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How to motivate employees based on their personalities? - The Ultimate Guide

How to motivate employees based on their personalities? - The Ultimate Guide

“It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it” – said Jack Welch (former CEO, GE).

Keeping teams motivated at all times is perhaps the most important aspect of the working-world. Specially now, with work-from-home (WFH) becoming a norm for many organizations.

Employee Engagement, productivity, growth and development, favorable business outcome etc. are all make-or-break factors for any company and are directly or indirectly linked to employee motivation.

Let’s start with a basic understanding of Employee Motivation – it’s the aspiration of an employee to continue to do better at his or her role, it’s the energy that makes employees feel interested and committed to their jobs, in a continuous fashion. It’s basically the feeling that makes them show up at work every day and stay positive & happy.

Over the years, different studies and theories have evolved around the concept of motivation – for instance, there’s Maslow’s theory which states that “humans are motivated by needs”. Then there’s the Nudge Theory by American legal scholar Cass Sunstein and Richard Thalerm, which revolves around the concept of positive reinforcement.

Another very crucial factor that acts as a catalyst in employee motivation is human personality – simply put, an individuals’ way of thinking, feeling and behaving. It is this personality that defines our behavior, attitude, how we respond to situations, etc.

Each one of us has a different personality and therefore, what may motivate one may not motivate the other; here, one rule cannot apply to all.

For instance, there are employees who stay motivated just out of the love for their work, or the happiness their work gets them, without any obvious external rewards or recognition. They view their job role as an opportunity for them to learn and grow. On the other hand, there are employees who get driven by external rewards - like incentives, fame, recognition, etc.

Many progressive organizations run personality assessments, not just to bring aboard the right talent but also to understand what drives their people and what would them push them to do better.

The aim should be to be able to identify what works best for your teams and what should you do to motivate them right.

So, how can managers motivate their teams, based on their unique personality traits, temperament, work attitude and behavioral preferences?

Let’s look at some specific personalities we find at work –

The Explorer

Explorers are creative and inventive people who generate novel ideas about how to do things differently. They are people who are curious, insightful and creative. They are great at visualizing different ways of doing and achieving things, ready to seek additional information or explore deeply into things.

Explorers are open to a wide range of ideas and opinion, are liberal in thinking and are quick in understanding complex concepts. Explorers thrive in a work culture that is dynamic and flexible vis-à-vis a routine work-environment. Change and growth inspires them.

In order to motivate explorers managers can -

  • Give them projects that require spontaneity and out of the box approach to problems.
  • Assign them tasks that require deeper and detailed analysis, as explorers are perceptive in nature.
  • Encourage and support them to come up with new approaches and ideas.
  • Try and offer them a flexible working environment, even when working remotely.

The Assertive

Assertiveness is about being direct and firm. Assertive employees exude a huge sense of confidence about their work and are more likely to be expressive about their attitudes and opinions respectfully, even if they are unpleasant to some.

They can make great managers, as they do not shy away from expressing their genuine opinions and can handle certain situations better. Assertive employees do really well asked to take charge or are given responsibility.

Assertive employees stay motivated when they are -

  • Assigned with leadership roles and responsibilities, something that allows them to be decision makers.
  • Offered training platforms to grow, learn and upgrade their skills.
  • Encouraged to take the lead in projects, work-relate initiatives & activities.
  • Asked to handle, guide and mentor teams.

The Challenger

A very interesting category among the various personality traits is the “Challenger” trait. Let’s first understand who are challengers? Challengers are individuals who are less likely to go out of the way to please other people or reach consensus.

They may be relatively less empathetic and generally do not get affected by criticism or social isolation. Challengers have a high competitive spirit and are less likely to be modest, co-operative and trusting.

Reading all this one might think, what could possibly motivate this lot of people. Trust me, there surely are ways to motivate employees who are challengers, yet talented too.

Challengers can be the most driven, innovative employees for an organization, in motivated right. Challengers have the potential to take charge of a difficult situation and resolve it objectively without getting swayed away by emotion.

Motivation tips for challengers -

  • Help them channelize their strengths and energy in the right direction, at the right tasks.
  • Do not try and micromanage, instead of imposing solutions on them, make an effort to pull solutions out of them, ask them to come up with ideas.
  • Delegate jobs that you believe are challenging and difficult for others to handle.
  • Use the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) approach to motivate them to act responsibly.

The Introvert

Introverted employees are the quiet, reserved, and thoughtful lot of people. They are less likely to seek social approval or support. Such employees prefer tasks and roles that involve working independently.

Introverted employees are more thought-oriented than action-oriented. They tend to be reticent, meticulous and analytical. Introverts are less likely to be distracted during task performance. They generally have low appetite for risk taking, and are great listeners.

Introversion is surely a favorable predictor of precision workmanship and introvert individuals are very successful with roles that involve concentration, introspection, research & analysis.

How can you motivate introverts?

  • Introverts like working independently, therefore, allow them to work in solitude, in their own space and they’ll thrive.
  • Create an environment that minimizes distractions for them and helps them focus and let them be.
  • Delegate tasks that are more analysis-based and detail oriented rather than those involving risks.
  • Do not overburden them with multiple projects at a time, as said earlier, they are people of precision.

The Extrovert

Extroverts are talkative, sociable, emotionally expressive, enthusiastic, co-operative, and out-going individuals.

Unlike introverts, extroverts are more action oriented than thought - oriented. Extroverts prefer roles that involve socially-engaging situations and have good appetite for risk taking.

Extroverts are quite comfortable in a social set-ups and are usually ready to share their ideas. They thrive in large groups and may feel a little bored when working alone or in a small group. Extrovert enjoy collaborating with teams and feel energized when there’s a lot of interaction and social engagement.

Mangers can motivate extroverts by -

  • Assigning them team projects whenever possible, they love working in teams.
  • Offering them an environment that fosters interaction, collaboration & co-operation.
  • Giving them the opportunity to multitask.
  • Presenting them with tasks that involve risks, dynamism and spontaneity.
  • Acknowledging their achievements and accomplishments in public. Social approval matters to extroverts.

Conclusion –

Motivated, productive and engaged employees are an asset for any organization. All employees with their intrinsic personality traits have a unique value to add to their company. Success lies in understanding and acknowledging the differences between their personalities and helping them work towards realizing their full potential. By putting in the right motivational efforts, sensitive to their personality, organizations can build their dream team - a cohesive and productive pool of talent.


1 : What is the significance of understanding employee personalities in the workplace?

Answer : Understanding employee personalities is crucial as it helps managers tailor their motivational strategies to suit individual needs. Recognizing different personality types enables the creation of a more dynamic, inclusive, and productive work environment. It also aids in assigning tasks that align with an individual's strengths, leading to increased job satisfaction and efficiency.

2 : How can managers effectively motivate 'Explorer' type personalities?

Answer : To motivate Explorers, who are creative and enjoy novelty, managers should provide opportunities for them to work on innovative projects. Encouraging them to share new ideas and giving them autonomy in their work can significantly boost their motivation. Providing them with challenges that require out-of-the-box thinking will keep them engaged and driven.

3 : What are the best ways to motivate 'Assertive' employees?

Answer : Assertive employees thrive on responsibility and leadership opportunities. Motivating them involves assigning tasks that allow them to exercise decision-making and take on managerial roles. Recognition of their leadership skills and providing them with opportunities for professional growth will also keep them highly motivated.

4 : How should managers approach the motivation of 'Challenger' personalities?

Answer : Challengers are motivated by tasks that test their abilities and allow them to demonstrate their competitive nature. Managers should provide them with challenging projects that require problem-solving skills. Offering constructive feedback and acknowledging their achievements will also fuel their drive.

5 : What strategies are effective in motivating introverted employees?

Answer : Introverts generally prefer working in quieter, more independent settings. Managers can motivate them by providing tasks that require deep thinking and concentration. Minimizing interruptions and allowing them to prepare for meetings or presentations in advance can also be beneficial. Regular, but not excessive, one-on-one interactions can help them feel valued and understood.

6 : How can extroverted employees be effectively engaged and motivated?

Answer : Extroverts are energized by social interactions and collaborative work. Managers can motivate them by involving them in team-based projects and encouraging their participation in group discussions. Providing them with roles that involve client interaction or public speaking can also be highly motivating. Acknowledging their achievements in team meetings will boost their morale.

7 : Can personality assessments help in employee motivation, and how?

Answer : Yes, personality assessments can be a powerful tool in understanding the diverse motivational needs of employees. These assessments provide insights into an employee's preferences and behaviors, helping managers to tailor their motivational strategies effectively. They can also aid in team composition and conflict resolution, leading to a more harmonious and productive work environment.