Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

21. January 2019John Ryding Olsson

How do we perform when we are motivated?

People who are just doing their job aren’t motivated. This may be a bit provokingly put, but David Rees 2000, states that a motivated project team over longer periods achieve a performance well above their usual standard. The motivated group produces more, secures a higher quality, has a higher work moral and increases their chance of success. But what motivates each individual in the project?

People are motivated by unfulfilled needs in a certain order

Motivation can be perceived as the fulfillment of human needs or more process-oriented based on expectations, goal, reward or a desired balance. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is from 1943, but well-known to an extent that makes it appropriate as the background for understanding the term motivation. A central point in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is that people have a series of basic needs that has to be fulfilled before the next need is activated. Basically we know that people have needs which can be fulfilled through their jobs. Some of these needs are more basic than others, but people are driven or motivated to fulfill their needs.

According to Maslow we work in order to fulfill these needs which comes in a certain order. When one type of need is fulfilled another and higher need will emerge. So the needs are fulfilled in a certain order. It is very important to understand that we are dealing with a hierarchy. The basic needs have to be met before you have any interest in the next step. On the other hand it is the unfulfilled needs that motivate. You can be dealing with a project participant where you have done everything imaginable to motivate this person, but if her boyfriend has been laid off or becomes seriously ill the basic need for security is unfulfilled.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has the following steps:

  • Physiological needs: The primary needs such as food and water, sleep and rest. If we haven’t had our 7-8 hours of sleep we are much harder to motivate.
  • Safety needs: The need for safety and stability in our private lives and in work situations. So if my boyfriend has received a sinister diagnosis I won’t get motivated that easily.
  • Social belonging: We need to be with other people, have friendships and relations based on emotions. So if there is a tense atmosphere or cliques in the team it is difficult to motivate the team members.
  • Esteem: The need to feel valuable and competent, to gain self-respect and be recognized by others. So if the project leader steamrolled you during the latest meeting you won’t be easily motivated.
  • Self-actualization: The need to use yourself, unfold your creativity and focus on personal development possibilities and implement them. So if you are solely handed the least desirable tasks in the project it is difficult to feel motivated.

He perceived the three lower levels as so-called deficiency needs that arise when the organism is missing something. These shortcomings or needs act as a driving force until the need is met.

The two upper levels considered Maslow to be full of growth needs. The deficiency needs can be satisfied, and in this way, they stand in contrast to the two top needs that cannot be satisfied. The need for deficiencies is usually the strongest, which means that the needs for self-assertion and for self-realization step into the background if one or more of the deficiencies are not covered.

Clayton Alderfer has developed a similar theory with three basic topics you can characterize as existence, relations and development.

Abraham Maslow was born 1908. He was an American psychologist who was known for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization. Maslow was a psychology professor at Alliant International University, Brandeis University, Brooklyn College, New School for Social Research, and Columbia University.

A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Maslow as the tenth most cited psychologist of the 20th century.

Maslow’s ideas have been criticized for their lack of scientific rigor. He was criticized as too soft scientifically by American empiricists. Furthermore, the Hierarchy of Needs has been accused of having a cultural bias—mainly reflecting Western values and ideologies.

Maslow’s books on motivation

  • Motivation and Personality (1st edition: 1954, 2nd edition: 1970, 3rd edition 1987)
  • Eupsychian Management, 1965; republished as Maslow on Management, 1998
  • The Psychology of Science: A Reconnaissance, New York: Harper & Row, 1966; Chapel Hill: Maurice Bassett, 2002.
  • Toward a Psychology of Being, (1st edition, 1962; 2nd edition, 1968)
  • The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, 1971

References concerning motivation

  • A Theory of Human Motivation (originally published in Psychological Review, 1943, Vol. 50 # 4, pp. 370–396).
  • Future Visions: The Unpublished Papers of Abraham Maslow at E.L. Hoffman (Editor) 1996

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John Ryding Olsson Founder & author
John Ryding Olsson Founder & author John Ryding Olsson

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