Motivators Depend on Personality Type

Are you motivated by money? Fame? Shame? What motivates you depends on your personality type. Introverts tend to be motivated internally and extroverts tend to be motivated externally. By “tend to be,” I mean we’re not widgets, and it’s not just black or white. Many variables affect motivation, so what I am saying here does not apply to every single human being.

Are you an Introverted Ivy or an Extroverted Evy?

I am very introverted. I am not motivated by other people’s impressions of me. I am motivated by my own goals and what I think is right, just, or what I’m “supposed” to do. I go to work every day and do my job well, because that’s what I get paid to do. No one is harder on me than I am on myself if I’m not doing a good job. I’m not motivated by a boss who constantly tells me I’m wonderful or gives me awards. I’m not motivated by coworkers patting me on the back or nominating me for awards. I am, however, quite motivated by continued employment, annual pay raises, bonuses, and paid vacations!

How are we motivated differently?

Programmers and writers (I am a technical writer at a software company) tend to be introverted. We work better alone, without external distractions and noise, so that we can focus on our work. Coding and writing take uninterrupted focus. Interruptions mean starting over from the top or sloppy work. Stopping work for an hour or so to attend a meeting is an unwelcome interruption—unless the meeting is directly related to what we’re working on.

Sales and Marketing professional are typically extroverts. They need to talk to customers/potential customers, communicate with other people about trade shows, communicate with coworkers about what they are doing, and so on. Attending meetings IS the work; skipping a meeting to write a report is an unwelcome interruption. Extroverts are motivated by external forces: awards, bonuses, commissions, and the constant praise and admiration of their bosses and coworkers. “She’s so quiet!” is considered an insult to an extrovert, but admirable to an introvert.

Can introverts work on a team?

Managing a team of introverts and extroverts together requires more effort and thought than a team of only extroverts or only introverts. You can’t just say “Here, do this” if only half the team (or less) is motivated by the project’s success. Getting everyone to cooperate as a team requires that you know what motivates each person on the team so that you can offer them the proper reward(s) for successful completion of the task.

  • If the project requires each individual’s solitary contribution, the introverts on the team will be successful.
  • If the project requires that one individual lead the project, or requires a public spectacle of some kind, the extroverts will shine.

If there are multiple extroverted people on the team, they will compete to lead the group. The introverts on the team will follow whomever assumes that position. Assigning someone to be the lead can be a recipe for disaster if you don’t chose the most extroverted member of the team. (Even in a team of 100% introverts, you can be sure there is one who is the least introverted of all.)

With extroverts especially, you need to provide clear instructions as to the goal of the project and ensure that they understand. Without clear instructions, your extroverted team members will take that as a challenge to see how far “over the top” they can go and may misunderstand the goal of the project entirely.

What does it all mean, Basil?*

Most personalities fall somewhere between extrovert and introvert. Extreme introverts and extreme extroverts are not comfortable in the other’s realm, but usually as adults we learn to function (still uncomfortably) in the opposite world. Whether you are a manager trying to get your team to work together more effectively, or one of the employees on that team, pay attention to and use what motivates THEM, not what motivates you.

  • If you’re an extroverted manager, understand that your introverted employees might find your “fun team-building contest” a waste of time that could be used actually working.
  • If you’re an introverted manager, understand that your extroverted employees would probably enjoy a Friday evening, after-work  happy hour, but your introverted employees might consider it “working overtime.”

* From the movie “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.”

Which is “better,” extroverted or introverted?

Neither personality type is “better” than the other; we’re just different, with different needs and different motivators. Before you criticize the employee, coworker, spouse, sibling, child, friend, or neighbor who thinks, talks, or behaves differently than you do, consider why it bothers you so much. Forcing opposites to work together without the proper motivation does not bring good results. If you need your team’s or a person’s cooperation, think about what you can do to motivate them to want to cooperate. You might think of it as manipulation, which it is, but it is manipulation with positive results for everyone. If you can change your behavior or thoughts, the other person is more likely to cooperate with you. After all, the only person you can truly change is yourself.

This web page provides, in a table format, a partly humorous, partly serious look at the differences between extroverts and introverts. Here are some examples:

WORD Extrovert’s Definition Introvert’s Definition
Extrovert, n. A nice, normal, sociable person. Never surprises you with anything weird. A boisterous person who may be very nice, but who is somewhat exhausting to spend time with. Usually not too deep, but fun.
Good manners, n. Making sure people aren’t left all by themselves. Filling in any silences in a conversation. Not bothering people, unless it’s necessary, or they approach you. (Sometimes you can bother people you know well, but make sure they aren’t busy first.)
Internet, n. Another medium for advertising. A place where geeks with no life hang out. A way to meet other introverts. You don’t have to go out, and writing allows you to think before just blurting something out.
Introvert, n. One of those who likes to read. Moody loners. One who shows a perfectly natural restraint and caution when meeting new people. One who appreciates solitude.