5 Love Languages For Employee Retention


The Love Language Concept

Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages” is a must read book for couples seeking a healthy, sustainable relationship.  Recently I’ve realized that this book about maintaining healthy romantic relationships is applicable to a employer’s relationship with an employee. Especially if you keep the romantic part out of it.

Here’s the main concepts. We humans have five emotional needs or bucket that require filling. These five love languages are:

  1. Words of Affirmation – for some people words speak louder or just as loud as actions and praising.
  2. Quality Time – Who in a relationship has not been told, “We don’t spend enough quality time.”
  3. Receiving Gifts – Flowers, chocolates, Ferraris
  4. Acts of Service – Doing favors or chores for others.
  5. Physical Touch – This isn’t necessarily about what happens in the boudoir.  It’s like putting a hand on someone’s shoulder.  It’s that classic Bill Clinton handshake with the the left hand on the other person’s elbow.

Chapman’s theory is that all of us seek emotional affirmation in the form of many of these emotional bucket fillers, yet we all have a primary preference. Some of us value Words of Affirmation above all else while others may value Quality Time, or Receiving Gifts.

According to Chapman, the key to a healthy relationship relationship is to have each mate understand and work to affirm the emotional needs of the other. People tend to assume and project that the love language they value is the same for others and therefor treat their partner as they would like to be treated.

For instance if I value words of affirmation I assume that my mate values the same and therefore I would keep telling her how much I appreciate her.  I’m working hard giving her what I think she needs and she’s feeling unappreciated because she values acts of service.  She’d rather I make the bed than tell her how smart she is.

oneeds of others, people tend to believe that their needs are the same as their mates.  For instance, if I value Words of Affirmation above all else then I tend to assume that my mate needs the same.  Yet she may need Acts of Service and therefore I am failing to keep her love bucket full.

Applying the Concept to Business

My experience tells me that this concept is just as important for managing a healthy relationship with one’s employees as it is in a romantic relationship.

Now for the professional relationship let’s eliminate the physical touch need, because that’s just creepy.  Employees don’t usually join a company to fulfill this need and if they do, you are best served by leaving that bucket empty.  Unless you’re running a strip joint you’re better off having these employees self-select themselves out of a job in your company.

That leaves us with these four items.

  1. Words of Affirmation – Recognizing your team members privately and publically. Do you recognize outstanding performance?
  2. Quality Time – Spending times with your team members to get to know them better, solicit their opinions and to give and get feedback. Many times constructively kicking an employee in the tail achieves positive results.  Hey people want to know their relevant and you care and even well meaning negative feedback shows an employee their part of the team.
  3. Receiving Gifts – When was the last time you gave an employee a coupon for a dinner for two or a bottle of Dom Perignon?  How do you reward the employee who stays up all night to meet a customer commitment?
  4. Acts of Service – Allowing the use of company equipment or vehicles. Allowing extra time off for personal situations like child births, family sickness, etc.

Check out this Mr Cranky article regarding a silly Trademark Dispute regardin the use the the term “Love Bucket:” Mr. Cranky on Trademarks Smademarks & Kicking the Bucket