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How Authentic Appreciation Can Make You Less Busy

How Authentic Appreciation Can Make You Less Busy

Busyness, especially unnecessary and unproductive busyness, is similar to the unhealthy rapid growth that can happen in plants – sending out new shoots (known as suckers) not related to the core growth of the organism. Busyness eats up resources (time, energy, money) for activity that may not be healthy for the organization or its members.

As a psychologist, I’m supposed to know something about behavior change, and how to help people change patterns of behavior and habits. One of the factors that we know improves the likelihood of changing behavior is if the new behavior is closely related to an existing behavior. So, for example, if you want to start an exercise program, you are more likely to be successful if you start doing an exercise that you have done previously (e.g. jogging) and the new behavior (walking) is close to the previous habit. Conversely, if you were a jogger in the past, you will probably struggle more in trying to start swimming laps.

Similarly, in the area of appreciation, our goal from the beginning has not been necessarily to create totally new ways of relating to your colleagues, but rather to slightly change what you are already doing in a way that will make it more effective. That is the power of the 5 languages of appreciation. We are able to help supervisors and colleagues identify those actions that truly communicate appreciation to each individual colleague instead of trying a shotgun approach where you do one action for everyone and hope it hits the mark.

Not everyone likes verbal praise. Not everyone wants to spend time with you. Not everyone wants help on tasks. Not everyone wants a gift. And clearly, not everyone wants physical touch in the workplace.

But we are surrounded by employees who desire each of the different languages. And when we help individuals who work together find out not only the language of appreciation their co-workers prefer but also the specific actions that make them feel valued, then we can assist everyone to more easily “hit the mark.” This is clearly better than wasting a lot of time and energy doing all kinds of activities that don’t have much impact on most people.

As a leader trying to implement change, if you don’t address the issue of busyness up front, you will continually battle resistance from others along the way. But if your audience knows you are aware of the issue, and are trying to help them in ways that will not increase their level of busyness, but also potentially decrease how busy they are, they will listen to you.

Our goal is to help supervisors and coworkers distinguish:

  • who in their work group likes to receive an occasional encouraging email;
  • who feels valued when someone stops by to see how they are doing;
  • who enjoys and feels validated when they work together on a project with others;
  • who is encouraged when someone brings in their favorite specialty coffee or other snack; and
  • who enjoys the camaraderie of sharing a high five when a project is successfully completed.

We help workers quit wasting time and energy doing things that their coworkers don’t value (and even, sometimes, dislike!). By discovering what is important to different coworkers, then managers, supervisors, and colleagues can be more efficient and effective in their actions.

A top recognition manager for a large multinational corporation, who helped bring our resources to thousands of their employees, reported:

“One of the core strengths for the Appreciation at Work process is that it is easily implemented. The resources are adaptable to different settings and roles, being able to be used by frontline employees, supervisors, and managers immediately.”




Dr. Paul White is a psychologist, author, speaker, and consultant who makes work relationships work. He has written articles for and been interviewed by Bloomberg’s Business Week, CNN/,, Fast Company,, Huffington Post LIVE, U.S. News and World Report, and Yahoo! Finance. 
As a speaker and trainer, Dr. White has taught around the world, including North America, Europe, South America, Asia, and the Caribbean. His expertise has been requested by Microsoft, Miller Coors, NASA, the Million Dollar Round Table, ExxonMobil, the Milken Institute, DIRECTV, the Salvation Army, Princeton University, Dartmouth College, Napa Valley Community Foundation, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Compassion International, and numerous other national organizations.

Dr. White is the coauthor of three books including, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, written with Dr. Gary Chapman (author of the #1 NY Times bestseller, The 5 Love Languages), which has sold over 425,000 copies. Based on their extensive research and expertise, Dr. White and Dr. Chapman have developed a unique way for organizations to motivate employees that leads to increased job satisfaction, higher employee performance and enhanced levels of trust. Their online assessment tool, Motivating by Appreciation Inventory, has been taken by over 200,000 employees and their Appreciation at Work training resources have been used by numerous corporations, colleges and universities, medical facilities, schools, non-profit organizations, and government agencies, and is used in over 60 countries.


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