Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need Theory: Motivation Theory

Abraham Harold Maslow was born in April 1, 1908 in Brooklyn, New York. He noticed some needs take precedence over others and created a famous hierarchy of needs theory.

As we have already written some ideas about Maslow's Hierarchy of Need Theory in our previous post, here we are writing the more precise ideas of the theory. You can also find some ideas in the following link.


Maslow’s need hierarchy theory is one of the best and well-known theories of motivation. He propounded this theory on the basis of need of the people. He developed the hierarchy of needs model in 1940 – 50s in USA. This theory remains valid today for understanding human motivation, management training, and personal development. 

The need that comes first lies at the bottom of the pyramid of need hierarchy. It means, the lower-ordered needs are experienced first. Under this, physiological needs are included like food, cloth, shelter, sex etc. 

After satisfaction of the lower needs, people go to the high-order needs which can be explained as follows: 
Maslow's Hierarchy of Need Theory

1. Physiological Needs 


Physiological needs are first needs that people want to fulfill. It includes food, cloth, shelter, sex etc. These are also known as basic needs. People want to fulfill these needs for the survival and maintenance (continuation) of human life. Therefore, these needs are first satisfied. It lies at the bottom of the need pyramid which means there are large number of people who wants to fulfill the basic needs. 

2. Safety Needs 


Once the physiological needs are fulfilled, people go for the second needs that is safety or security needs. It includes safety of person, business, job etc. For the safety needs, the insurance benefits highly works. Without satisfying the physiological needs, people cannot imagine to have the safety needs. 

3. Social or Affiliation Needs 


After fulfilling the security needs, the man enters into the next need that is social needs as a man is a social human being. In this part, he needs to have friendship, belongingness, affection, recognition, etc. from the society. Therefore, an organization must work towards fulfilling the social needs. When they are not socially recognized, the two needs that they have already fulfilled become useless or meaningless. 

4. Esteem or Ego Needs 


After fulfilling the social needs, people move to the next level of satisfaction that is ego needs in which people get self-satisfied, self-confidence, self-satisfaction etc. In other words, they want high respect from the public. It makes them feel superior in the society due to recognition, appreciation, power and prestige. 

5. Self-actualization Needs 


It is the final level of satisfaction. According to Maslow, this self-actualization needs lie at the top of the hierarchy. This is the need ‘to be what one is capable of becoming’ and includes needs for optimum development. This implies the desire to become what one can become. In this level, people use their abilities and potentialities fully to realize the need. There are very few people which realize the self-actualization needs. 

The first two needs, physiological and safety or security needs are labeled lower-level needs by Maslow. These needs are finite. A man cannot survive without them and a man will be ready to do anything to satisfy these needs. The rest three needs (social, esteem and self actualization needs) are labeled as higher-order needs. In other words, they are secondary needs. They are infinite but they are satisfied only after lower level needs are satisfied. Lower-level needs dominate higher-ordered needs. However, higher-order needs are dominant factors in motivating people at higher level in the management. 

Assumptions of Maslow’s Motivation Theory 


Maslow’s need hierarchy theory is based on the following propositions or assumptions. 

1. Needs can be arranged in an order or a hierarchy. In this hierarchy, physiological needs are at the lowest and most basic. These needs are followed in ascending order by the safety needs, social needs, esteem needs and self-actualization needs.

2. Maslow separated the five needs into higher level needs and lower level needs. According to him physiological and safety needs are lower level or lower ordered needs whereas social, esteem and self-actualization needs are higher level needs. Maslow believed that lower-level needs are mainly satisfied externally whereas the higher level needs are satisfied internally. 

3. A man is perpetually wanting animal. As soon as one of his wants or needs is satisfied, another appears in its place. This process goes on in every one’s life. 

4. There is always a sequence of emergence of needs. Higher level needs do not emerge or motivate unless all lower level needs have been fairly or minimally satisfied. 

5. The first four needs (Physiological, Safety, Social and Esteem Needs) motivate people by their absence. In other words, when people feel a lack of food, clothing, sex, security, social relationships, respect etc, they are motivated to work. But self-actualization needs motivate people by their presence. 

Advantages/ Merits of Maslow's Hierarchy of Need Theory 

  • It is based on reasonable assumption and has been substantiated by several research studies.
  • It clearly states that a person advances to the next level of the need hierarchy only when the lower level need is minimally or fairly satisfied.
  • It is a dynamic model because it presents motivation as a constantly changing force. It considers that every individual strives for fulfillment of fresh and higher level needs.
  • It is a positive theory. It assumes that man is a healthy, good and creative being, capable of working out his own destiny.
  • It is logical theory because it recognizes that an individual does something to fulfill his diverse needs. 

Disadvantages/ Demerits of Maslow's Hierarchy of Need Theory  

  • Maslow’s theory is based on a small sample of subjects. It is a clinically derived theory which may not be accurate in real life.
  • Human beings are not motivated by their needs alone but also by many other things. Therefore, it is doubtful whether deprivation of a need motivate an individual.
  • There are some who argue that there is no evidence that a satisfied need is not a motivator.
  • It is a simplistic theory and cannot be tested and validated in practice. It lacks empirical testing. It is difficult to interpret and analyze its concepts.

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