Why are our motivators so different?
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Why are our motivators so different?

Consider the good old can of Coca- cola (other brands are available!).  Invariably each can is the same.  It looks the same, it tastes the same, and it has come from the same place (a manufacturing plant). This is because there are strict quality checks to ensure that each can is the same – this is not the case with people. We each look different, we have different characters, we behave differently and we have come from different places (our homes).  There are no quality checks to make sure that we are all the same, therefore we each are different and with that comes a whole set of differing needs that we want to satisfy. We all have a different set of motivators.

Here’s a question for you…

Do you think you and your team members are motivated by the same things? Do a quick straw poll with them now and I guarantee that you’ll find a large variety of motivators. So, as a manager, how can you identify your teams’ needs so that you can help to satisfy them? With a little help from Maslow. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is one of the earliest theories on motivation (1943) and whilst it has a few flaws and some of the wording is a little too “touchy feely” for my liking, it does still have relevance in the modern world. The principles of this theory are that we would progress up the pyramid as we have satisfied each of the areas of need (motivators) as follows:

Physiological Needs

These needs are our basic needs and include food, water, sleep and warmth. As a human, these are the key elements we need in order to survive. So what, as a manager, do you do in order to meet these needs for your staff? You ensure your organisation provides pay,  an adequate working environment, gives benefits and possibly provide canteen facilities to your team. This may seem a little obvious but consider the homeless and how their daily focus is on achieving these things that we may take for granted. The theory states that as you satisfy these needs you will then focus on satisfying the next level of needs.


These needs relate to our security, safety and stability needs. Safety needs draw on our need for rules and regulations, and desire to be kept safe. They are satisfied by our adherence to health and safety requirements providing a safe place to work, the provision of job security and guidance provided in our organisation’s policies and procedures. So, imagine your team member has now secured that job which will allow them to satisfy their physiological needs. Their main focus now will be on maintaining that job and feeling safe and secure.


These needs relate to our social needs and our desire for affection, to be liked and feel like we belong. What do you do as a manager to help satisfy these needs? Nobody is proposing that you declare undying love for your teams but you can provide a team culture, you can encourage team work, you can organise social events and help to develop work relations between your team members. So now your team member has now satisfied their basic needs, they feel safe and they now feel like they are an integral member of your team, and for some people this may well be enough but for others they still have further needs they want to satisfy.


These needs relate to our self-respect, our ambitions, our status and positions at work and in society. As a manager, you may provide promotional and development opportunities for your team, you may train them, provide them with challenges, you may recognise their achievements and provide them with the title and material aspects that they associate with a certain level of status such as “assistant manager”, a company car, a mobile phone, private healthcare etc. For some people, satisfying these needs is enough but for others they may still need more.

Self Actualisation

This is where you may feel you have achieved your goal, you have reached the “top of your game”, you have advanced as far as possible and you generally feel satisfied with your lot. It may well be that your team member is satisfied by the level of challenge and variety within their job, that they have been developed and trained enough, they have been provided with substantial recognition for their achievements through their job title, their job benefits, their level of status and also through public recognition and it is now they are satisfied, job done……..or is it?

Self-actualised – what next?

Consider this, once we have satisfied our needs we are likely to want more.  Whether it is more material things, more challenge, more variety, change etc. It is unlikely that once we have self- actualised that we will then stop pursuing more. And, as life can be like this, it is also likely that our circumstances may change. Changes could move us down the hierarchy of needs again, such as redundancy – physiological and safety needs become more important, personal bereavement – love and belonging needs become more important, creating a family – physiological and safety needs are our main focus etc.

Our differing personal circumstances, our experience, our personalities, our characters will all serve to provide a huge variety of needs to be satisfied. So, whilst Maslow is helpful, your motivators will be different.  So bear in mind that you may move and jump to different stages on the hierarchy throughout your life. It is not as clear cut and linear as the theory depicts.

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