How to manage and motivate different personalities in your business

22 July 2019

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.

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory: A definition

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.

a satisfied office team

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.

Putting Maslow’s theory in practice

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.

Team members enjoying work

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:

  • Physiological needs: Managers should give employees the appropriate salaries to be able to purchase the bare essentials outside of work. Additionally, breaks and opportunities to eat should be given out as necessary.
  • Safety needs: Managers are duty-bound to ensure their employees have a degree of job security and retirement benefits which they can retain over time. Additionally, a safe, hygienic work environment is essential.
  • Love and belongingness needs: Depending on the individuals in the team and they’re working styles, managers should encourage teamwork to help foster the social side of the workplace. Arranging events outside of work is also a good way to cater to these belongingness needs.
  • Esteem needs: Based on the accomplishment of exceeding targets, managers should show their appreciation for staff by rewarding employees with everything from regular praise to promotions within the organisation.
  • Self-actualisation needs: As the apex of Maslow’s hierarchy, certain employees need to be challenged in a way that fully utilises their skills and competencies. Growth opportunities also allow these employees to reach their peak.

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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The intersection of the Meyers-Briggs matrix and motivation

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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The views, opinions and positions expressed within this article are those of our third-party content providers alone and do not represent those of Gazprom Energy. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. Gazprom Energy accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.

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