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Mercenaries and employees - what's the difference
Mercenaries and employees - what's the difference

The fundamental difference is that one combines his own and the interests of the company, the other acts only in his own interests.

The employees of the organization can be conditionally divided into two categories: "mercenaries" and "employees". The division takes into account the employee's contribution to the achievement of the result, his interest in working in your company, the presence of productive ideas and the so-called involvement in the process.

Surely in every team there are people who work with a high degree of efficiency, and people who formally relate to their duties. Each of these workers has their own goals that they strive to achieve.

The fundamental difference is that one combines his own interests and the interests of the company in his actions, the other acts only in his own interests.

Mercenary or Employee?

Previously, the word "mercenary" meant professional and competent people with whom a contract was concluded to perform a particular job, for example, military service. Disputes about the mercenary army often boil down to the idea of reliability: it is difficult to predict how a “mercenary” will behave in a critical situation, and whether to expect from him such a feeling as patriotism. If a person works only for money, then there may be someone who will offer more. Enthusiasm for a common idea, as a rule, encourages a person to give more. “Employee” and “employee” are employee positions that are largely shaped by experience and needs. The attitude of the employee to the company is largely determined by the attitude of the company to the personnel in general and to him in particular. How to distinguish an "employee" from a "mercenary"?

An employee who relates to work and the company from an “employee” position:

- has a keen interest in a common cause;

- does everything in his power to achieve good results and goals;

- acts in the interests of the company;

- feels personally responsible for the company's reputation;

- "turns on the brains", doing his job;

- makes a feasible contribution to the success of the company (initiative);

- effectively cooperates with the divisions of the company.

An employee who relates to work and the company from the position of a "mercenary" (extreme option):

- is not interested in anything other than the assigned work site;

- performs its functions formally: if the working day is over, it can quit work in the middle;

- basic expressions: “I did everything according to the instructions”, “but you didn’t tell me that”, “it’s not my concern”, “I don’t get paid for it”, etc.;

- pursues exclusively personal interests;

- Shifts responsibility for failures to external factors (such as: customers, market, government, etc.);

- has poor contact with other divisions of the company.

I want to emphasize once again that a “mercenary” is not the same as a bad employee. Often this is an employee whom the leader could not make a player on his team.

In addition, we can talk about a predisposition to one type or another. Here are some striking “portraits”


A person who creates an atmosphere in a team, has confidence and is able to provide support. An active participant in the organization of holidays and congratulations; good performer; effective in a team work environment when setting long-term goals. Favorable are a democratic leadership style, common victories over external "enemies" or circumstances. Intra-corporate competition or, rather, what accompanies it acts negatively and destructively. Priority for the "romantic" are social needs - a sense of belonging to something or someone, understanding from others, a sense of social interaction, affection and support. Such people are able to change jobs if intrigues, gossip, enmity flourish in the team.

In a friendly team, "romantics" are very effective at the stage of "youth" of the company, since they are more characterized by altruism. Very often they go with the company all the way to the extinction of its activities. Such people are characterized by fear of change, the "glorious past" is of great value. Even in a situation where they receive an interesting offer, they are able to refuse it, feeling a sense of duty in relation to the leader, team, business.


Unlike the "romantic" does not attach much importance to the relationship in the team. For him, the priorities are professionalism, success and competence. According to A. Maslow, such people realize the need for respect (self-respect, personal achievement, competence, respect from others, recognition). From the point of view of D. McClelland's theory, "professionals" can be attributed to people who realize the need for power. They manifest themselves as outspoken and energetic people who are not afraid of confrontation and strive to defend their original positions. “Professionals” are effective in situations where the company is faced with the task of stabilization (“maturity” stage).

However, they are irreconcilable when the employee with whom they interact is unprofessional and puts the job at risk of disruption. They prefer clear leadership. It can also be an authoritarian style, the main thing is to have an intelligent and experienced leader.

Significant for people of this type are: career, professional growth, prestige of work, fame of the company, business relations with the immediate manager, effective organization of work, a sense of their own importance in the team, technical equipment of the workplace.


Innovators are effective when a company has a need to modernize
Innovators are effective when a company has a need to modernize

He is proactive and enterprising, rarely misses an opportunity to improve something or suggest something new. It fundamentally differs from the "windbag" by the need to realize one's idea. This is the best reward for an “innovator”. Describing his innovations, he will not talk about authorship, but about the result of their implementation.

The main thing in his motivation is the desire for self-expression, the realization of his potential and personal growth. The priority for the “innovator” is the need for success - not a proclamation of success, but the process of bringing work to a successful conclusion.

Such people love situations in which they can take personal responsibility for finding solutions to a problem.

Innovators are effective when a company has a need for modernization. They realize themselves most fully under the guidance of a person who supports the initiative, who provides the “innovator” with a certain degree of freedom and does not limit his opportunities.


More often it manifests itself from the position of a "mercenary". Increased concern for material well-being is characteristic. This is due to a change in marital status, the appearance of children, the need to resolve the housing issue, etc. More often it is a temporary dominant, which can fall under the "professional" and "innovator" and "romantic". If the company has sufficient capacity to allow the employee to meet material needs, then the motives that are important to the company may become the priority motives of the “earner”.

Among the "earners" one can distinguish such a subtype as "family man". This category of people is characterized by a family orientation. At the same time, we are not talking about a reasonable balance between the professional and family components of a person's life. It is difficult to expect that a "family man" will spend holidays or weekends at work, even if a lot depends on it. For this type of employee, a social package is very important, which includes services for the family. The easiest way to find such people is in the civil service. Various benefits for summer vacations, medical treatment, training are the anchor that keeps such an employee firmly in the company. This position does not exclude a good professional level.


It is not an "employee" due to the short-term employment. Recognizable by an impressive list of jobs. The reasons for frequent job changes are different and not always “negative”:

- the lack of formation of the system of motives and professional interests gives rise to a strong dependence on external factors. There are no internal priorities;

- focus on acquiring new experience, advanced training; however, the acquired knowledge "flyers" are not able to apply creatively;

- unwillingness to do routine work - irresistibly strive for interesting content. The main argument: "I know everything in this work, I am no longer interested";

- personal problems: conflict, quarrelsome character, optionality, etc. More often, in conflict situations, they use the “escape” strategy with theatrical gestures (slamming the door, periodically submitting applications for leaving, etc.). If they do not have time to be the first to do this, the initiative in refusing their services may belong to the employer;

- lack of willpower, "core".


Having such a person as an “employee” is a big deal, since in the position of a “mercenary” he can pose a latent threat to the enterprise. As a rule, this is a good leader: intelligent and purposeful, independent and energetic. He treats any business as if it were his own. The positive thing about this is that such a person is independent in achieving his goals and, as a rule, uses his full potential. The flip side of the coin: he, explicitly or implicitly, will conduct a constant struggle for power, expanding the scope of authority, etc.

The most extreme and very common option: it can create a competitive business. The priorities for the “owner” are independence, job satisfaction, the ability to actively influence the course of events, and a high level of responsibility. In some situations, he is aimed at acquiring new experience, connections, knowledge, at the opportunity to make a career. “Owners” should be distinguished from “false owners” - a category of people who see in their own business only the possibility of high income and do not differ in the necessary abilities. The "hook" for employees with the position of "owner" is the prospect of getting a share in the employer's business.


The mood on the suitcases has a very negative effect on the loyalty of such an employee to the company
The mood on the suitcases has a very negative effect on the loyalty of such an employee to the company
Photo: neovain

Rather, a situational option. He can be a very good specialist, but due to the lack of the opportunity to find an ideal company or job, he agrees to an existing offer. The dangerous thing is that he perceives this work as temporary. The "suitcase" mood has a very negative effect on the loyalty of such an employee to the company. With such a mood, he can work for more than one year and, as soon as he receives the right offer, he can drop everything without hesitation.

What does the information about the priorities in employee motivation give?

The system of rewards and punishments, employee loyalty to the company, his success and efficiency are associated with motivation. The employer's expectations, the scope of the employee's authority and responsibility, and his career planning are adjusted depending on the priorities in motivating the latter. If a manager knows the priorities in motivating employees, he has certain control levers, the ability to predict the behavior of subordinates. Try to analyze your experience, remember how the candidates formulate the reasons for changing jobs (or dissatisfaction with it).

Even the most advanced motivation systems sometimes turn out to be insufficiently effective due to the fact that the incentives used are not a priority for a particular person. Proof of this is the situation when an employee leaves a very good job or refuses from a materially advantageous offer, professional or career growth in favor of a good team, etc.

By some obvious signs, one can judge the position of an employee or a candidate for a vacancy. It is quite easy to get information about the priorities in employee motivation.

There are several questions that allow you to specify the priorities in motivating a candidate or employee:

- What interests you in your work?

- What interests you the most?

- In what conditions do you work most effectively?

- Under what conditions do you perceive the interests of the company as your own?

- What do you pay attention to when you consider an offer (make a decision) about employment?

- What did not suit you at your previous job?

- What would you like to achieve while working in our company?

- Describe the ideal working conditions for you.

In addition to interviews, the following methods are used: ranking (all proposed motives are arranged by the employee / candidate in the order of their importance), a graphical scale (the level of intensity of each motivational factor is determined), testing.

Both parties - the employee and the company - approach hiring with their own needs and capabilities. When hiring an employee, the company must fulfill its needs and have enough capabilities to meet the needs of the employee. The employee, in turn, must have sufficient ability to meet the needs of the company. If we consider hiring as cooperation, then as a result, both parties should fully realize their needs and goals. It is possible to assess the possibilities of such cooperation in advance, knowing what the employee can and wants, as well as what the company can and wants. The attention shown to the actual needs of the employee is a serious prerequisite for the formation of an “employee”.

The efficiency of an “employee” will always be higher than that of a “mercenary”.

And who is more in your organization - "mercenaries" or "employees"?


Abraham Maslow. A Theory of Human Motivation // Psychological Review, 1943. N 50.

David C. McClelland. The Two Faces of Power // Journal of International Affairs, 1970, vol. 24.

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