You’ve probably heard of the five “love languages,” a breakdown of the ways people experience love that was first made popular in the early ‘90s. But how familiar are you with your gratitude language?
While your love language may inform how seen you feel by a romantic partner, your gratitude language could have even wider implications. At the end of the day, we all want to feel acknowledged and appreciated — and that’s perhaps especially true at work. After pouring ample time and energy into your job, feeling like no one is taking the time to recognize your hard work can lead to a build-up of resentment and significantly impact the way we feel about our careers.
It’s important for employees to feel recognized for their contributions. But managers should note that a one-size-fits-all approach to gratitude won’t cut it, according to new research conducted by Deloitte. Suzanne Vickberg, a social-personality psychologist and Applied Insights Lead for Deloitte’s Greenhouse Experience Team, explained the company’s impetus for conducting this research.
“It’s important to understand there are differences between people and to get curious about what an individual prefers,” she said. “If you want to validate someone’s contribution and encourage their continued engagement, you need to know what makes them feel appreciated, not what makes others feel appreciated.”
As part of their research, the team at Deloitte looked at gratitude through the lens of the four primary Business Chemistry Types. Each type, which Vickberg utilizes professionally to “help teams in creating cultures that enable each member to thrive and make their best contribution,” comes with a distinct set of strengths and perspective.
Pioneers are defined by the value they place on possibilities. “They spark energy and imagination,” Deloitte's report reads. “They’re outgoing, spontaneous, and adaptable. They’re creative thinkers who believe big risks can bring great things.”
Guardians value stability and “they bring order and rigor,” the report says. “They’re practical, detail-oriented, and reserved. They’re deliberate decision-makers apt to stick with the status quo.”
The report depicts Drivers as those who “value challenge and generate momentum. They’re technical, quantitative, and logical. They’re direct in their approach to people and problems.”
By valuing connection above all, the report positions Integrators as the people who “draw teams together. They’re empathetic, diplomatic, and relationship-oriented. They’re attuned to nuance — seeing shades of grey rather than black and white.”
Among the report’s many findings, parallels were drawn between the different Business Chemistry Types and the ways they’re most inclined to experience and ultimately prefer different forms of gratitude. While all BC Types reported they most preferred recognition in the form of new growth opportunities, Pioneers, for example, preferred it at a much higher rate than the rest. Interestingly, new growth opportunities outranked recognition in the form of compensation for all BC Types, too.
When it comes to more everyday forms of appreciation, such as verbal recognition, researchers also noticed an interesting pattern when it came to gender. Though three-quarters of respondents reported they were satisfied with a simple "thank you" in their day-to-day interactions, women, at 36%, had a higher preference for seeing the other party make the extra effort to put that "thank you" in writing.
Deloitte also found that who is making the show of gratitude can matter just as much as what form it comes in, with recognition from leadership mattering more for some BC Types than others. Interestingly, both Guardians and Integrators care slightly more about recognition from their direct supervisors, while Guardians care least for recognition from peers.
"Say ‘thank you’ and offer them a chance to try something new," the researchers recommend. "Prioritize recognizing them when they’ve been part of a big win. For an extra boost, ask their colleagues or the boss’s boss to deliver the thanks, and consider who else should hear the news."
Researchers say: "Inquire about whether they’d welcome a new opportunity and maybe consider a financial reward. Make sure to thank them, not only when they’re part of a big success, but also when you see them making a strong and steady effort, or when their expertise adds particular value. If you’re their boss, go ahead and recognize them yourself, or invite leadership to share in delivering kudos. And it’s probably okay to keep it a bit quiet—they don’t necessarily need (or want) their name in lights."
"Present them with a challenging opportunity and thank them, particularly when they’ve been successful in their endeavors, but also when their expertise proves critical," the researchers recommend. "If you can get the higher ups to acknowledge their performance, even better
"Thank them sincerely and ask if they’d like a growth opportunity," the researchers say. "Acknowledge their efforts as much as their successes, and while you’re at it, recognize their commitment to living your organization’s values. If they report to you directly, they’ll likely appreciate you doing the recognizing yourself, or you could get their colleagues in on the effort, but there’s probably no need to share your appreciation beyond a small group."
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