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The individualism of motivation

Andrew Mayo (Middlesex University, London, UK)

Strategic HR Review

ISSN: 1475-4398

Article publication date: 6 June 2019

Issue publication date: 21 June 2019




The purpose of this paper is to examine the components that drive employee engagement and show how important it is to understand the individualism of motivation as against generic assumptions.


This paper defines employee engagement and takes four drivers that influence it in turn. These are analysed and discussed, particularly as to the individualistic elements of them. Two approaches to understanding individual goals and priorities are illustrated.


There are four drivers of engagement, namely, the absence of dissatisfaction or irritation factors, intrinsic motivation (inner driven) and extrinsic motivation (external stimulation) and personal well-being. Each of these have highly individualistic elements, and models based on a generic human condition do not work effectively. Two instruments for understanding this individualism are illustrated, one based on goal theory and another based on the psychological contract.

Practical implications

Many motivational efforts fail because of an assumed commonality in what motivates people. The reality is that different personalities and different personal goals and values require individual approaches. Successful engagement demands that leader/managers make it a priority to understand each one of their people in these terms.


This paper is based mostly on the writing, models and experience of the author.



Mayo, A. (2019), "The individualism of motivation", Strategic HR Review, Vol. 18 No. 3, pp. 96-103.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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