every area of life – including the workplace!"
Why Love Languages Could Be Important to Work
Just like understanding your partner’s preferred love language, what if you knew your coworker’s preferred way of working and communicating?
By recognizing everyone's workplace love language, you'll be effectively enacting The Platinum Rule—to treat others as they would like to be treated.
How to Determine Someone's Love Language
Some of your coworkers might be really into discussing their workplace love language. Others? They might not be as into discussing something so "woo-woo." The good news is that you can still get a pretty good feeling about someone's workplace love language by asking these three questions:
How does this person treat others?
What does this person complain about?
What does this person request most often?
By considering these questions, you can make a pretty good guess about what someone's workplace love language might be—and make small adjustments to work better with them. Since many workplaces do not provide an area for employees to communicate how they work best upfront, this is a great shortcut.
The Five Workplace Love Languages
Right off the bat, we knew that physical touch, er, doesn’t have a place in the workplace. We reworked Gary Chapman’s love languages to fit within the office—according to what a team might need to succeed in the long-term.
Words of Affirmation = Feedback + Mentorship
Quality Time = Workplace Bonding
Receiving Gifts = New Opportunities + Challenges
Acts of Service = Support
Physical Touch = Encouraging Touchpoints
The main difference between a love language between two partners and a workplace love language is this: When you communicate your love language with your partner, you create a symbiotic relationship between the two of you.
However, taking this approach in the workplace creates a culture of care, empathy, and perspective. When done authentically, the workplace languages will become contagious.
1. Words of Affirmation aka Feedback + Mentorship
The first love language is normally words of affirmation. We think this fits perfectly into the workplace as is—for the most part. However, unlike a romantic relationship, the workplace is not exactly the environment to dole praise out when it’s undeserved or when it actually worsens the problem.
To that end, we changed this love language to feedback and mentorship. Personally, I love feedback. Even if it’s tough to swallow (and, wow, sometimes it really is), well-meaning feedback is the key to learning about yourself and growing.
If you think feedback and mentorship might be your primary workplace love language, you can actually communicate that pretty easily.
Make it clear to your teammates and leadership that feedback is what propels you to do better. If you have aspirations of leadership, let your manager know that you are open to learning new ways to do things in order to strengthen your own managerial skill sets.
Examples of Words of Affirmation as a Workplace Love Language:
Workplace appreciation in a public setting (e.g., a meeting) to tell someone what a great job they're doing
Verbal acknowledgment of your boss's great leadership
Creating a spot at the top of your team meeting where everyone shares a high (and maybe a low, to keep it balanced)
Directing some words of affirmation at yourself by creating a smile file
Workplace Love Language #2: Quality Time aka Workplace Bonding
Maybe I’ve been watching too much Ted Lasso, but I think workplace bonding is more important than ever. So many of us are still working remotely and may continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Lately, as I look around and speak with my friends and coworkers, I’ve seen everyone’s confidence start to wane a little.
I think we should derive most of our confidence from within. However, I also think it’s fine to get some affirmation from the outside. To put it in dessert terms, we should be able to make our confidence sundae and allow outside influence to be the whipped cream, sprinkles, or the cherry on top.
So let’s talk about workplace friendliness, our reworking of the “quality time” love language. In the workplace, this falls into the “non-work” category. This is taking time for non-work-related 1:1 meetings. This is following up with your coworker about their new puppy. This is taking the time for the personal.
Last, but certainly not least. Sometimes, the best way to refresh morale is by encouraging time off work.
Examples of Workplace Bonding as a Workplace Love Language:
Taking your team to lunch at the end of a big project
Celebrating workplace anniversaries with a small celebration
Encouraging team members to take mental health days
Creating space to give undivided attention to a specific coworker (within reason, of course)
Workplace Love Language #3: Gifts aka New Opportunities
This is our reworking of the gifts love language.
We’re not here to say that there is no place for a celebratory gift certificate to your favorite coffee shop. Physical gifts are a great reminder of someone caring for you, thinking of you, and bringing you a physical manifestation of that care.
In the workplace, we think the best “gifts” can be new opportunities. When this is your love language, you work hard to make sure you’re at the top of the list to be on a new project or take on a new opportunity.
To communicate this love language, keep an open line with your management. When an opportunity arises, make sure to raise your hand. New opportunities are also readily available to an employee who demonstrates an interest and openness to learning new skills.
Last, but not least, a physical gift has its place, too. Leaders, take note: a nice desk succulent or token of gratitude goes a long, long way.
Examples of Gifts or New Opportunities as a Workplace Love Language:
An actual gift on a work anniversary or upon gaining a new, important client
A celebratory day off
Giving a higher-level opportunity to someone who has excelled recently
Offering mentorship or advice to a newer employee
Workplace Love Language #4: Acts of Service aka Support
Another love language is acts of service. In Chapman’s terms, this is when a partner goes out of their way to make your life easier.
We reworked the acts of service love language into support and care. This language is for someone who really believes that actions speak louder than words.
Support, in the workplace, might look like checking in with someone who is struggling or over-worked. Unlike some other love languages, support includes action. Instead of saying something like, “Let me know if you need help,” you might share a document or resource you found helpful when working on a similar project.
Support is lifting your coworkers up with action over words.
Examples of Support as a Workplace Love Language:
A "just checking in" email with a coworker who is struggling
Emailing a helpful resource or a tip that helps you to streamline your work
Helping a coworker who is clearly overworked when you have free space
Bringing in donuts on a day when everyone is overworked
Workplace Love Language #5: Touch aka Encouraging Touchpoints
Hey, we’re back to Ted Lasso again. Make room for encouragement—both to give it and to receive it in the workplace.
I think we all knew that physical touch was going to be the love language we couldn’t translate into the workplace. The so-called language of physical touch is not something we want to explore too much in the workplace—besides a fist bump or a perceptible head nod in a video call.
The physical touch love language is a tangible reminder of love. It actually goes back to the affection you received as a child. While the physical touch love language works well in romantic relationships, physical touch doesn't really have a place at work.
Rather than trying to decode what is "appropriate physical touch" (which will differ from person to person), we replaced physical touch with encouragement.
Think of the phone call or the email you received when you got the job. The hiring manager likely summarizes what they loved about you, what they hope to see from you, and how excited they are for you to start working.
This sort of encouragement can tend to be cast aside as we settle into the busyness of work life. Encouragement can be touchpoints or compliments regularly infused into the workweek.
We tend to gloss over successes and accomplishments without ever taking a beat. Consider creating encouraging touchpoints throughout your week.
Examples of Encouraging Touchpoints as a Workplace Love Language:
A well-timed fist bump or high-fives to celebrate a big win
Making eye contact and smiling when doling out praise in front of others
Words of appreciation when someone gets a promotion, a raise, or another milestone
Regular one-on-one meetings to check in and speak about real-life things, outside of work