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Veterinary Team Appreciation

October 29, 2018

Do you speak the language?

One time, while on the phone with a practice manager, the conversation moved towards veterinary team appreciation. We talked about an apparent disconnect between team members and management’s idea of appreciation.

In a rather random way, I asked him if he had ever read the book The 5 Languages of Love? Odd question, I know, but I felt we were talking about very similar topics in regards to veterinary team members and appreciation.

We determined his team members were seeing the veterinarian owner’s form of appreciation in a very different manner than originally intended. Sound familiar?

To further elaborate on an example, let’s consider the following scenario. The veterinary owner and manager determine, as a showing of appreciation and gratitude, to offer health insurance as a team benefit. While it’s a big, tangible value to team members, it doesn’t carry the “feel good” sense of appreciation by the team. The owner and manager put a lot of time, effort and money towards the benefit, but the team doesn’t “feel it.” I imagine a number of heads are nodding in agreement having experienced a similar situation. What is an owner and manager to do?

Upon hanging up with the practice manager, I instantly googled “5 Languages of Appreciation.” Low and behold, there is a book on the precise topic. Imagine my surprise and delight!

Now, consider the idea of the 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace as it relates to your veterinary team.

How do you like to receive appreciation? It’s OK to admit, regardless of your position, that some part of you likes to be appreciated for a job well done. Keep in mind, recognition is different than appreciation. Recognition usually places the emphasis on performance. Appreciation is generally linked to people, their interests, feelings and aspirations.

Languages of Appreciation

In a synopsis, captured by Maria Elena Duron in U.S. News, the 5 languages of appreciation include:

  1. Words of affirmation. Reassuring words (“thank you for your input,” or “great job on the presentation”) that serve to motivate and show gratitude to team members.
  2. Quality time. Going out of your way to spend a little more time with team members, discussing the topics that are relevant and important to them.
  3. Acts of service. Your words of gratitude could land on the deaf ears of team members who would rather receive help finishing a project or assignment. Going out of your way to lend a hand means more to such people than mere praise.
  4. Tangible gifts. Lots of people appreciate tangible gifts. The important thing here is to make sure the tangible gift is something the person values in their life outside of work, like a jersey of their favorite college football team or a coffee mug with their favorite cartoon character on it.
  5. Appropriate physical touch. Some members respond well to appropriate physical touch, like high-fives, handshakes, fist bumps and pats on the back. You’ll see this in sports, but it also translates well to the work environment.

When applying this concept of the “5 Languages of Appreciation,” it’s easier to see why the team members aren’t “feeling it” in the previous example of a veterinarian showing appreciation with a super health insurance benefit.

To further enhance my delight and surprise, I found a Languages of Appreciation Quiz! Consider filling out the quiz for yourself and ask your co-workers to fill it out as well. Share your findings during individual conversations to support each other in feeling appreciated.

I prefer “Good Job!” and quality time over a cup of coffee. I’m not too surprised at my selection, affirming words and quality time, but it’s nice to have labeled it.

How about you? What are your two primary appreciation languages?

Managers and owners, with your new found understanding of appreciation, you can address your team members in ways to target their “appreciation button.” Health insurance may initially fall on deaf ears, but by helping everyone understand the time, effort and energy that you dedicated to the benefit, it may open their eyes to see that it is a form of appreciation as a tangible gift.

Yours in Veterinary Team Appreciation,

Rebecca Rose, CVT