Maslow’s Theory of Motivation

Principle & Practice of Management

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Maslow’s Theory of Motivation

Maslow’s Theory of Motivation

One of the most popular theories of motivation has been propounded by Abraham Maslow, a famous social scientist, therefore, it is called the Maslow’s Theory of Motivation. According to Maslow’s Theory the behaviour of an individual at a particular moment is usually determined by his strongest need. Needs have a certain priority or hierarchy. As the more basic needs are satisfied an individual seeks to satisfy the higher needs. If his basic needs are not met, efforts to satisfy the higher needs should be postponed. Once a need is satisfied it loses its capacity to induce the man to work. Only unsatisfied needs or fresh needs can motivate persons to work.
Maslow’s Theory was of the view that needs have priority, i.e., needs are satisfied in an order. As soon as the lower level needs are satisfied. Those on the next higher level emerge. Thus, he considered an individual’s motivation behaviour as a predetermined order of needs. According to Maslow’s Theory, the basic human needs are set in a hierarchy as follows:
1. Physiological needs: These needs are basic to human survival and include the need for food, water, air, shelter, sleep, thirst, etc.
2. Security or safety needs: These are needs for physical safety as well as psychological security and include safety of person and property, security of job and need for a predictable, secure and safe environment.
3. Social needs: These are needs for belongingness, friendship, love, affection, attention and social acceptance.
4. Esteem or ego needs: These are needs for self-esteem and need for other esteem needs. Self-esteem needs include needs for self-respect, self-confidence, competence, autonomy and knowledge. Other esteem needs relate to reputation, prestige, power, status, recognition and respect of others.
5. Self-actualization needs: This is the need “to be what one is capable of becoming” and include the need for the optional development of potential abilities, knowledge and skills, need to be creative and achieve self-fulfilment.
At the lowest level are physiological needs for survival. As one need is reasonably satisfied, the next higher order need becomes operational. This happens because a satisfied need is no longer a motivator, only unsatisfied needs compel people to act. Until physiological needs are satisfied to the degree needed for the efficient operation of the body, other levels will provide him with little satisfaction and motivation. A famous saying, “man can live on bread alone if there is no butter” suggests that human beings first try to acquire necessities for their survival. Once the physiological needs are satisfied to a reasonable degree there comes safety needs.
An organisation can influence these security needs through job security, insurance and retirement plans, safe and healthy working conditions. After the first two needs are satisfied, social needs become important in the need hierarchy. In a work situation, social needs are concerned with relating to friendly associates, identification with good company and participation in organised social activities. Esteem or ego needs provide management almost unlimited scope to create an environment for their gratification. These needs are more dominant at the level of managers and at the worker level, and therefore, assume considerable significance for managerial motivation. Job title and responsibilities, praise, promotions are all important factors in satisfying the esteem needs. Needs for self-actualization are the highest order needs. In an organisation, a person attempting to satisfy this need seeks challenging work assignment that allows for creativity and opportunities for personal growth and advancement.

Maslow's Theory

Critical Evaluation

Maslow’s theory is a landmark in the field of motivation. The hierarchical concept of need helps the management in understanding the behaviour of men at work. Satisfied needs cannot be motivators and therefore management should target satisfying the higher level needs of the employees. However, this theory has been subjected to a lot of criticism. According to Debris, the hierarchy of needs is different; in different societies; in different organisation and for different people. This concept of needs is influenced by environmental factors. Moreover, there is some need satisfies that seem to affect more than one level of the hierarchy, for example, money.