top of page

Choice in Engagement

I established in the last post (Four Uses of the Word Engagement – Part 2) that engagement is whole person investment in an interaction. Engagement is a choice, an investment which cannot be forced. The most fundamental characteristic of being human is our capacity and responsibility to choose. We cannot NOT choose. Life is filled with an endless stream of choices regarding our use of our personal resources.

We cannot force other people to engage. Whilst we may be able to coerce someone into performing a physical task, we cannot make them enjoy it or contribute more than what they must. We can only create an environment in which others choose to provide a return in response to our investment. Creating such an environment means that we need to first pay attention to the factors which motivate individuals and understand why they make the investment decisions which they do.

The choices which people make are generally motivated by their basic overt or covert needs; needs which are physical, social, emotional, intellectual and/ or spiritual in nature, Personal needs are generally linked to personal goals, such as staying alive, achieving a certain social standing or building wealth.

Maslow identifies five primary categories of need; physiological, safety & security, love and belonging, self-esteem and self-actualisation (McLeod, 2007). Rock (2009) says that we all act to protect our status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness. Choice Theory describes belonging, power, freedom, fun and survival as the universal needs which drive human behavior (Glasser, 2014; Klingler & Gray, 2015).

All of these individual types of need can be related to the five aspects of person-hood and whilst we can cluster needs into any number of generic categories, each person has a unique combination of more granular, sub-categories of need which may give them a reason to invest in selected interactions.

Individuals are making engagement choices all the time, choosing where to direct their attention and effort, where to focus their investment of precious personal resources. To effectively foster physical, emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual investment we need to create an environment in which individual physical, emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual needs, goals and desires can be met.

In the next post, Agency and Whole Personhood, I will explore agency in engagement in more depth. Later posts will explore the implications of these principles for organisational engagement.


  • Glasser, W., 2010. Choice theory: A new psychology of personal freedom. Harper Collins.

  • Klingler, L. and Gray, N.D., 2015. Reality Therapy/Choice Theory Today: An Interview with Dr. Robert E. Wubbolding. Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy/Revue canadienne de counseling et de psychothérapie, 49(2).

  • McLeod, S., 2007. Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Simply Psychology, 1.

  • Rock, D., 2009. Your brain at work. Harper Collins.

48 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page