Maslow Theory

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Table of contents

    - Abraham Maslow

    Abraham Maslow was a key theorist behind motivation theory. He developed the hierarchy of needs theory which explains humans' five key needs. This hierarchy of needs can also be applied in the business contex.t

    Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Theory

    Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory is a motivation theory. This theory consists of a hierarchy involving five key levels, following the structure from the bottom to the top:

    • Psychological needs (bottom)
    • Safety
    • Love and belonging
    • Esteem
    • Self-actualisation (Top)

    These steps symbolise employees’ needs. Firstly, the needs at the bottom are the basic and necessary needs that are required to be fulfilled before an individual can aim to achieve needs that are placed at the higher step of the hierarchy.

    These five layers of needs are grouped into three categories. The bottom needs fall into the basic needs category which includes needs essential for human survival. Basic needs include Physiological needs, Safety needs. The psychological needs include Love and belonging and Esteem needs, these are the social needs and sense of belonging in the community. Lastly, the Self-fulfilment category covers the final step of needs called self-actualisation. These needs are not as necessary to fulfil as the basic or psychological needs but once they are fulfilled it will make the individual happier.

    In business, context managers can use this theory to motivate employees by aiming to achieve their needs in hierarchical order. For example, employers first should make sure basic needs are attained before they can seek to satisfy employees’ needs at a higher level.

    Maslow Theory, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory, StudySmarterMaslow’s hierarchy of needs theory, StudySmarter

    Maslow’s Theory of Human Needs

    Maslow’s theory of human needs is represented by the hierarchy system that displays a person’s needs that are required to be met for a human to live a fulfilling life. Human needs include four steps:

    • physiological needs
    • Safety
    • Love and belonging
    • Esteem

    Maslow’s theory of human needs excludes the last step which is self-actualisation. As the final step represents humans reaching their full potential. This step is not achieved by all human beings as achievement of this step is equal to achieving their ideal self. Therefore, it is excluded from the theory of human needs.

    Maslow's Theory of Self-Actualization

    Self-actualisation is the final and highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory. The final stage can only be achieved if all the previous four steps are achieved. As the final stage represents when humans realise their potential and once this step is achieved people can achieve their ‘ideal self’.

    Strengths and Weaknesses of Maslow’s Motivation Theory

    Maslow’s motivation theory encounters both strengths and weaknesses. The key strengths and weaknesses will be identified in this section.

    Advantages of Maslow's hierarchy of needs

    The main advantages of Maslow's hierarchy of needs are:

    • it's simple to understand

    • it acknowledges human nature

    • it's relevant in all fields

    Let go through each strength one by one.

    Simple to understand - Theory is simply presented and very easy to understand. The majority of individuals will be able to emphasise Maslow’s theory. For example, the low-skilled labour’s concern will be to achieve basic needs such as food, shelter and being safe. While the company executive will be mostly focused on achieving the self-actualisation ladder to attain their true potential.

    Acknowledges human nature - Maslow’s theory represents true human nature. As it is human nature that people are always demanding more in terms of seeking to achieve higher needs once the bottom ones are achieved. For example, once basic needs are satisfied such as food, shelter and job security. Humans demand more such as having social relationships, respect and fulfilment of their potential.

    Relevant in all fields - This theory is relevant to the majority of fields. Humans’ priority is to find a way how they can make enough money to buy food. After that comes safety, job security and social needs to meet friends and family.

    Disadvantages of Maslow's hierarchy of needs

    Maslow's hierarchy of needs has two key disadvantages:

    • Maslow’s theory ignores humans’ different cultural and social backgrounds - Therefore, priorities can differ from person to person. For example, some people may value socialising with friends and family more than safety. As well as people may prioritise being respected by society than safety. For example, the family may buy expensive cars and houses to show off to society and gain respect from others than buying insurance safety plans for the family.

    • Fails to take into account that individuals may be motivated by intrinsic rewards - Maslow’s theory fails to acknowledge that humans may be motivated by intrinsic rewards such as reaching monetary accomplishments rather than self-actualisation.

    Cannot be measured empirically - There is no quantitive measure to calculate to what extent individuals are satisfied with each level before they can aim to attain the next level.

    Herzberg's theory of motivation and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory

    Firstly, Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory consists of both motivation and hygiene factors. The motivation factors are implemented to employees to engage and motivate them towards work. While hygiene factors are essential and employees expect to receive them in every workplace.

    Maslow Theory, Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory, StudySmarterHerzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory, StudySmarter

    The key differences between Herzberg’s theory of motivation and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory are:

    • Maslow’s theory focuses on human needs and their satisfaction. While Herzberg’s theory focuses on reward, recognition and employment conditions.

    • Maslow’s theory is presented in form of the level of needs from higher to lower. This shows what needs need to be achieved first before humans can aim to attain higher needs. While Herzberg’s theory does not organise motivation and hygiene factors in a specific order.

    • In Maslow’s theory, basic needs such as physiological needs work as motivators for humans. While in Herzberg’s theory basic needs are ignored and only higher needs are considered as motivators.

    • Maslow’s theory acknowledges that human satisfaction comes from the fulfilment of needs. On the other hand, Herzberg’s theory presents factors that lead employees to satisfaction and dissatisfaction.

    Maslow's Theory - Key Takeaways

    • Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivation theory that includes five hierarchical levels of needs: psychological needs, safety, love and belonging, esteem, self-actualisation.
    • These needs fall into three categories that are: Basic needs - Physiological and safety needs. Psychological needs - Love and belonging and esteem needs. Self-fulfilment - Self-actualisation.
    • The main principle of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory is that the bottom needs should be fulfilled first before a human can seek to attain needs at the higher level.
    • The key advantages of Maslow’s theory are that the theory is simple to understand, acknowledges human nature and is relevant in all fields.
    • The main weaknesses of Maslow’s theory are that it fails to acknowledge that humans come from different cultural and social backgrounds and that people can be motivated by intrinsic rewards. Additionally, achievement of needs can not be measured empirically.
    • The key differences between Herzberg’s and Maslow’s motivation theories are: That Maslow’s theory focuses on achieving human needs while Herzberg’s focuses on reward, recognition and employment conditions. Moreover, Maslow’s theory is organised from basic to higher needs. While Herzberg’s theory does not have a specific structure and only focuses on the higher needs. Maslow’s theory believes that satisfaction comes from the fulfilment of needs, while Herzberg’s theory acknowledges factors that cause satisfaction and dissatisfaction.
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    Frequently Asked Questions about Maslow Theory

    What is Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory?

    Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory states that human behaviour is dictated by 5 categories of needs: 1) Psychological needs 2) Safety 3) Love and belonging 4) Esteem 5) Self-actualisation. 

    What are the basic principles of Maslow's theory?

    The basic principle of Maslow's theory is that the need at the bottom needs should be fulfilled first before humans can aim for needs at the higher level. 

    Why is Maslow's theory important?

    Maslow's theory is important as it acknowledges human nature in an easy way to understand and is thus relevant to all fields. 

    Explain Maslow's need hierarchy theory of motivation

    Master's need hierarchy theory of motivation stated that human motivation is derived from need fulfilment. There are five layers of needs within Maslow's pyramid, grouped into three categories: Basic needs (Physiological and safety needs), Psychological needs (Love & Belonging, Self-esteem), and Self-fulfillment (Self-actualisation).

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    How many steps are there in Maslow's theory? 

    What is the first employee need according to Maslow's theory? 

    What is the second employee need according to Maslow's theory? 

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