Motivation may be defined as the process of stimulating people to action to accomplish desired goals. It involves arousing needs and desires in people to initiate and direct their behaviour in a purposive manner.

According to Maslow, motivation is a psychological phenomenon which arises from the feeling of needs and wants of individuals. It causes goal directed behaviour.

According to Abraham Maslow, an eminent psychologist, human needs can be classified into five categories that are arranged according to their importance or priority. They are:- 1. Physiological Needs 2. Security/Safety Needs 3. Social Needs 4. Esteem Needs 5. Self-Actualization Needs.

Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory of Motivation

Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory of Motivation – With Critical Appraisal

Basically, needs are classified into two classes i.e., innate needs and acquired needs. Innate needs are inherent in nature. For example, anger, hunger, sexual desire etc. Innate needs are otherwise called as natural needs. Acquired needs are based upon experience. For example, if a student, in the as neighbourhood, has a ‘Bajaj M80’ vehicle, other students will want to have the same vehicle. This is called acquired need.


Another way of classification of needs are primary needs and secondary needs. The primary needs are necessary to survive and for preservation of life, e.g., food, water, air, etc. Secondary needs are concerned with mind and spirit, e.g., recognition, love, affection, etc.

Dr. Abraham H. Maslow classified the various needs of human beings in a definite order. This order is widely accepted. In this way, Dr. A.H. Maslow was the pioneer in the proper classification of human needs. According to Maslow, human wants are innumerable and never ending. If one want is satisfied, another want emerges in that place.

The satisfied wants do not motivate the workers. Only unsatisfied wants induce the man to work hard. Maslow is of the opinion that wants or needs are satisfied in an order. Hence, Maslow classified needs as lower level needs and higher level needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:


i. Basic Physiological Needs:

The basic physiological needs are concerned with Breeding, shelter, sexual gratification, clothing etc. These needs are inherent in nature. These are necessary both to man and animals. If these needs are not satisfied, other needs will not emerge. Man lives by food alone. These needs are a powerful motivating force than others.

ii. Safety and Security Needs:

Safety and security needs emerge only when the basic physiological needs are satisfied. Safety needs are concerned with physical danger or loss of existing basic physiological needs. Security needs are concerned with loss of job, support, illness and the like. Hence, the workers attempt to get job security, insurance, pensionary benefits and so on.


iii. Belonging and Social Needs:

Man is a social animal. He wants to love and be loved in a society or in a family. Exchange of feelings and grievances, love, sociability, recognition, conversation and belongingness are some of the examples of social needs.

iv. Esteem and Status Needs:

Esteem and status needs are otherwise called ego needs or egoistic needs. Self-confidence, independence, achievement, competence, knowledge, status, recognition and appreciation are some of the examples of esteem and status needs. Most of these are rarely satisfying.


v. Self-Actualisation Needs:

Self-actualisation needs are otherwise called self- realisation needs. Self-actualisation refers to the desire to become everything that one is capable of becoming. For example, a doctor thinks that he is capable of saving the life of a patient. A teacher thinks that he is capable of giving best teaching to students. In other words, a maximum level of excellent performance is done by the individual.

Of the above mentioned five needs, the first three needs (i.e., basic physiological needs, safety and security needs and belonging and social needs) are regarded by Maslow as lower level needs. The remaining two needs (i.e., Esteem and status needs and self-actualisation needs) are regarded as higher level needs by him. The lower level needs are satisfied through monetary and non-monetary compensation. The term non-monetary compensation includes good working conditions, love, recognition, etc.

The higher level needs are satisfied through allowing in decision-making process, delegating authority and responsibility, greater freedom, opportunities for advancement and so on.


Critical Appraisal of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

The hierarchy level of needs help the management to understand the behaviour of workers and motivate them. But Maslow himself accepted that the hierarchy level of needs are not rigid ones and can be changed from one person to another person.

So, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory has the following weaknesses:

i. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is not applicable at all times, in all places and in all circumstances.


ii. Some people do not require social needs because they might have lost love during their childhood.

iii. The level of needs of different people are not equal. The reason is that there is a long experience in the lower level needs. The people of lower level needs may lack ambition and not expect higher level needs.

iv. The perceptions, expectations and experience of an individual are responsible for his behaviour. These do not result in the needs classified by Maslow.

v. A single need cannot motivate any individual. There is a need of several needs to constitute proper motivation.

vi. Some needs do not motivate all the workers. A need may motivate one worker. It may not motive another worker.

Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory of Motivation (With the Need Hierarchy)

The most popular and important content theories of motivation are the Maslow’s Theory. According to Maslow, human needs form a hierarchy, starting at the bottom with the physiological needs and ascending to the highest need of self-actualisation as shown in Fig. 15.6. He says when one set of needs are satisfied, they no longer work as motivators as a man seeks to satisfy the next higher level needs.

The Need Hierarchy:

(i) Physiological Needs:

These are the basic necessities of human life — food, water, warmth, shelter, sleep and sexual satisfaction. Maslow says that until these needs are satisfied to the required level, man does not aim for the satisfaction of the next higher level needs. As far as work organisation is concerned, these needs include basic needs like pay, allowance, incentives and benefits.

(ii) Security/Safety Needs:

These refer to the need to be free of physical danger or the feeling of loss of food, job or shelter. When the physiological needs are satisfied, man starts thinking of the way by which he can continue to satisfy these physiological needs.

Security needs spring up the moment he makes an effort in the direction of providing himself the source of continuity of physiological needs. This is exactly the reason why attitude towards security is an important consideration in choosing the job. These needs as far as work organisation is concerned include: conformity, security plans, membership in unions, severance pay, etc.

(iii) Social Needs (Affiliation or Acceptance Needs):

When the physiological and security needs are satisfied, these social needs begin occupying the mind of a man. This is ‘ exactly why he looks for the association of other human beings and strives hard to be accepted by its group. Social needs at the workplace include- human relations, formal and informal work groups.

(iv) Esteem Needs:

These needs are power, prestige, status and self-confidence. Every man has a feeling of importance and he wants others to regard him highly. These needs make people aim high and make them achieve something great. These needs for employees include status symbols, awards, promotions, titles, etc.

(v) Self-Actualization Needs:

This is the highest need in the hierarchy. This refers to the desire to become what one is capable of becoming. Man tries to maximize his potential and accomplish something, when this need is activated in him.

The individuals proceed from physiological needs to safety needs and so on and so forth only when each need is satisfied. If any need is not satisfied, the individual sticks to that need and strives to fulfill that need.

Critical Analysis of Malsow’s Theory- The first question that arises is, “Do needs follow hierarchy?” Studies and surveys conducted by experts reveal that needs do follow hierarchy to some extent. But it should be remembered that it cannot be generalised in the sense that needs do not necessarily follow the same hierarchy among all people at all times. It also depends on the cultural values and personality of the individuals and their environment. But it is true that psychological needs would emerge only after the physiological needs are satisfied.

Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory of Motivation – With Criticism

Abraham H. Maslow was an eminent US psychologist. He developed a general theory of motivation called the “Need hierarchy theory”. This theory is based on the needs of the people. Human needs have a certain priority. When the basic needs are satisfied a person seeks to fulfil the higher level needs.

Maslow proposed a hierarchy of five types of needs:

1. Physiological needs -These are basic necessities of life such as, food, shelter, clothing, water, air, etc. According to this theory, once these basic needs are satisfied, they no longer motivate.

2. Safety or security needs – When the physiological needs are satisfied, the next level in the hierarchy is the safety or security needs. These needs include economic security and protection from physical dangers. In order to satisfy these needs, the entrepreneur requires more money and he is motivated to work more.

3. Social or affiliation needs – Man is a social animal and he has to interact with others. All individuals want to be recognized and accepted by others. Likewise, an entrepreneur is motivated to interact with his fellow entrepreneurs, his employees, and others.

4. Esteem Needs -The fourth level of needs includes needs for recognition, status, self-esteem and self-respect. In the case of entrepreneurs, the ownership and control over the enterprise satisfy their esteem needs by providing them with status, respect, reputation and independence.

5. Self-actualization needs – This top level need represents the culmination of all human needs, such as growth, achievement and advancement. Self-actualization is the fulfilment of all the objectives. An entrepreneur will be successful only when he achieves this level.

In this theory, Maslow arranges the needs from the lowest to the highest hierarchy. In this hierarchy, the second need will dominate only when the first need is reasonably satisfied, and the third need will arise only when the second need is satisfied. This process continues till the last need is met with. Once a need is satisfied, it ceases to be a motivating factor.


Maslow’s theory of needs received a wide recognition.

Yet, this theory is criticised on the following grounds:

1. Priority of needs as given by Maslow may change in accordance with time, place and circumstances.

2. This approach does not give due consideration to the relationship between different types of needs.

3. The theory gives an over simplification of human needs and motivation.

4. The hierarchy of needs is not always fixed. Different people may have different order of needs.

5. There is no definite evidence that once a need is satisfied it loses its motivating force.

Despite these limitations, Maslow’s theory is quite relevant.

Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory of Motivation – With Illustration

The most widely accepted need, classification scheme was proposed by Abraham Maslow over a century ago. His list of needs covers most of the dimensions that psychologists have found to be important. Maslow hypothesized that within every human being there exists a hierarchy of five needs.

These are:

i. Physiological – Includes hunger, thirst, shelter, sex and other bodily needs.

ii. Safety – Includes security and protection from physical and emotional harm.

iii. Love – Includes affection, belongingness, acceptance and friendship.

iv. Esteem – Includes internal esteem factors such as self-respect, autonomy and achievement. Also includes external esteem factors such as status, recognition and attention.

v. Self-actualization – It is the drive to become what one is capable of becoming, includes growth, achieving one’s potential and self-fulfillment.

As each of these needs become substantially satisfied, the next need becomes dominant.

The theory can be illustrated as:

From the standpoint of motivation, the theory would say that although no need is ever fully gratified, a substantially satisfied need no longer motivates. Maslow separated the five needs into higher and lower levels.

Physiological and safety needs were described as lower order and love, esteem and self- actualization as higher order needs. The differentiation between the 2 orders was made on the premise that higher order needs are satisfied internally to the person, whereas lower order needs are predominantly satisfied externally (by such things as money, wages, union contracts and tenure).

Maslow’s need theory has received wide recognition, particularly among practicing managers. This can be attributed to the theory’s intuitive logic and ease of understanding. Unfortunately, however, research does not generally validate the theory.

Maslow provided no empirical substantiation and several studies that sought to validate the theory found no support.

Old theories, especially ones that are intuitively logical, apparently die-hard. One researcher reviewed the evidence and concluded that “although of great societal popularity, need hierarchy as a theory continues to receive little empirical support”.

Further, the researcher stated that the available research should certainly generate a reluctance to accept unconditionally the implication of Maslow’s hierarchy.

Another review came to the same conclusion. Little support was found for the prediction that need structure are organised along the dimensions proposed by Maslow; the predictions of a negative relationship between the levels of need gratification and the activation of that next higher need. But, remember that there is a difference between finding “insufficient evidence” for a theory and labeling it “invalid”.

It is clear that the available research does not support the Maslow theory to any significant degree. This does not imply that the theory is wrong, merely that it has not been supported.

Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory of Motivation – With Assumptions

Motivation may be defined as the process of stimulating people to action to accomplish desired goals. It involves arousing needs and desires in people to initiate and direct their behaviour in a purposive manner. According to Maslow, motivation is a psychological phenomenon which arises from the feeling of needs and wants of individuals. It causes goal directed behaviour.

Following are the five types of needs which govern human motivation:

(a) Physiological needs – These needs are basic for human survival and include need for food, water, air, shelter, sleep, thirst, sex, etc.

(b) Security or Safety needs – These are the needs for physical safety as well as psychological security and include safety of person and property, security of job and need for a predictable, secure and safe environment.

(c) Social needs/Affiliation/Belonging needs – These are needs for belongingness, friendship, love, affection, attention and social acceptance.

(d) Esteem or ego needs – Self-esteem needs include needs for self-respect, self- confidence, competence, autonomy and knowledge. These are related to reputation, prestige, power, status, recognition and respect for others.

(e) Self-actualisation needs – This is the need ‘to be what one is capable of becoming’ and includes need for optimal development of potential abilities, knowledge and skills, need to be creative and achieve self-fulfilment.

According to Maslow, these needs are related to one another and are arranged in an order of hierarchy of prepotency.


(a) Urge to fulfil needs is a main factor in motivation of people at work.

(b) Human needs arise in a particular structure or hierarchy.

(c) Lower level needs must at least particularly be satisfied before higher level needs emerge.

(d) Another need emerges as soon as one need is satisfied.

(e) A satisfied need is not a motivator.

Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory of Motivation

People go to work in order to satisfy their needs and aspirations. These needs are not constant but change according to circumstances, status, environment, society, groups and so forth. Maslow argued that as one’s need is met, then the individual moves on to the next need.

First of all, the individual has the basic physiological needs such as food, shelter and clothing and he works in order to satisfy these needs. Once these needs are satisfied, the individual moves to a higher plane of needs.

Secondly, an individual has safety needs such as security and protection-the need to provide a safe and secure physical and emotional environment, an environment that is free from threats to continued existence.

Security A threat of losing one’s job certainly does not enhance motivation. Level 2 is not limited to job security. It also includes having privacy on the job such as being able to lock one’s office door (or) having lockable storage for personal items as well as having safe work environment that may include ergonomic adjustable furniture.

Once these needs are met, the individual moves on to satisfy the third type of needs called social needs or “belongingness needs”. These needs relate to one’s desire for social acceptance and friendship.

Social Since we are all social animals, Level 3 (social) relates to our need to belong. Cutting someone out of the group is an effective punishment. Giving an individual the opportunity to be part of the group by feeling important and needed will motivate that person.

The fourth type of needs is self-respect and self-esteem. The esteem needs focus on one’s desire to have a positive image to receive recognition, attention and appreciation from others for one’s contribution.

Esteem everyone, regardless of position (or) job assignment, wants to be recognised as a person of value to the organisation. Wherever possible, employees should be given offices (or) personal spaces. Business cards, workspace size, and office protocols also provide employees with a certain level of self-esteem within an organisation.

The last types of needs are those of self-fulfillment and self-actualisation for realising the fullest stature. People who have become self-actualised are self-fulfilled and have realized their full potential. Self-actualisation is an individual’s motivation to transform the perception of self into reality.

Self-actualisation says that individuals must be given the opportunity to go on as far as their abilities take them. Many organisations have a policy of promoting from within.

Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory of Motivation – Physical Needs, Safety Needs, Social Needs, Esteem Needs and Self-Actualisation Needs

According to Abraham Maslow, an eminent psychologist, human needs can be classified into five categories that are arranged according to their importance or priority. This arrangement of needs in a hierarchical order is known as Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory.

The five categories of needs are namely:

(i) Physical needs,

(ii) Safety needs,

(iii) Social needs,

(iv) Esteem needs and

(v) Self-actualisation needs.

(i) Physical Needs:

These are the basic needs which are required for the survival of human beings, e.g., food, clothes, shelter, etc. physical security refers to protection against risks like fire, accidents, torture, etc. Economic security denotes consistent availability of money so as to satisfy one’s basic needs.

(ii) Safety Security Needs:

These needs refer to the need for physical security, economic security and social security. Social security refers to social support during old age or during any other physical deformity.

(iii) Social Needs:

These needs are the needs for love, affection, sense of belonging, etc. These needs are satisfied by belonging to a family, having friends or feeling a part of society. In all organisations, people tend to form informal groups for the fulfilment of such needs. Moreover, by fostering team spirit and harmony among employees, the managers enable people to satisfy their social needs and create an amicable work environment.

(iv) Esteem Needs:

Esteem needs relate to self-respect for oneself and status of self in the eyes of others. Satisfaction of esteem needs boosts the morale of sense of employees and stimulates them to give better performances. Therefore, every organisation should give recognition and challenging jobs to high achievers.

(v) Self-Actualisation Needs:

This need reflects the inner desire of an individual for personal satisfaction. According to Maslow, “Self-actualisation needs are the desire to become everything one is capable of becoming.” Providing greater freedom and flexibility to operate to potential employees can help the employees satisfy this need.

Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory of Motivation – With Evaluation

Since motivation is highly complex, many researchers have studied about motivation from several dimensions and developed some theories. These theories help to develop understanding about motivation phenomenon. Among these Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory is considered fundamental to understanding of motivation.

The main points of Maslow’s theory are as follow:

i. Man is a perpetually wanting animals and his needs are never fully satisfied. As soon as one need is satisfied another need takes its place.

ii. Human needs differ in importance.

iii. Satisfied needs do not motivate behaviour.

iv. The lower order needs are more finite than the higher level needs.

According to Maslow’s human needs can be classified into five categories:

i. Basic/Physiological Needs – These needs are more basic in the hierarchy and corresponds to primary needs. Hunger, thirst, shelter, sleep and sex are some examples of the basic needs.

ii. Safety/Security needs – These needs refer to physical safety or protection etc.

iii. Social needs – Man is a social beings. Therefore, he has a need to belong and to be accepted by others. These needs include need for love and affection etc.

iv. Esteem/Ego needs – These include factors such as – self-respect, autonomy, status, recognition and attention.

v. Self-actualization needs – It is the highest level of need in the hierarchy. It refers to drive to become what one is capable of becoming. These needs include growth, self fulfilment and achievement of goals.

These needs are arranged in a hierarchy of importance. Physiological and safety needs are basic or primary needs as they must be satisfied first.

A hungry person thinks of food and dreams about food till his hunger is satisfied. Once lower level needs are satisfied, man requires satisfaction of higher level needs. This process remains continue from birth to death. Man is, therefore, a wanting animal. The motivation of a person depends on what a person already has. Bread motivates a person so long as he does not have enough bread.

The moment his hunger is satisfied, this need is not motivator of behaviour. This shows that manager should always be on the lookout for the unsatisfied needs of his subordinates so that he can motivate them by offering opportunities for the satisfaction of such needs.

The above classification of human needs is by no means rigid. A person may try to satisfy more than one need at one time. Similarly, the level at which a person will feel satisfied in respect to a particular need will vary from one individual to another. A manager can satisfy lower level (physiological, safety and social) needs by providing good pay, job security, cohesive work groups, etc.

Evaluation of Maslow’s Theory:

The classification of human needs is an aid in thinking and understanding of human behaviour. It has gained wide acceptance. The value of Maslow’s theory lies in the fact that satisfied needs are no longer motivators and managers must satisfy the higher level needs of his subordinates once they have gained responsible satisfaction of lower level needs. According to the need hierarchy theory, managers at all levels must be sensitive to the changing needs of their subordinates so as to provide an environment for the satisfaction of their dominant needs.

But this theory suffers from certain limitations. First, human needs cannot be classified into rigid and watertight categories. Secondly, a person often seeks to satisfy more than one need at a time. He does not wait for the complete satisfaction of a lower level need before seeking the gratification of higher level need. Maslow’s theory fails to explain this phenomenon of multiple motivation. It is also not proper to call needs as low and high.

The need priority order cannot be generalised as it depends on the cultural values and personality of the individuals. What is high level need to Indian workers may be a lower level need to the workers in USA? The importance of needs also varies from one individual to another. In some people the need for self-esteem is stronger than that for love on affection.

Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory of Motivation – With Application and Conclusion

In 1943 Abraham Maslow developed the hierarchy of needs, which suggests that individual needs exist in a hierarchy consisting of physiological needs, security needs, belongingness needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs.

(i) Physiological needs are the most basic needs for food, water, and other factors necessary for survival,

(ii) Security needs include needs for safety in one’s physical environment, stability, and freedom from emotional distress,

(iii) Belongingness needs relate to desires for friendship, love, and acceptance within a given community of individuals,

(iv) Esteem needs are those associated with obtaining the respect of one’s self and others,

(v) Finally, self-actualisation needs are those corresponding to the achievement one’s creative capacities, and, in general, to becoming the best person one can possible be. Unsatisfied needs motivate behaviour, thus, lower-level needs such as – the physiological and security needs must be met before upper-level needs such as – belongingness, esteem, and self-actualisation can be motivational.

In short, Maslow’s significant and widely used contribution was to class human needs in the form of a hierarchy. When one set of needs is fulfilled it ceases to become a moti­vator and people move up to the next level. If a manager can understand which level his employees are at, then he or she can better understand how best to motivate them.

Maslow also spawned thinking in terms of people focus and task focus. His work continues to in­form lots of employee surveys and checklists. However, Maslow’s theory has been widely criticised, however, for assuming that such needs are universal and that they are always ordered in this particular hierarchy.

Application of Maslow’s Theory:

Applications of the hierarchy of needs to management and the workplace are obvious. According to the implication of the hierarchy, individuals must have their lower level needs met by, for example, safe working conditions, adequate pay to take care of one’s self and one’s family, and job security before they will be motivated by increased job responsibilities, status, and challenging work assignments.

Synopsis for Learning – The Ordering of Needs:

In short, according to Maslow, teams and groups give us a sense of belonging. Maslow believed there is a hierarchy of human needs. Once people have met the most basic needs — the physiological ones such as – hunger and thrust — they move to the next – security. When these needs are satisfied, people progress to the third basic needs – a sense of belonging. Once this is met, people will proceed towards increasing self-esteem through achievement and ultimately towards self-actualisation, by using their inner talents with creativity.


When Maslow’s theory is applied to the workplace, working in groups and gaining a sense of belonging make employees more efficient and productive. With the need to belong already addressed, individuals are in a position to focus on other things such as – (i) a derive for achievement and (ii) and the expression of inner targets. Both are fruit-bearing in nature. In this way, the movement through the stages of satisfying human needs can benefit a firm (or an organisation).


Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory of Motivation – With Application of Maslow’s Theory at Work

The theory of motivation was first propounded by Abraham H. Maslow an American psychologist and is called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. According to the theory, human needs can be classified into five categories and arranged in order of their importance.

They are:

1. Survival or Physiological Needs – These are the most basic needs that are vital for the human beings survival. These are the need for water, air, food and sleep. These needs are the most basic and instinctive needs. All other needs become secondary until these physiological needs are not met.

2. Safety or Security Needs – These include the requirement for safety and security. Security needs are important for survival. However, they are not as urgent and demand­ing as the physiological needs. The need for employment, health care and shelter from the perceived dangers are some examples of safety and security needs.

3. Social or Affiliation Needs – These include the need for belonging, love and affection. These needs are less demanding than physiological and security needs. Affilia­tions, friendships, families, social, community and religious involvement help to fulfill these needs.

4. Self-Esteem Needs – The need to feel recognised by the society. Esteem needs become important only after the first three needs have been met. These include the need for self-esteem, personal worth, social recognition and accomplishment.

5. Self-Actualisation Needs – The need for spiritual and mental development is the highest need of all human beings.

Application of Maslow’s Theory at Work:

We can categories Maslow’s theory into two broad categories specified as under:

1. Deficiency needs- These include safety and physiological needs.

2. Development or growth needs- These will include belonging, self-esteem and self- actualisation needs.

When we apply Maslow’s theory to the workplace, we find that a manager’s bottom responsibility is to make sure that the employees get fair and acceptable wages and a safe and secure work environment. It is the management’s responsibility to give people the environment in which the employees grow, there by motivating them to deliver the best performance at work.

On the contrary, when the employees are given inadequate wages or an unhealthy work environment, it results in frustration on part of the workers and thus leads to substandard output due to poor performance.


Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory of Motivation – With Critical Appreciation

Abraham Maslow (1908-1970), an American psychologist, viewed the motivation of human beings as arising from levels of a hierarchy of needs. According to him, the needs underlying human motivation can be organized on five general levels, from lowest to highest. He regards these needs as preponent; that is, as one need is satisfied, the next need level comes into play.

The hierarchy of five needs is as follows:

(1) Physiological Needs:

This includes need for food, shelter, clothing, relief from pain and the like. In short, all bodily needs that are basic for survival.

(2) Safety and Security Needs:

This includes need for protection from physical and emotional harm and the need for job security.

(3) Social or Belongingness Needs:

This includes the need for affection, friendship, acceptance, and for identification with a group or an organization.

(4) Esteem Needs:

This includes internal esteem factors such as self- respect, autonomy, and achievement; as well as external esteem factors such as status, recognition, attention and appreciation.

(5) Self-Actualization Needs:

This is the highest level need. Maslow defines this as the tendency for a person to become everything that he is capable of becoming. It includes growth, achieving one’s potential, and self-fulfilment. It is a growth need.

Maslow considers man as a “wanting” animal. As one need is substantially satisfied, the next need becomes dominant. Thus, needs are satisfied in a sequence.

Maslow believes that although no need is ever fully gratified, a substantially satisfied need no longer motivates. So if a manager wants to motivate his subordinate, according to Maslow, he needs to understand what level of the hierarchy that subordinate is currently on and focus on satisfying those needs at or above that level.

Maslow has separated the five needs into higher and lower orders. Physiological and safety/security needs are described as lower-order; and social, esteem, and self-actualization as higher-order needs.

This differentiation between the two orders has been made on the premise that higher-order needs are satisfied internally (within the person), whereas lower- order needs are predominantly satisfied externally (by such things as money wages, union contracts, and tenure). Lower order needs are primarily satisfied through economic rewards whereas higher-order needs are primarily satisfied through psychological and social rewards.

Maslow’s need hierarchy model essentially says that gratified needs are not as strongly motivating as unmet needs. That is, employees are more enthusiastically motivated by what they are seeking than by what they already have.

Critical Appreciation of Maslow’s Model:

Maslow’s need hierarchy model is a land mark in the field of motivation. It presents nature and priority of needs. This hierarchical concept of needs helps the management in understanding human behaviour of people at work. Maslow’s approach is very simple and direct. However, it has some limitations.

The model may not apply at all times in all places and in all circumstances. It may not follow the sequence as postulated by Maslow. Maslow himself realized that there would be some exceptions to his general theory of human development. Some creative artists are so immersed in their work that they fail to satisfy their lower-level needs for food, health, and safety, although they are obviously self-actualized.

Maslow’s theory has received wide recognition due to its intuitive logic and ease of understanding. However, research does not validate this theory. Maslow provided no empirical substantiation, and several studies that sought to validate the theory found no support for it. Researchers face some practical problems like how to measure self-actualization to test this theory.

Maslow’s model does not take into account the individual differences in the intensity of various needs. Cultural, religious, environmental influences play a major role in determining the need priority in various countries. Educated employees usually like challenging jobs whereas less educated people prefer routine and standardized jobs.

While the model may apply to managers and professional employees in developed countries like U.K. and USA, surveys in Japan and continental European countries show that the model does not apply to the managers. In India, the economic conditions of workers are not satisfactory, so they prefer to satisfy their lower order needs i.e. physiological and safety needs.

Inspite of these limitations, Maslow’s theory has useful practical implications for managers. It offers them a good conceptual scheme to understand and deal with issues of employee motivation at workplace.

People are motivated by unfulfilled needs and simply giving them more of something of which they already have enough is likely to be unproductive. To follow through Maslow’s ideas, management must motivate the workforce by establishing the level at which unfulfilled needs are operating and gear their incentive schemes to that point. For instance, developing autonomous workgroups or even giving a job a new title to increase the prestige of the job holder can work well.

Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory of Motivation – 5 Categories of Human Needs

One of the most widely recognised theory of motivation has been put forth by eminent American psychologist Abraham H. Maslow known as – “need hierarchy theory”. Maslow saw human needs in the form of hierarchy, developed from lower level need to higher level needs.

He felt that “needs have a particular level of domination”, i.e., until first need is satisfied, second does not dominate. He deciphered that in order to be a motive, a particular need must be unsatisfied and the moment it is satisfied, it ceases to be a motivator.

The Maslow’s theory, while putting human needs in a hierarchical pattern of importance, divides them in the following categories:

i. Physiological Needs:

These are the most basic needs necessary for survival of human life. These are also called biological or survival needs. These include need for food, water, shelter and clothing. Physiological needs are the very first category of needs which are to be satisfied above all other needs.

Rather if physiological needs are not satisfied, any other thing ceases to be a need under consideration and therefore as a motivator as well. Physiological needs although remains needs forever but they act as motivator only for a short life. For example, we need food every day but desire for food may act as a motivation to do something only for a very short period of time.

ii. Security or Safety Needs:

The second level of Maslow’s need hierarchy pyramid is the safety and security needs. Once physiological needs are reasonably satisfied and their fulfillment is no longer an attraction, at this stage another category of needs emerges, i.e., wanting to be free from any physical dangers and having an economic and job security. Thus, at this level, the prime concern of an employee is to be safe and secure. These needs may not be very explicit but demands a desire to be fulfilled and thus becoming a motivator.

iii. Social Needs:

Man is a social being. After satisfaction of basic materialistic needs, desire to be affiliated emerges. These needs are in the form of desire to belong to a group, need to be accepted by others, need for acknowledgement, love and affection from others, etc.

These needs basically arise to satisfy the emotional quotient of people. Although these needs are not necessary for survival, still they play an important role in individual’s life. For example, having a group of friends at workplace may act as a strong motivator and increase efficiency.

iv. Esteem and Status Needs:

Climbing up the ladder of need hierarchy, next category of needs is esteem and status needs. Once associational need is satisfied, human beings now want appreciation and recognition both by self and others. Moving from social needs to esteem needs may not be clearly visible.

Esteem needs create a demand for prestige, self-confidence, recognition, power and status. There is a very thin line of visibility in Stage 3 and Stage 4 of Maslow’s pyramid. Thus, this posits a challenge for the management to identify which stage an employee is at and accordingly use motivators.

v. Self-Actualisation Need:

Maslow describes this as the highest and ultimate need in the need hierarchy. Reaching at this level takes a lot of time and it is quite possible that people may not climb up to this level of needs in the pyramid. Self-actualisation refers to becoming what one is capable of becoming.

Critical Appraisal of Maslow’s Need Hierarchy:

Although, Maslow’s theory is widely recognised and has gained extensive popularity, but when put to practical application, following limitations and contradictions were observed:

i. Need Hierarchy cannot be Generalised:

Each and every individual cannot be governed by same set of need order. For some people, safety need may be supreme, even above physiological needs. For others, having a status symbol may come on top.

ii. Needs cannot be Prioritised in Watertight Compartments:

It is very difficult to demarcate the fulfillment of one need, it being ceased as a motivator and simultaneously other unsatisfied need stepping in. Needs may not be satisfied one at a time. It is very difficult to divide needs into clear and specific demarcations. Normally, need satisfaction is an overlapping phenomenon.

iii. Broadly, Two Levels of Needs:

Practically speaking, needs can be bifurcated into two broad segments, viz., basic needs and other needs. Basic needs are lower level needs and then higher order needs. One can accept the order of occurrence of these two needs one after the other. In higher order needs, it may take any order and preference of satisfaction.

iv. Satisfied Need may not Cease to be a Motivator:

There is no evidence that once a need is satisfied, it ceases to be a motivator. This is primarily because we cannot gauge the level of satisfaction. It may be partial satisfaction or temporary satisfaction and thus desire for that need is continued. Also, it is also doubtful that satisfaction of one need automatically activates another set of needs. Desires and wants depend a lot on nature of individuals, one person may be very aspiring and another may be satisfying in nature.