In any given workforce, there will be employees from different backgrounds, generations and age ranges. Consequently, the differences amongst the team mean a variety of personality types that managers have to marshal in a way that realises their full potential.
Everyone has their preferred way of carrying out their duties; what works for some will be less effective for others. This means those responsible for their team need to be adaptable and flexible in their management and motivation of those under them. A tough approach, for example, favours one employee, while a lighter and more constructive method will suit someone else.
Drawing on the tenets of motivation theory, we’ll touch on how to manage and motivate the differing personalities in your business.
We’ve previously looked at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in relation to satisfaction and employee engagement, but for this piece, we’ll run through its definitions to ground the crux of what will follow.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed that in life people are motivated by certain needs. Some of these needs take precedence and hold more importance over others. Maslow thusly detailed the five levels of need that we work towards; once one level is fulfilled, we move onto the next need in the hierarchy, and so on.
Physiological needs: The most basic needs; what we need as humans to live and survive, i.e. food, drink, clothing. Until these needs are met, everything else is, understandably, secondary.
Safety needs: The things in our lives that provide us with stability: financial security, physical safety and emotional well-being. Before they move on to any of the higher levels of need, a person will seek out safety first.
Love and belongingness needs: The need for things such as friendship, intimacy, trust and acceptance, as well as being part of a group (including your team at work), are motivations here.
Esteem needs: Split into two groups, Maslow determines our need for both self-esteem (ego) and status (reputation). Self-esteem encompasses what we do to create dignity, achievement and independence, while the latter is how we receive status and prestige from others.
Self-actualisation needs: The apex of ourselves, self-actualisation represents the pinnacle of human need. In Maslow’s words, it is the desire “to become everything one is capable of becoming” through the realisation of personal potential, growth and self-fulfilment.
It’s worth noting that the order is entirely flexible with regards to external circumstances or individual differences; some may place more importance on certain needs than others. Furthermore, our actions to reach these needs are mostly multi-motivated and are largely determined by multiple or all of these basic needs at the same time, rather than one of them.
In a previous post, we talked about how different personality types can cause conflict, which managers must then work to resolve. These differing personality types are each driven by their own needs too.
And when you apply Maslow’s theory to a workplace environment, the hierarchy of needs perhaps makes it clear how different people are motivated by different things. A strong leader has to recognise that some people work to earn money (existence needs) and aren’t nearly as motivated by the desire to get on with others (belongingness needs) or gaining promotion (growth needs). Conversely, others are motivated by this professional growth, while certain employees can be motivated by a combination of certain needs.
How can these theories be applied more specifically in the workplace? Each need certainly has implications for managers to take note of. For instance:
Managers must identify the need level at which their employees exist, and then those needs can be utilised as the catalyst for what motivates them.
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You may be familiar with the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator already. Effectively a questionnaire that provides information on our psychological preferences, it shows how we perceive the world around us and make decisions based on four psychological functions: sensation, intuition, feeling and thinking.
The matrix below features the questions posed to those taking the questionnaire, and the possible outcomes that face them based on their answers. Each person taking the test comes away with a four-character code which defines their personality type.
Whatever your personality type is, managers can use the results of each test to inform their approaches to how they motivate each employee in their team. Below is how each Myers-Briggs type typically deals with motivation, as defined by their four-character code:
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