5 ways to say I do at work

shabana.ahmed
3 min readFeb 5, 2022
Plant in the office
Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

I’m currently digesting Things I wish I’d known before we got married by Gary Chapman, in this, he describes the 5 languages of love and what they mean.

But what dawned on me is why aren't we utilising this framework for product teams? It makes such sense. Especially as burnout is on the rise and this seems a recurring theme.

How some places build teams:

  • Shape teams according to skill set needs. Pick the best engineers, designers, writers, managers etc out there to fit the skill gap.
  • Balance the team out using time=experience, i.e a senior design hire can manage the product roadmap and launch the product. A junior engineer can help to maintain features and work on tech debt whilst learning on the job.
  • Use the MyersBriggs personality/other methodologies when numbers grow and balance out the introverts vs extroverts, architects — logicians etc.
  • Reactive. whatever is the priority skill in shortage becomes the need to hire.
  • Other (for the things I didn’t cover 😉)

What happens AFTER you’ve assembled your team?
The team cracks on with the product backlog with goals that speak to the future and create successful product(s).

Given years of experience, failures, and wins. I know that nothing is as simple as the above. Usually, there is a pivot point of human tensions that need addressing or are regrettably shaded over.

This is when a product team can develop cracks. Cracks are beautiful to look at in ceramics, but in people they are help flags.

So how can we do better?
Is it possible to maintain happier teams AND create better products?
What if we applied the theories of love languages to relationships at work? Can we recognise our colleague's strengths and celebrate them in a super simple way.

Is this theme strange? I’m open to your thoughts. But it might have a place in tribes, squads, teams … hear me out with these examples. Imagine your team takes the quiz and identifies with their strongest language.

  • Words of affirmation - it is words that are needed to be heard by a person who identifies via this language eg
    “I saw the new component you designed and it looks great. Can’t wait to use it, thank you!”
  • Acts of service - the act of a thing is incredibly meaningful to a person who identifies through this language eg
    Synthesising the outcomes of the user research session your colleague lead, to help out as they are time poor/pressured and you had some capacity to do so.
  • Receiving gifts - for those who identify this as a core language, this is how they feel most recognised eg
    Has your team delivered through a bit of a tornado month? celebrate them with lunch, good food and time away from the screens.
    Sometimes I leave a chocolate bar on a colleague's desk when I notice they didn't leave for lunch.
  • Quality time - giving that colleague your undivided attention, this is how they feel seen eg
    Put away mobiles and take a walking meeting for catchups or goal setting. Or maybe you meet weekly and make it a point to have a drink together when you are together. Eye contact and real talk.
  • Physical touch- this refers to the emotional power of touch.
    - I’m not suggesting touching people at work!!!
    High5s for surviving feature releases. I have been lucky to have colleagues that became my friends and okay .. . I’m a hugger when I hear your good news or see your success.
    Important: the non physical thumbs up or friendly facial gesture are also great ways to share positive messages. What’s lovelier than smiling 😃

I found the above themes inspiring to translate into a product team code.
As I’m increasingly mindful of how people feel and may want to be treated, I’m paying more attention to mental health these last few years. I believe emotional bonds at work can keep us healthier, but we need to learn what works for one another first.

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shabana.ahmed

I design experiences and interfaces for a living. I believe that life can always be more simple.