Abraham Maslow was a social psychologist who focused on the psychological needs of a person in their entirety, rather than on individual psychological problems. Maslow is best known for his theory, the Hierarchy of Needs. Depicted in a pyramid, the theory explains the different levels and importance of human's psychological and physical needs. At the top of the pyramid is self-actualization, which occurs when a person has fulfilled all of the other levels and reached an ultimate goal or state of accomplishment. The general needs in Maslow’s hierarchy include physiological needs (food and clothing), safety needs (job security), social needs (friendship), self-esteem, and self-fulfillment or actualization. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs can be used by managers to better understand employee motivation and the needs the employee may have in order to be further motivated Figure 1.
The Hierarchy of Needs: Levels
At the bottom of the pyramid are the Basic Needs or Physiological Needs of a human being: food, water, sleep, and sex. The next level is Safety Needs: security, order, and stability. These two levels are important to the physical survival of the person. Once individuals have basic nutrition, shelter, and safety, they attempt to accomplish more. The third level of need is Love and Belonging, which are psychological needs; when individuals have taken care of themselves physically, they are ready to share themselves with others, such as with family and friends.The fourth level is achieved when individuals feel comfortable with what they have accomplished. This is the Esteem level, the need to be competent and recognized, such as through status and level of success. Then there is the Cognitive level, where individuals intellectually stimulate themselves and explore. After that is the Aesthetic level, which is the need for harmony, order, and beauty. At the top of the pyramid, Self-actualization occurs when individuals reach a state of harmony and understanding because they have achieved their full potential. Once a person has reached the self-actualization state they focus on themselves and try to build their own image. They may look at this in terms of feelings such as self-confidence or by accomplishing a set goal.
Hierarchy of Needs and Organizational Theory
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs relates to organizational theory and behavior because it explores a worker’s motivation. For example, some people are prepared to work just for money, but others like going to work because of the friends they have made there, or the fact that they are respected by others and recognized for their good work. One conclusion that can be made from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in the workforce is, “If a lower need is not met, then the higher ones are ignored." For example, if employees are worried that they will be fired, and have no job security, they will be concerned about friendship and respect.
If a need is not met, staff may become very frustrated. For example, if someone works very hard for a promotion and does not achieve the recognition they want, they may become demotivated and put in less effort. When a need is met it will no longer motivate the person, but the next need in the hierarchy will become important to that person.