Exploring Six Common Types Of Workplace Motivation

Keeping a team motivated isn’t always easy, especially when you consider how different your team members may be. It keep a well-functioning team motivated and happy, a good leader needs to consider the best way to motivate different team members.

By learning about different motivation styles, you can cater to your team members’ unique personalities and achieve new heights. Recent findings by authors Bjorn Billhardt and Nathan Kracklauer explore some of the most common motivational styles. We’ll look at some of their findings and add our own insights.

“Motivation comes from within; managers cannot create it. But we can try to understand our employees’ motivators and then shape the workplace environment, assign tasks, and tailor our words to engage—and, above all, not to sabotage—their intrinsic motivators.” -Billhardt and Kracklauer


Those who are focused on achievements are goal-oriented and like completing clear tasks for the sake of reaching the next level. Things like working toward a certification, achieving a new title or position, or being the best at what they do.

Valamas describes achievement-oriented people like Olympic athletes, who strive to be the best at what they do and take pride in tangible accomplishments along the way. Billhardt and Kracklauer describe achievement-motivated workers as those who excel at breaking down tasks and taking them step by step but say they can struggle when goals are too abstract.


Similarly, those with a mastery-focused motivation style are those focused on the goal at hand. But while an achievement style enjoys the tangible benefits and the recognition that comes along with it, those who are mastery-focused enjoy completing the task for the sake of growth and improvement.

For a mastery-focused person, completing the goal in an efficient manner is the reward. While the rewards and recognition are nice, they’d do their beloved tasks even if no one was watching. These types of workers love to grow in their chosen skill, but Billhardt and Kracklauer warn that they can lose focus when doing tasks they feel beneath them or if pivoted toward drastically different work.


For those with a purpose-based motivation style, multiple types of tasks can be rewarding as long as they’re working toward the right goal. Not every task is fun, but if you’re filled with a sense of purpose, it’s a meaningful step on that journey.

This is one reason it’s worth doing a deep dive on prospective employers instead of applying to every opening. Aligning your values with an organization with a similar mission statement can make even your least favorite tasks easier to stomach. Billhardt and Kracklauer, who both consider themselves purpose-motivated, believe this sense of purpose comes from the individual. A manager can’t force these types of workers to feel the purpose, but they can recognize and reward that sense of purpose by offering meaningful work.

“When employees feel that their work contributes to a greater good or aligns with their values, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated.” –CultureMonkey


Humans are social creatures. Have you ever been willing to stick with a job you didn’t love because you’ve enjoyed your team enough to stick around? You may be socially motivated.

For some, the ability to work in a team and accomplish goals with their peers is the most motivating factor. It’s the reason some workers struggled to excel in a remote setting during the pandemic, according to Billhardt and Kracklauer. Offering opportunities to work with a team and complete shared goals will help you get the best out of workers with this motivation.

“Managers can foster social motivation by promoting a positive work culture, encouraging team-building activities, and providing opportunities for feedback and recognition.” –SameLane


Some workers accomplish the most when there are rewards on the line. It’s like playing a good video game; you’ll try challenging puzzles or battles for the treasure at the end. Recognition-focused workers are at their best when there is something to gain, whether that’s extra money, a chance at a promotion, sales incentives, or simply extra praise from a manager.

Robyn Marie Coaching describes those willing to work on holidays for extra rewards as a classic example. Different types of rewards and recognition work for different people, but you can be sure these employees will do their best work when some sort of reward is in sight.


Those fueled by autonomy are the opposite of the above—they seek the freedom to tackle tasks in their own way and earn more chances to work independently. They aren’t against teamwork, but they do their best work when they are trusted to do things their way and take on more challenging individual tasks.

CultureMonkey says autonomy fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility, and this is where their motivation stems from. Billhardt and Kracklauer say that offering chances to prove themselves and trusting their methods is key to getting the best from these types of workers. Cut the leash, and let them excel!

Wrap up

Your team features complex people with their own internal motivations and personality. Learning how to adapt and cater to these motivations is critical to team chemistry and growth. Understanding these mindsets is a great place to start building a better, more motivated team.

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