Abraham Maslow was an influential psychologist whose refreshing take on understanding motivation took a complete shift from prior perspectives from those of Freud, Pavlov and other pioneers of the behavioural and psychoanalytic movement. Abraham Maslow’s Rperspective of human behaviour focused on both environmental and internal drives in individuals. The most unique part of his theory is that it was originally never proved using scientific measures but there is no way to invalidate his theory. We can add value and variables but they are prevalent irrespective of the culture and geographical changes.

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What is Maslow’s theory on the hierarchy of needs?

Organization behaviour (OB) Psychologists have studied his theory at full length in the workplace to establish the relevance and importance of his theory.

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Maslow’s theory originally had five levels of motivation:

  • 1) Individuals first meet basic needs. They are essentially food, clothing and shelter. They are universal requirements for the survival of any organism.

  • 2) Next is the security needs where people are required to feel physically secure. They want to be safe in their surroundings. Paying rent or loans on time, not being evicted from homes, and thieves not disturbing the serene peace of the house are instances where people feel safe and secure in their homes.

  • 3) Once people feel physically secure and have access and capacity to resources and security, they look for prospective social lives. Humans are social beings, they prefer building relationships and required social chains to sustain themselves in the environment. They like receiving attention and value from others in the community. In this stage, people cultivate and build habits of social responsibility and human development.

  • 4) Human beings now have a stable social life, but this is where their cognitive component interacts with the social environment. They wish to be respected and valued by the members of society. Based on the other's valuation of them, they slowly build self-esteem and locus of control. An extremely social and popular person may have higher self-esteem compared to a person who has a limited social life. Though self-esteem is not limited to external validation but is definitely a contributing factor for the same.

  • 5) The last need in the original theory is self-actualization where cognitive processes are in full control. When an individual undergoes the process of self-actualization, they question, introspect and relive their entire life experiences using memory. They make decisions on satisfied they are in life based on their interactions with others, how secure and safe they felt etc.

Implementing Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs at the workplace:

The relationship between the hierarchy of needs and the workplace engagement of employees is intricately woven between each other. Employees at the workplace actively engage in their work that could stem from a motivation which ranges from maintaining their current lifestyles to adding purpose and meaning to their lives. Employees who have started their careers are more focused on building security and managing their finance to be independent and self-sufficient. Employees with experience and expertise may look for increments in salaries and managerial positions. Managers and higher executives may look toward diversifying the growth of the company to build an ecosystem of financial sustenance.

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Relevance of motivation in the workplace:

Any successful company, be it a startup or BIG 4 company, run on the productivity and capacity of skills engagement by the employees. When employees experience motivation and work in their element, productive, quality work is delivered with maximum efficiency. The management and Human Resource Department are saddled with the task of boosting morale in the workplace. Through the Hierarchy of Needs, most workplaces are able to identify the primary sources of motivation among employees. Bonuses, promotions and increments are exclusively meaningful and valuable to people who ideally are extrinsically motivated which coincides with the first three levels of the hierarchy of needs, whereas people who strive to make a difference through their work are intrinsically motivated. Though tangible perks and salary are essential they are not driven by monetary success. They improve the effects of their work by working on their goals.

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs are relevant in current times of OB and through more research, organizational psychologists could potentially merge twenty-first-century skills with Maslow's theory of motivation.