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Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory

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  • Last Updated : 19 Aug, 2022
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Behind every successful organisation, there is a highly motivated and committed team of employees. Since motivation is complex as it deals with human behaviour, various researchers have given different theories. Maslow’s theory is considered very significant as it highlights the needs of the people. Abraham Maslow was an eminent U.S. psychologist. He categorised human needs into five types.

  1. Basic Physiological Needs: These needs are basic for the survival of humans, and include hunger, thirst,
    shelter, sleep, sex, etc. These needs form the base of the hierarchy and have the highest strength in terms of motivation. Salary and other monetary incentives are the basic physiological needs in the context of organisational needs.
     
  2. Safety or Security Needs: After satisfying the basic physiological needs, an individual thinks about safety from future uncertainties and other threats. Safety and security needs aim to ensure that the person will be able to meet the physiological needs not only in present but also in future. It includes motivators like benefits of life insurance, pension plans, job security, etc.
    Safety and security needs are concerned with two kinds of securities:
    a) Physical Security: It includes security against death, injury, illness and other bodily threats.
    b) Financial Security: It includes security of job and congenial working conditions.
     
  3. Social or Affiliation or Belonging Needs: When physiological and safety needs are satisfied, social needs are important. These include need for love, friendship, affection and social interaction. The need for belongingness and acceptance plays a very important role in motivating human behaviour. The formation of informal groups in the workplace is an example of social or belonging needs.
     
  4. Esteem Needs: After social needs, satisfaction of esteem needs is important as per Maslow’s theory. These needs relate to the desire for recognition and respect from others. Esteem needs include autonomy status, attention, appreciation from others or prestige in society. Generally, employees at a higher level are motivated by such needs.
     
  5. Self Actualisation Needs: These include needs of becoming what one really wants to become. These needs inspire and motivate a person to develop himself to his maximum potential. Therefore, they are placed at the top of the need hierarchy. These include growth, self-fulfilment and achievement of goals. Challenging jobs, opportunities for innovation, etc., are motivators, which help to satisfy the self-actualisation needs of an individual. 

Assumptions of Maslow’s Theory

Maslow’s Theory is based on the following assumptions:

  1. People’s behaviour is based on needs. Fulfillments of needs decide the behaviour. When needs are fulfilled, an individual behaves positively and behaves negatively when the needs are not fulfilled.
  2. People are motivated by unfulfilled needs, and once a particular need is satisfied, it ceases to be a motivating factor. Therefore, motivation ends with the satisfaction of needs, after that next higher need serves as a motivator.
  3. An individual’s needs start from basic and go to other higher level needs. Therefore, we can say that people’s needs are in hierarchical order. 
  4. An individual moves to the next higher level of the hierarchy only when the lower needs are satisfied. 

Merits of Maslow’s Theory

The merits of Maslow’s theory are as follows:

  1. It is simple, concise and informative.
  2. It gives an idea to the managers about the importance of satisfaction of employee’s needs.
  3. It has gained wide acceptance. 

Limitations of Maslow’s Theory

The limitations of Maslow’s theory are as follows:

  1. The needs may not always follow the hierarchy as stated by Maslow. 
  2. A person may want to satisfy several needs at the same time.
  3. It is not always possible to categorise human needs as given by Maslow.

Criticism of Maslow’s Theory 

This theory has been criticised by some writers. The need may not follow the sequence as stated by Maslow. The hierarchy of needs may be different for different kinds of people. For example, in the case of an army soldier, his needs would be different and his needs may become the dominant motivation force even before lower order needs are satisfied.

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