Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Explanation of the Hierarchy of Needs Model (1 of 2)
It can argued that the behavior of an individual at a particular moment is usually determined by his or her strongest need. It would seem significant, therefore, for managers (and subordinates?) to have some understanding about the needs that are commonly most important to people.
An interesting and useable framework that helps explain the strength of certain needs was developed by Abraham Maslow.
According to Maslow, there seems to be a hierarchy into which human needs arrange themselves, as illustrated in Figure 1.
The physiological needs are shown at the top of the hierarchy because they tend to have the highest strength until they are somewhat satisfied. These are the basic human needs to sustain life itself-food, clothing, shelter. Until these basic needs are satisfied to the degree needed for the sufficient operation of the body, the majority of a persons activity will probably be at this level, and the others will provide little motivation.
But what happens to a persons motivation when these basic needs begin to be fulfilled? Rather than physiological needs, other levels of needs become important, and these motivate and dominate the behavior of the individual. And when these needs are somewhat satiated, other needs emerge, and so on down the hierarchy.
Safety, or Security Needs
Once physiological needs become gratified, the safety, or security, needs become predominant, as illustrated in Figure 2. (Available in the PDF version)
These needs are essentially the need to be free of the fear of physical danger and deprivation of the basic physiological needs.
In other words, this is a need for self-preservation. In addition to the here and now, there is a concern for the future.
Will people be able to maintain their property and/or job so they can provide food and shelter tomorrow and the next day? If an individual's safety or security is in danger, other things seem unimportant.
Social or Affiliation Needs
Once physiological and safety needs are fairly well satisfied, social or affiliation will emerge as dominant in the need structure, as illustrated in Figure 3 (available in the PDF version.)
Since people are social beings, they have a need to belong and to be accepted by various groups.
When social needs become dominant, a person will strive for meaningful relations with others.
After individuals begin to satisfy their need to belong, they generally want to be more than just a member of their group. They then feel the need for esteem- both self-esteem and recognition from others, as seen in Figure 4 (available in the PDF version.)
Most people have a need for a high evaluation of themselves that is firmly based in reality- recognition and respect from others. Satisfaction of these esteem needs produces feelings of self-confidence, prestige, power, and control. People begin to feel that they are useful and have some effect on their environment.
There are other occasions, though, when people are unable to satisfy their need for esteem through constructive behavior. When this need is dominant an individuals may resort to disruptive or immature behaviour; a child may throw a temper tantrum, employees may engage in work restriction or arguments with their coworkers or boss.
Thus, recognition is not always obtained through mature or adaptive behavior. It is sometimes garnered by disruptive and irresponsible actions.
In fact, some of the social problems we have today may have their roots in the frustration of esteem needs.
Once esteem needs begin to be adequately satisfied, the self-actualization needs become more pre potent, as shown in Figure 5 (available in the PDF version.) Self actualization is the need to maximize one's potential, whatever it may be. A musician must play music, a poet must write, a general must win battles, a professor must teach.
As Maslow expressed it, "What a man can be, he must be." Thus, self-actualization is the desire to become what one is capable of becoming. Individuals satisfy this need in different ways. In one person it may be expressed in the desire to be an ideal mother; in another it may be expressed in managing an organization; in another it may be expressed athletically; in still another by playing the piano.
In combat, a soldier may put his life on the line and rush a machine-gun nest in an attempt to destroy it, knowing full well that his chances for survival are low. He is not doing it for affiliation or recognition, but rather for what he thinks is important. In this case, you may consider the soldier to have self-actualized; to be maximizing the potential of what is important to him at that time.
The way self-actualization is expressed can change over the life cycle. For example, a self-actualized athlete may eventually look for other areas in which to maximize potential as his or her physical attributes change over time or as his or her horizons broaden.
In addition, the hierarchy does not necessarily follow the pattern described by Maslow. It was not his intent to say that this hierarchy applies universally. Maslow felt this was a typical pattern that operates most of the time. He realized, however, that there were numerous exceptions to this general tendency.
For example, the Indian leader, Mahatma Gandhi, frequently sacrificed his physiological and safety needs for the satisfaction of other needs when India was striving for independence from Great Britain.
In his historic fasts, Gandhi went weeks without nourishment to protest governmental injustices. He was operating at the self-actualization level while some of his other needs were unsatisfied.