Motive Diversity: Navigating the Overlooked Diversity of Needs at Work

by | Mar 11, 2024

Some employees do not care about PURPOSE at work. Yep, I said it. Some people don’t need a high degree of WORK-LIFE HARMONY to live their best work life (enter gasp here!). That’s 100% true for me; you can read more about that here. Yet for someone else? Harmony between work and life may be pivotal for their work wellness.

Consider this: one individual on your team may thrive with GROWTH opportunities while someone else may have had a GROWTH spurt the year before and is driven by spending more time in work that aligns with their PASSION. Meanwhile, one of your work peers may find INNOVATION critical for being fulfilled at work while another team member may be risk averse with the need for SECURITY and feeling certainty in their decision-making.

Expanding Workplace Inclusion with the 28 Needs

These diverse needs—PURPOSE, WORK-LIFE HARMONY, GROWTH, INNOVATION—represent just a few of the 28 human needs, what we call motives, that our research identifies as the main drivers of well-being at work. In a world where diversity and inclusion are being increasingly celebrated across the spectrum of race, gender, and culture, there lies an invisible frontier yet to be fully embraced—motive diversity.

These motives don’t hold the same weight for everyone. For any given person, certain needs are non-negotiable, others are relatively unimportant, a ‘nice to have’ not a ‘must-have.’ We have varying degrees of need across the 28 motives, which means we must welcome motive diversity, respecting others’ top motives just the way we want ours to be respected. But do we always do this? We sure don’t!

Certain motives can be idealized in our personal belief systems or culture; some might be treated with favoritism in your workplace or take turns as buzzwords in society—such as AUTONOMY, BELONGING, WORK-LIFE HARMONY, or INNOVATION. Meanwhile, other motives can be overlooked, judged, or misunderstood. FUN can be thought of as frivolous; the need for CALMNESS, a weakness; having a BALANCED PACE, a luxury; COMPANY APPRECIATION might be seen as unnecessary. For example, research shows that managers put PURPOSE on a pedestal and misjudge people by believing that those who are not “calling-oriented” lack the same performance and commitment as those who say they are. By not embracing the essential needs for optimal well-being and honoring our differences, we create negative outcomes.

The Perils of Motive Neglect and Judgment:

1. Disconnect & Drama 

I’ll be the first to admit—I haven’t always been a champion for motive diversity. Sometimes, without even realizing it, we lean into our own biases, favoring motives that resonate most with us personally. We often tend to operate under the assumption that others need what we need and that others feel how we feel. When conflicting motives clash, which happens given the inherent friction that can exist between our human needs, it’s all too easy to slip into judgment mode, creating a divide rather than fostering understanding.

2. The Flight of Your Finest

The neglect of motive diversity directly impacts retention; when needs aren’t met, employees walk out the door. If you don’t create a culture where people are inclusive and mindful of motives, where these needs are protected, you will lose good people for no good reason. Having need satisfaction at work leads to job satisfaction.

Our research validates that a whopping 80% of employees with their needs well met are sticking around, compared to only 41% of those with unmet motives. And when it comes to long-term commitment, the numbers speak for themselves: 67% with their motives satisfied are in it for the long haul, versus 33% whose motives aren’t met.



3. One Size Fits None Leadership

Neglecting the diverse mix of what motivates your team leaves you with cookie-cutter leadership strategies. Going with a one-size-fits-all game plan? Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work. What works wonders is getting personal. Dive into what ticks for each person you’re leading—figure out what matters most, their big-ticket items, and how those can be supported best at work. You can better understand where there is tension between diverse motives on your team and help navigate that effectively.

Embracing an awareness of and respect towards these human needs is how we create collective well-being at work, build cultures we want to be part of, and work relationships where less judgment leaves more space for true connection.

It’s easy for motive diversity to be put to the wayside unintentionally, but with the Motives Met Pathway, you have a greater awareness of how you can be more inclusive, empathetic, and mindful toward all motives.