Weird Manager Questions

Thanks for joining me in another installment of Weird Manager Questions! These are questions for the end of your 1:1s when neither of you wants to end early, and are helpful for better understanding how your team members are doing. If this is the first you’ve heard of these, you can catch up by checking out

Today’s weird manager question is:

What is Your Work Love Language?

OK, so hopefully you read that and were like “whoah, that’s not a question I should ask of someone who reports to me,” and I’m glad that was your reaction. Now I’ll go ahead and explain what I really mean.

There’s a concept out there called a Love Language. It boils down to this - people have specific ways they like to show others they love them and specific ways they like to be shown they are loved 1. This is usually presented for intimate relationships - you can shower your beloved with all the gifts in the world, but that’s not gonna make them feel the way you want them to feel (loved by you) if what makes the person feel loved is quality time together.

Now, if you separate out the romantic aspects from this, the concept of a love language can also apply to work. Have you ever worked your butt off on something and afterwards your boss totally underwhelmed you with their gratitude? It certainly does not feel good. But when they get it right? You are ready to tackle the next even bigger problem! Why? Because you feel seen and appreciated and valued.

How to ask the love language weird manager question

First off, you should ask this question well in advance of needing to. If someone is wrapping up a project and you ask this, then deliver exactly what they ask for, well, to be honest, that’s pretty great. But it will feel pretty transactional compared to you getting to actually surprise them with a meaningful moment of appreciation. I believe this is what we in the business call “user delight.”

Second, you probably don’t want to go through that whole section to set context in a 1:1. Instead, just ask

โ€œWhen did you feel most appreciated? In or out of work - what had you done and what happened?โ€

Listen and take notes (in your notes section in Clickety, for instance) and come back to think about this. What was at the root of making them feel appreciated? Can that map somehow onto things you can do? Here’s my list of “languages”

  • Words of gratitude
    • Private praise, verbal or written (consider the power of a written card)
  • Fame/Reputation
    • Public praise (shout out at an all hands, email to org, casually mentioning how awesome they are in meetings)
  • Trophies/Achievement
    • A literal trophy, a custom sticker (especially good for group projects), a title or membership into a group
  • Thoughtful Gifts
    • You’ll have to listen carefully and over time to pick up which specific gifts could work. This is not my forte, but asking friends who are good at this (or a coworker you know they are close to) for their advice usually pays off!
  • Time Off
    • Work hard, play hard, recover hard
  • Monetary Bonus
    • Money has a lot of different meanings to people. Cash might be a form of achievement, a thoughtful gift, or just a safe bet.

Wrap up

I hope this question helps you to avoid investing too much effort into gestures that won’t have the impact you’re looking for. I hope this question helps you create meaningful shows of appreciation that brighten your team members’ days. I hope this works so well that you start asking your friends and family similar questions and we all get really good at showing gratitude.

This wraps up our Weird Manager Questions mini-series (part of the larger Mechanics of Leadership series)- at least for now. If you’ve enjoyed reading and using these questions, please let us know by clicking our high five below!

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  1. The original love language types are words, acts of service, gifts, quality time, and touch. ↩︎