A Leading Perspective

Pragmatic insights for the leader in you

All You Need is Love, part two

Last week, I posted “All You Need is Love” worried it was too long but also sure it was not long enough.  It’s challenging to write a short blog about building, maintaining or repairing relationships so I ended up with two parts!

Relationships – that’s what The Five Love Languages* is all about.  “All You Need is Love, part one” was an attempt to inspire you to think about what language your staff is speaking:

  • Touch
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Service
  • Quality Time
  • Gifts

Mr. Chapman suggests that when we first enter into a relationship, we probably speak all the languages intentionally (we make an effort to hit all points).  However, he also informs us that as we become comfortable (dare I say complacent) in the relationship, we default to our primary language.

This is directly tied to leadership and employee engagement because in doing so, we may disconnect with the person or fail to communicate their importance and value to us.

Think about when you first enter into a relationship with a new employee.  This time may involve many of following:

  • Communicating to the new employee why you thought they were good for the job or presenting that information to others during introductions (words of affirmation)
  • Meeting to discuss the roles/responsibilities of the new position, development needs, objectives, etc. (quality time)
  • Mentoring/coaching (service and quality time)
  • Tour of office (quality time and perhaps touch)
  • Presentation of logo gear, office supplies, etc. (gifts, service)
  • Setting up security issues such as email and database access, keys to office, etc. (service)
  • Taking the employee to lunch, meeting for coffee, etc. (quality time and gifts)

But then what? 

Many of us default to our primary language after the new employee gets his/her feet wet.  Our communication defaults to email only.  We may fail to make time for coffee.  We only give kudos during the dreaded employee evaluation meeting.  If we’re lucky, our employees speak our language so regardless of what we fail to do, they “click” with us.  However, oftentimes, we find ourselves in a relationship that doesn’t feel quite right.

Then, as is typical, things get rocky.  Many of us will do the following:

  • Use sarcasm
    Damages a relationship with someone who values words of affirmation.
  • Ignore or avoid the employee
    Does more harm than good if the employee values quality time.
  • Do or offer something “generic” for a celebration.
    De-motivates and discourages an employee who values thoughtful gifts.
  • Quit stepping in to help.
    Tells the service employee that he/she isn’t worth the effort.
  • Fail to engage physically.
    Tells the “touch” person that he/she is no longer worth being uncomfortable…even for a minute.

Do you see yourself here?  Looking back at your behavior when dealing with awkward relationship, have you used a language that hurt it instead of improving it?

I have – either out of frustration, offense, or simply because I felt like it, I have used these languages in ways that caused more harm than good.  I have no excuse – I have read Chapman’s book many times. However, I am a work in progress and, thanks to Mr. Chapman, I’m becoming a linguist!

*Chapman, Gary. (1992). The Five Love Languages, How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. Chicago, Northfield Publishing

Employee RelationsEngagementLeadershipRecognitionRetentionWorkforce Satisfaction

Heather Kinzie • February 28, 2012

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