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Do Millennials prefer to be shown appreciation differently?

Paul White (Appreciation at Work, Wichita, Kansas, USA)

Human Resource Management International Digest

ISSN: 0967-0734

Article publication date: 4 July 2018

Issue publication date: 24 July 2018




Research demonstrates that feeling appreciated in the workplace increases employee engagement, reduces turnover, and increases profitability. Despite the fact that people differ in how they feel most appreciated, no work to date has explored the impact of age differences on appreciation preferences. The purpose of this paper is to determine if Millennial workers vs their older colleagues differ in the manner they prefer to be shown appreciation.


From 2014 to 2018, 62,156 workers completed the Motivating by Appreciation Inventory (White, 2011) and provided age, gender, and work industry information. Each person’s primary and the least valued languages of appreciation in the workplace were identified. Four age groups were created of approximately equal numbers: ≤29-, 30-39-, 40-49-, and 50+ years old.


Words of Affirmation was the most prominent primary language of appreciation across all four age groups and most pronounced in the oldest group (50+). The ≤29-year-old group valued Quality Time more and Acts of Service less than the other three age groups. There were no age group differences in the least valued language of appreciation.

Practical implications

The results suggest that supervisors and staff members must be mindful to include opportunities for quality time interactions with Millennial workers, as well as provide words of affirmation, to show appreciation for their work.


This is the first study to assess age differences in preferred ways to be shown appreciation in the workplace.



White, P. (2018), "Do Millennials prefer to be shown appreciation differently?", Human Resource Management International Digest, Vol. 26 No. 5, pp. 22-26.



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