Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Theory, Needs, Pyramid

Maslow’s Hierarchy Theory

A big question in terms of motivation is “what motivates behavior?”One theory called Maslow’s Hierarchy focuses on behavior of individuals to achieve certain needs. Abraham Maslow was the man behind introducing the concept of hierarchy of needs. His book “Motivation and personality” published in 1943 suggests people are motivated in fulfilling the basics needs first before they move on to other things. Maslow was very much interested in knowing what are the things that make people happy and the things they do to reach them.

As any other human being, Maslow understood that people have certain innate wish to reach self actualization. Under his belief to achieve the ultimate goal a number of basics needs should be satisfied first, for example food, safety, self respect etc. Maslow Theory is often represented in a pyramid, where the lowest level represents the most basic needs of the person. Most complex needs are always at the top of the pyramid. The needs that are at the bottom of the pyramid are usually the basic physical requirements. He believes that once this basic need at the lower level is achieved then they can move to the other levels.

As the individual progresses up the pyramid, needs become more of social and psychological in nature. It is Maslow who emphasized that self actualization is very important for any individual.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

These are needs that are parallel to instincts which play a very vital role in motivating behavior. Fulfilling the lower level needs will prevent repulsive feelings and consequences. Maslow termed these needs as D-Needs, meaning deficiency needs, because these needs arise due to deprivation. He termed the highest need as B-Needs meaning being needs, in other words they can also called growth needs. As these needs does not arise due to lack of something, but a desire from within to grow as a person.

∗ Five Levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

There are five levels in Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs

  1. Physiological Needs: These are the most basic needs which are required for survival, like food, water, sleep etc. He gave importance to these needs as they are the natural instincts, as all other needs will become secondary until and unless this need is fulfilled.
  2. Security Needs: This includes needs for safety and security. Security needs are essential but not as vital as basic needs. Examples of security needs are longing for stable job, welfare and health care, good employees around them etc.
  3. Social Needs: As per Maslow these needs are less essential, when compared to the first two. Social needs includes love and affection, any kind of relationships like friendship, families etc. Contribution in any social or religious activity is also considered as social needs.
  4. Esteem Needs: Once the first three get satisfied, then comes the needs for things that reveal self respect and personal merit.
  5. Self Actualization needs: It the highest level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. Here people are conscious and concerned about personal growth. They are not worried about the opinions of others nor are they interested in fulfilling them.

Let us now depict Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid.

Maslows Hierarchy of Needs

This theory has come into a lot of criticism, since the main drawback is it cannot be tested. There is no tool that can measure how satisfied is the individual at one level before going to the other. More than advantages this theory has limitations which are explained below:

  • The theory lacks about motivators of externally determined individuals. At Level 4 and Level 5 in the chart, this theory is disputed as to individuals who are determined by external factors. For example, now-a-days people are unhappy with co workers and resent their superiors, yet they perform well as they are rewarded with incentives. Though at level 3, he/she might not have a good relationship with friends/co workers, he is still motivated by the factor of MONEY which is not listed in the pyramid.
  • The HR manager finds it difficult to recognize the need level of employees. For example, any employee moving from Level 3 to Level 4 might feel that his efforts and contributions are being recognized by his supervisor. In case, here, if the superior does not recognize or does not give good appraisal, the motivation of the employees will definitely decline.
  • This theory is not supported by any studies or experiments. The basic needs might not be satisfied to grant higher needs. Human factors cannot be measured in terms of numbers, as there are a lot of inconsistencies in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.