One Motivational Style Does Not Fit All

Joe Weinlick
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Each employee is a complex individual with different preferences and motivations. As such, a one-size-fits-all managerial style is unlikely to work for everyone in the office. By adapting your motivational style to each individual, you can get the most from your employees and build a happy, high-achieving team.


An incentive-based motivational style uses external rewards to keep workers pushing toward the end goal. Employees who respond to this style enjoy receiving a tangible prize at the end of a project or period of time. Incentives can come in the form of a bonus or cash prize, but keep in mind that not all workers are motivated by money. Some prefer success-based rewards, such as promotions or new job titles. Other options to consider include free gym memberships, tickets to a championship sporting event, an upgraded workspace or new office equipment.


Some professionals work best when they receive regular feedback about their performance; it helps them feel connected and makes it easier for them to gauge progress. These employees are easy to spot; they are likely to ask questions about their performance, listen carefully to your input and make changes accordingly. They may blossom when praised, so remember to thank them for a job well done and pass on positive client comments. Workers who respond to a communication-based motivational style are often receptive to guidance and career coaching. Keep them engaged and interested by offering suggestions for growth, providing skill-building tasks and helping them define their strengths in the workplace.


Smart, high-performing employees often respond well to challenges. These workers are likely to be confident, competent and quick on the uptake. They thrive when faced with difficult tasks, such as a large project, a new skill or an intimidating client. If the person has well-developed interpersonal skills, consider providing leadership opportunities that harness her energy and intelligence. When using this motivational style, preparation is key. These workers tend to get bored quickly, so it's crucial to have the next challenge ready to go.


While some workers thrive by working independently, others require regular human interaction. Socially motivated workers do best with settings and tasks that put them in contact with other people. When using a socially oriented motivational style, the worst thing you can do is isolate chatty workers in a quiet office or place them near quiet, independent people. Instead, place them near other social butterflies to create opportunities for conversation and build a cheerful workplace dynamic. When it comes to assignments, offer opportunities that require an exchange of ideas, such as brainstorming sessions, creative concept development or projects that involve close collaboration.

Finding the right motivational style for every employee requires careful observation and experimentation. With practice, you can tailor your behavior to each individual and establish a high-performing workplace dynamic.

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