Everything you need to know about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory. Abraham Maslow, a well-known psychologist developed theory of motivation based on human needs.

In his paper on motivation, he mentioned that within every human being, there exists a hierarchy of five needs.

Maslow was the pioneer in subscribing a systematic approach of human needs and motives which are not the same in every individual. This variation among individu­als is largely a matter of different ways of satisfying the needs. You may find some similarities among people, about their needs, aspirations, etc.

Motivation is a means to satisfy the needs and motives of employees working in an organisation.


The needs and motives differ from individual to individual, they keep changing with time and satisfaction of one need leads to development of another unsatisfied need.

Therefore, to keep the entire staff satisfied management has to select the various motivational techniques suitable for the entire organisation.

Learn about:- 1. Hierarchy of Human Needs 2. Assumptions of Maslow’s Theory of Motivation 3. Elements 4. Propositions 5. Merits 6. Demerits.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory: Hierarchy of Human Needs, Assumptions, Elements, Propositions, Merits and Demerits 

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory – Basic Physiological Needs, Safety or Security Needs, Affiliation or Belonging  Needs, Esteem Needs and Self Actualization Needs

Motivation is a means to satisfy the needs and motives of employees working in an organisation. The needs and motives differ from individual to individual, they keep changing with time and satisfaction of one need leads to development of another unsatisfied need. Therefore, to keep the entire staff satisfied management has to select the various motivational techniques suitable for the entire organisation.


Various business researchers have studied the several dimensions of motivation and have developed theories to understand the phenomenon of motivation. Among these, ‘Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory’ is the fundamental theory of motivation.

Abraham Maslow, a well-known psychologist developed theory of motivation based on human needs. In his paper on motivation, he mentioned that within every human being, there exists a hierarchy of five needs.

Let us now examine the hierarchy of human needs as discussed by Maslow:

1. Basic Physiological Needs:


These are the most basic needs of individuals which are related to the survival and maintenance. No employee can be motivated to work if his/her basic needs of food, cloth or shelter are not satisfied. Therefore, the physiological needs are at the top of hierarchy of needs. For example – for an employee, salary is the basic need.

2. Safety/Security Needs:

The next in hierarchy of needs are the safety and security needs. Each individual requires security and protection from physical and emotional harm.

For example – Safe work environment, income stability, job security etc. are few examples of safety or security needs of an employee.

3. Affiliation/Belonging Needs:

The third in hierarchy of needs are the affiliation or belonging needs. It includes the acceptance, affection, cordial relationship sense of belongingness etc.

For example – Informal organisational set ups help employees to develop social relationships, the cordial relationships between superiors, subordinates and colleagues give employees acceptance.

4. Esteem Needs:

The fourth in hierarchy of needs are the esteem needs which include self-respect, autonomy status, recognition and attention. It is part of non-financial incentives.


For example – Employees feel satisfied if superiors appreciate their contribution, listen to their ideas, give attention to their grievances etc.

5. Self Actualisation Needs:

The highest level in the hierarchy of needs is self-actualisation which derives an individual to realize his/her dream. It motivates an individual to perform to best of his/her abilities and achieve the desired goals.

For example – Mr. Ramakant joined M/s Green Trees Ltd. as a ‘Sales Manager’ but he has the capabilities and dream to become a ‘Country Head’. The desire to grow will motivate the sales manager to work hard and achieve his goal.

Assumptions of Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory:


Maslow’s theory is based on the following assumptions:

1. People’s behaviour is based on their needs. Satisfaction of such needs influences their behaviour.

2. People’s needs are in hierarchical order, starting from basic needs to other higher level needs.

3. A satisfied need can no longer motivate a person; only next higher level need can motivate him.


4. A person moves to the next higher level of the hierarchy only when the lower level need is satisfied.

Maslow’s Theory focuses on the needs of human beings as the basis for motivation. Managers use this theory to identify the various need levels amongst employees and formulate different motivational techniques to satisfy their needs and motives. It is not necessary that each employee follows same hierarchy level to satisfy his/her needs.

For example, for one employee the second need level may be safety/security but for another it may be esteem or social need. Therefore, a manger has to motivate employees according to their respective needs or motives. Managers may use financial or non-financial incentives to motivate employees.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory – With Appraisal of the Theory

Father of this theory is Abraham Maslow who advocated ‘Need Hierarchy Theory’ of motivation in 1943. A man has numerous needs; satisfaction of one need gives birth to another. All these needs have a sequence, which is based on priority.

Maslow divided human needs into five parts explained as:

1. Physiological Needs:


Most basic needs of a man are physiological needs which are related to basic necessities of life, which are required to keep a man alive. Physiological needs include food, shelter, air, water, sleep, etc.

2. Safety or Security Needs:

After satisfaction of physiological needs, people think of safety.

This safety has three aspects:

i. Physical safety- It refers to personal bodily security e.g., safety against attack, accidents, disease and other unexpected factors.

ii. Economic safety- It means safety of earning, arrangement for old age, job security, security of source of income, etc.


iii. Psychological safety- It means safety of one’s prestige, status, etc.

3. Affiliation/Social Needs:

Man cannot live alone. He needs friends and relatives with whom he can share his feelings of joy and sorrow. He needs feelings of belongingness, recognition, companionship, etc.

4. Esteem Needs:

These needs satisfy the ego of a man. These are related to status or prestige. Everyone wants to attain power, success, authority, higher status to satisfy his egoistic needs.

5. Self-Actualisation Needs:


Last of all, one considers fulfilling himself. Self- actualisation needs are the needs which fulfill a personality. This need induces one to be an achiever in his field. For example, a painter wants to be the best painter; an artist wants to be the best artist, etc. These needs satisfy one’s soul.

These needs have a sequence, i.e., safety needs are felt only when physiological needs are satisfied, social needs are felt only when physiological needs are satisfied and so on.

Physiological needs act as a motivator for a man until these are satisfied. After the physiological needs are satisfied, these will no longer motivate him and then social needs arise, which will act as motivator for him, so manager needs to take decisions accordingly regarding how to motivate the employees. Manager should study about the need level at which a person currently is; and what motivators can motivate him.

Appraisal of Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory:

Maslow’s theory explains the human behaviour realistically. It advocates that people are motivated by unfulfilled needs i.e., unfulfilled needs create tension for a person and he wants to fulfill these needs by working hard. The theory is a guide for managers to select motivational techniques accordingly.

However Maslow’s theory suffers from some limitations, such as:


1. There can be difference in need hierarchy of different people, which may or may not follow Maslow’s hierarchy e.g., an individual may keep his self-actualisation needs at top priority.

2. Some people are satisfied with what they have, unsatisfied needs don’t motivate them as there is nothing like unsatisfied need for them.

3. Money is a factor which satisfies physiological and social needs. According to theory, when lower level needs are satisfied, they cease to be motivator, but money, in reality, does not cease to be motivator. The greed for money goes on increasing, instead of decreasing. It is not only the need which affects human behaviour, there are many other factors including perception, family background, expectations, social groups, etc.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory – Classification of Needs: Physical or Physiological Needs, Safety or Security Needs, Social or Love Needs, Self-Esteem Needs and a Few Others

Classification of Human Needs by Maslow (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need Theory):

Maslow was the pioneer in subscribing a systematic approach of human needs and motives which are not the same in every individual. This variation among individu­als is largely a matter of different ways of satisfying the needs. You may find some similarities among people, about their needs, aspirations, etc.

Therefore, we can have a general idea of human needs. Behavioural scientists have found out that needs have some type of priority of hierarchy.

The classification of needs is explained below:

1. Physical or Physiological needs – These have the following ingredients like hunger and thirst, sleep, health, body needs, exercise, rest and sex.

2. Safety or security needs – These indicate protection, comfort and peace, no threat or danger to life or property and a congenial environment.

3. Social or love needs – An individual expects social acceptance, feeling of belonging, achievement of a group, love and affection and group participation.

4. Self-esteem needs – When an individual reaches at this stage of hierarchy, he/she aspires for recognition and prestige, confidence and leadership, achievement and ability, competence and success, strength and respect, etc.

5. Self-actualization needs – These lead to the supreme rung of hierarchy. Here an individual needs self-fulfillment of potential, executing things purely for the challenge of accomplishment, intellectual curiosity and fulfillment, creative and aesthetic appreciation, over and above, acceptance of reality.

There are four aspects on which the Maslow’s theory mainly lays emphasis:

i. An individual’s basic motivations are the physiological and security needs. These needs can be satisfied by proper wages. If these needs are hot satisfied, it is unlikely that workers will respond to ‘incentives’, responsible to satisfy the social, psychological (esteem needs) or self-actualization needs. In the hierarchy of needs the importance starts from the bottom (physiological needs).

ii. If a particular need has been satisfied, its importance starts decreasing and it will not be a motivator thereafter. When an individual is satisfied by his wages and. the job has adequate security, the incentives based on wages alone (monetary incentives) fail to motivate the individual.

iii. Individual needs are not alike. They vary according to the specific motive of an individual. Here, the point manager must understand where the subordinates stand on the need hierarchy. Economic and social needs may satisfy some individuals. Others may be satisfied by self-esteem and self-actualization (self-fulfillment) needs. An efficient manager must be able to discriminate these requirements and accordingly try to satisfy them.

iv. It is quite often noticed that an individual is seldom conscious of his wants, as they are usually interrelated. They are also changing. For example, an increase in wages may be strong or an apparent want for a particular employee. Therefore, the opportunity to increase income is his most powerful motivation. By satisfying his want, he may fulfil a desire for status, recognition and prestige along with the basic monetary need.

Maslow’s classification of needs has been an important event in the field of motivation. Its main focus is on the suggested priority and nature of needs. This hierarchical concept of need is important in understanding the managerial task in relation to human resource working in organisations. According to Maslow, there is a graded order into which human needs arrange themselves; which include physiological needs, safety and security, social, self-esteem and self-actualization needs.

Predominance of one need over the other may depend on the individual. Generally, dominance of the need structure emerges after satisfaction of the preceding need; since needs are omnipresent and conform. However, there has always been an overlapping factor so far as the effect of the needs in an individual is concerned.

Once a need is satisfied, the effective motivation ceases. While the manager should be concerned about the physiological needs of his subordinates, he does not have much direct influence on their satisfaction, for his powers in giving increments in wages to his subordinates, providing proper living conditions, etc., are limited.

At the same time, being a leader, he can sincerely help his subordinates in satisfying their higher needs by motivating them to execute their jobs, as desired. A manager can help his employees to achieve self-actualization by infusing in them a desire as to what they are capable of doing. Job enrichment is a motivation, as Maslow puts it – “What a man can be, he must be.”

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory – With an Appraisal of Maslow’s Theory

Maslow’s theory which is based on the needs of the people states that an individual is motivated to satisfy certain unsatisfied needs. His theory is based on certain assumptions.

They are:

1. An individual’s behaviour is influenced by his needs. Needs that are not satisfied motivate or influence his behaviour. In other words, behaviour is not influenced by the satisfied needs.

2. Needs have priority and they are arranged according to a hierarchy of importance. They start from physiological needs.

3. An individual’s needs at any level on the hierarchy emerge only when he is reasonably well-satisfied with the lower level needs.

Maslow’s theory has proposed a hierarchy of five needs which are discussed below:

1. Physiological – According to Maslow, the most fundamental of the needs are physiological. They are food, clothing, shelter, etc. These are basic needs and anyone would give the first preference to these needs. Once an individual is satisfied reasonably with these basic needs, he thinks in terms of higher level needs.

2. Safety needs – These are the needs for protection against danger, threat, deprivation and the need for job security. These needs will arise for an individual only when he is reasonably well satisfied with his physiological needs.

3. Social needs – These needs include those of belonging, association, acceptance, friendship and love. Social needs become important to an individual only when he is basically satisfied with physiological and safety needs.

4. Esteem (or ego) needs – These needs include those of self-confidence, independence, achievement, status and recognition. These needs dominate only when an individual is reasonably satisfied with the first three needs.

5. Self-Actualisation (Self-Fulfilment) needs – These needs are concerned with the need to realise one’s capacities and potentialities by achieving specific goals. He accepts such work which is challenging and creative and also provides opportunities for self-development. These needs become important to an individual once he is reasonably satisfied with the esteem needs.

An Appraisal of Maslow’s Theory:

This theory states the hierarchy of needs with some reasonable assumptions. It points out that the people are motivated by unfulfilled needs. It also states that once a particular need is satisfied, it ceases to be a motivating factor. Maslow has pointed out that as lower level needs are satisfied, upper level needs replace them and become important.

However, this theory has been criticised by some writers. It is said that the need hierarchy may not follow the sequence stated by Maslow. In some cases, the egoistic need may become important even before the safety needs are satisfied. Man’s behaviour at any time is mostly guided by the multiplicity of motives and hence, the proposition that one need is satisfied at one time may not hold good.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory – Physiological Needs, Safety and Security Needs, Social Needs, Self Esteem Needs and Self Actualisation Needs

The persons goes to work in order to satisfy their needs and aspirations. These needs change according to status, environment, circumstances, society, groups and so forth. Pro. Abraham H. Maslow of Brandies University in his valuable book. ‘Motivation and personality’, 1954 presents’ five categories of needs as basic factor in human behavior. These provide a useful framework for studying needs.

(i) Psychological Needs – These needs are, air, food, water, cloth, sleep and shelter, etc.

(ii) Safety and Security Needs – The individual has safety need such as security and protection against danger. An environment that is free from threats to continued existence.

(iii) Social Needs – These needs are concerned with love, affection, belongingness and association to others. These needs relate to one’s desire for social acceptance and friendship.

(iv) Self Esteem Needs – These needs focus on one’s desire to have a positive image to receive recognition and appreciation from other for one’s contribution.

(v) Self Actualisation Needs – These needs are for maximum self-development and creativity. This is an individual’s motivation to transform the perception of self into reality.

Even after reaching fifth level, there is a room for further progress.

Physiological needs are common to all members of the Animal Kingdom. Their goal is satisfaction of biological drives and urges such as hunger, fatigue sex and many more. The recently developed concept to Homeostasis attempts to define this category of needs more precisely. Homeostasis refers to the automatic efforts of the body to maintain itself in a normal balanced state. Homeostatic needs are undoubtedly, the most dominant of all needs.

A person may lack many things such as love, safety or esteem but if at the same time he is really thirsty or hunger, he will pay no attention to other needs until his thirst or hunger is at least partially satisfied. It should be noted that entire organisation is involved in the gratification of a need. No one says, “My stomach is hungry” but rather “I am hungry”.

When person is hungry, his whole being is involved, his perceptions change, his memory is affected and his emotions are aroused by tension and nervous irritability. All of these changes subside after he has satisfied the hunger needs. When one group of needs has been somewhat gratified, however another set becomes the motivating force.

After the physiological needs are taken care of the organisation is concerned primarily with safety. It becomes a safety seeking mechanism. As is with hungry man, so is with the individual in quest or safety. His whole outlook of life is affected by lack of safety. Safety needs are more easily observed in children, because adults have been taught to inhibit any overt reaction to danger. But anything unexpected and threatening makes the child feel unsafe and changes world from bight stability to a dark place where anything can happen.

A child feels safe in a predictable, orderly world prefers undisputed routines. He tends to feels safer in organized, orderly protection against harm. Adults in society seldom come face to face with violence, except in war. They are safe enough from such perils as wild animals, extreme climate, and slaughter.

However, need for safety expresses itself in seeking protection and stability afforded by such things as money in the bank, job security, and retirement programme. Though human beings no longer live in jungles they need protection against the dangers that confront them in the ominous ‘jungle’ of economic competition.

After the Psychological and safety needs have been reasonably gratified, the next dominate need to emerge is the craving for love and affection. This belonging for friends or sweet heart or family can take complete possession of a lonely individual. When he was starving or threatened by danger he could think only of food or safety, but now that these needs have been taken care of, he wants, more than anything else in the world to be loved. He hungers for affectionate relations with people in general, for a place in the group.

In the culture, it is just these needs and cravings that are most often left unsatisfied feeling of not being loved, or reflection of “not belonging” are the root in most cases of maladjustment and the more severe neurosis. This need for love must not be equated with sex. Admittedly it is a component of the sexual drive, but sexual behaviour has many facts and is considered here primarily a Psychological urge.

Next in the hierarchy of needs is the need for esteem. Actually it is a plurality of needs, all the same general character. These needs can be divided into two categories. First and foremost is the desire for freedom and independence. Coupled with this is the need for strength, competence and confidence in the face of the world. The second division comprised the desire for reputation or prestige, the string for status domination and the esteem of others people.

Satisfaction of self-esteem need of a person to feel useful and necessary in the world. The healthiest self-esteem is based on respect from others that is deserved, none or unwarranted adulation Research and experience continually demonstrate the power of esteem in motivating human beings. Studies of individuals at various level of the business structure have attempted to find out what makes people feel good about their jobs.

The strongest and most lasting good feelings from learning and growing of the job expanding one’s competence, increasing one’s mastery be coming recognized as an expert. Studying the motivation of salesman, the Research Institute of America has reached similar conclusions. Many salesman may respond, when asked casually, that the only thing that moves them is money only.

However, self-approval and social approval often motivate salesman to as great an effort. The pride of craftsman ship involved in mailing a tough sale man as a toy expert in the field of selling also contributes to increase motivation. Even assuming that all the foregoing needs have been adequately satisfied, the individual may still be discontented and restless, and what need does he now seek?

Most of the people are not happy unless they are working for something that they feel they are suited for. A musician wants to make music, an artist wants to paint. Everyone would like to do his kind of work that he can do and enjoy doing. Unfortunately this is not always his lot, but so far as he attains this goal he is at peace with himself. This almost universal need has been termed by Maslow as self-actualization.

Broadly speaking self-actualization embraces the desires and striving to become everything that one is capable of becoming. This stringing takes various forms and will differ from individual to individual. In the normal person these exists a basic drive to seek knowledge about his environment, to explore and understand. People are motivated by an active curiosity that implies to experiment and attempt to the mysterious and unknown.

The need to investigate and explain the unknown is a fundamental factor in human behaviour. The need to know and understand pre-supposes a condition for freedom and safety in which this curiosity can be exercised. Differences are related to the diversities of human personalities. It is a question of how an individual’s personality has developed. A person who has been deprived of love in his early life, sometimes losses the desire and ability to give and to receive love.

Another fraction that tends to change fixed order of importance is the under valuation of all needs are completely satisfied. A man who has never experienced hunger will consider food secondary to all his other needs.

Maslow pictures each successive needs as emerging after a prior need has been satisfied. This not only imply that one need must be 100% satisfied before the next one takes over, not that each emerging new shows up suddenly only like a jack in the box. Usually the previous new is partially satisfied the emergence bit of new felt need. Most people are partially unsatisfied. For example the safety need in only 10% satisfied then the next ranking need, craving for love and belonging will not yet emerge.

However, if the safety need becomes satisfied to a greater extend perhaps 25% then the next need will begin to appear in a small way, perhaps 5% and as the safety need approach 75% of satisfaction, the love and belonging needs precludes a state of complete satisfaction of any basic need.

Indeed people seeking to satisfy their needs try to avoid physical discomfort, shun the unsafe, appeal for understanding, abhor anonymity, dread boredom, fear the unknown and hate disorder, while money may provide satisfaction of many of these needs, it is not true that the only thing money cannot buy is poverty. Money evaluation sometimes prevent us from realizing that these are other ways to satisfy needs. Job security and money were once all important motivations in business life.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory – With Essential Elements of the Model

Maslow’s need priority theory is one of the most popular theories of motivations in the management and organizational behaviour literature. The model presents the student of work motivation with an interesting paradox. Maslow’s model provides both a theory of human motives by classifying human needs in a hierarchy and a theory of human motivation that links these needs to general behaviour.

Essential elements of the model are:

(a) Adult motives are complex – No single motive determines behaviour, rather, a number of motives operate at the same time.

(b) Needs form hierarchy – Lower level needs must at least partly be satisfied before higher level needs emerge. In other words, a higher order need cannot become an active motivating force until the preceding lower need is essentially satisfied.

(c) A satisfied need is not a motivator – A need that is unsatisfied activates seeking behaviour. If a lower level need is satisfied, a higher level need emerges.

(d) Higher level needs can be satisfied in many more ways than can the lower level needs.

(e) People seek growth – They want to move up the hierarchy of needs. No person is content at the physiological level. Usually people seek the satisfaction of higher order needs.

(f) Maslow proposed that basic needs are structured in a hierarchy of pre­potency and probability of appearance.

(ii) Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

1. Physiological Needs:

Physiological needs are the biological needs required to preserve human life; these needs include needs for food, clothing and shelter. These needs must be satisfied to certain extent before higher level need arises. These needs tremendously influence the behaviour of workers and they are the most powerful of motivating stimuli, as they are the basic needs of survivability. These needs take precedence over other needs when thwarted. As food is most important for man for survival, and when there is no food physiological needs dominate when all needs are unsatisfied.

Common features of physiological needs are:

(a) They are relatively independent of each other.

(b) In many cases they can be identified with a particular organ in the body.

(c) In any affluent culture these needs are unusual rather than typical motivators.

(d) Physiological needs are essentially finite. An individual demands only a particular amount of these needs. Once these are satisfied, there will be no more demand and hence not motivational.

(e) They must be met repeatedly within relatively short time periods to remain fulfilled.

(f) Satisfaction of physiological needs is not usually associated not with money itself but what it can buy. The value of money reduces as one goes up the hierarchy.

(g) Most of the physiological needs require some conscious provision for their future satisfaction.

2. Safety Needs:

Once the physiological needs are relatively satisfied the safety needs dominate the human behaviour. Safety needs includes- (a) Protection from physiological dangers such as accident and causality etc. (b) Economic security such as fringe benefits, health care and insurance program, (c) Desire for an orderly, predictable environment and (d) The desire to know the limits of acceptable behaviour.

These needs are concerned with protection from hazards of life organizations an influence these security needs either positively, through pension schemes, insurance plans or negatively by arousing fears of being fired or laid off. Safety aspect covers emotional and physical safety.

That is these needs concerned with protecting from hazards of life; from danger, deprivation and threat. Safety needs are primarily satisfied through economic behaviour. Organizations can influence these security needs either positively by providing pension schemes or/and insurance schemes or by negatively through fears of being fired or laid off. They are motivational until they are satisfied and they have finite limits.

3. Higher Order Needs (The Love Needs):

Once the lower order needs are satisfied, the social or love needs become important motivators of behaviour. As man is an element in society, he wants to belong, to associate, to gain acceptance from associates, to give and take friendship; and affection. Social needs tend to be stronger for some people than for others and stronger in certain situations.

Social needs have certain features in common:

(a) They provide a meaning for work life.

(b) Social needs are regarded as secondary, because they are not essential to preserve human life. They represent needs of the mind and spirit rather than of the physical body.

(c) Social needs are substantially infinite.

(d) Social needs are primarily satisfied through symbolic behaviour of psychic and social content.

4. The Esteem Needs:

Esteem needs are two fold in nature- self-esteem and esteem of others. Self-Esteem needs include those for self-confidence, achievement, competence, self-respect. Knowledge and for independence and freedom. The second groups of esteem needs are those that related to one’s reputation needs for status, for recognition, for appreciation and the deserved respect of one’s fellows/ associates.

The common features of these needs are:

(a) They do not become motivators until lower level needs are reasonably satisfied.

(b) These needs are insatiable; unlike lower order needs, these needs are rarely satisfied.

(c) Satisfaction of esteem needs produces feelings of self-confidence, worth, strength, capability and adequacy, of being useful and necessary in the world. If these are not satisfied, it results in inferiority feeling, weakness and helplessness.

(d) Satisfaction of esteem needs is not always obtained through mature or adaptive behaviour. It is generated by irresponsible actions.

(e) The modern organizations offer few opportunities for the satisfaction of these needs to people at lower level in the hierarchy.

5. The Self-Actualization Needs:

These are the needs for realizing one’s own potentialities for continued self-development, for being creative in the broadest sense of that term. Self-fulfilling people are rare individuals who come close to living up to their full potential for being realistic, accomplishing things, enjoying life, and generally exemplifying classic human virtues. Self-actualization is the desire to become what one is capable of becoming. These needs are growth oriented.

The common features of these needs are:

(a) The specific form of these needs vary greatly from person to person.

(b) The self-realization is not necessarily a creative urge.

(c) The way self-actualization is expressed can change over the life cycle.

(d) These needs are continuously motivators. They do not have end in satisfactions.

(e) These needs are psychological in nature and are substantially infinite.

(f) The condition of modern life gives only limited opportunity for these needs to obtain expression.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory – Physiological Needs, Safety Needs, Social Needs, Esteem Needs and Self-Actualisation Needs

Motivational theories dealing with the needs of employees fall under the general rubric of Content Theories of Motivation.

Content theories Posit that workers’ behaviors are a function of the workers’ abilities to satisfy their felt needs at the workplace. A basic assumption of all need theories is that, when need deficiencies exist; individuals are motivated into action in order to satisfy them. The best known of the Content Theories of Motivation is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. (Abraham Maslow)

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is based on the assumption that people are motivated by a series of five universal needs. These needs are ranked, according to the order in which they influence human behavior, in hierarchical fashion.

i. Physiological needs are deemed to be the lowest- level needs. These needs include the need for food, oxygen, sex and drink.

So long as physiological needs are unsatisfied, they exist as a driving or motivating force in a person’s life. A hungry person has a felt need. This felt need sets up both psychological and physical tensions that manifest themselves in overt behaviours directed at reducing those tensions (getting something to eat). Once the hunger is sated, the tension is reduced and the need for food ceases to motivate. At this point (assuming the needs for sex, drink and other physiological requirements are also satisfied) the next higher order need becomes the motivating need.

ii. Thus, safety needs — the needs for shelter and security — become the motivators of human behavior.

Safety needs include a desire for security, stability, dependency, protection, freedom from fear and anxiety and a need for structure, order and law. In everyday life, we may see this as a need to be able to fall asleep at night, secure in the knowledge that we will awake alive and unharmed. In the workplace these needs translates into a need for at least a minimal degree of employment security; the knowledge that we cannot be fired on a whim and that appropriate levels of effort and productivity will ensure continued employment.

iii. Social needs include the need for belongingness and love.

Generally, as gregarious creatures, human have a need to belong. In the workplace, this need may be satisfied by an ability to interact with one’s coworkers and perhaps to be able to work collaboratively with these colleagues.

iv. After social needs have been satisfied, ego and esteem needs become the motivating needs.

Esteem needs include the desire for self-respect, self-esteem and the esteem of others. When focused externally, these needs also include the desire for reputation, prestige, status, fame, glory, dominance, recognition, attention, importance and appreciation.

v. The highest need in Maslow’s hierarchy is that of self-actualization; the need for self- realization, continuous self-development and the process of becoming all that a person is capable of becoming.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory

According to Maslow, human needs are organized in a series of levels-a hierarchy of importance. He identifies five levels of needs. These needs are seen as an hierarchy with the most basic need emerging first and the most sophisticated need last. People move up the hierarchy one level at a time. When a need is fulfilled, it loses its strength and the next level of needs is activated.

At the lowest level are the physiological needs. These are the needs for food, shelter, etc. Till the time, basic physiological needs are not satisfied; they become important to the exclusion of everything else. However, these needs, when satisfied, cease to become motivators of behaviour.

When the physiological needs are satisfied, needs at the next higher level begin to motivate behaviour. These are the safety needs, for protection against danger, threat and deprivation. As long as we feel we are being treated fairly, our safety needs will be satisfied. If we become uncertain and confused about management actions which we do not understand, we will feel insecure and our safety needs will begin to dominate our behaviour.

Once physiological and safety needs are satisfied, social needs become important motivators of behaviour. These include the need to belong, to associate with, and to be accepted by one’s fellows.

Above the social needs are the self-esteem needs which includes need for self-respect and self-confidence, for autonomy, for achievement, for competence, for knowledge, for recognition, for appreciation, for the deserved respect of others.

At the top of the pyramid are the needs for self-fulfillment. These are the needs for personal growth and self-development and for realizing one’s potential. Unlike the lower needs, these are rarely satisfied.

Maslow’s need theory has received wide recognition, particularly among practicing managers. This acceptance can be attributed to the logic and ease with which the theory is intuitively understood. Prior to Maslow, researchers generally focused separately on such factors as biology, achievement, or power to explain what energizes, directs, and sustains human behaviour.

However, the assumption that everyone’s needs are organised in the same hierarchical order and, to a large extent, that everybody strives for the same fundamental goals, such as self – actualization doesn’t seems to be true. Everyday experience suggests that people are more varied and complex than this, and are not all alike.

Moreover, need hierarchies do not recognise that situational and environmental factors such as managerial policies and practices; an organisation’s structure; the type of technology; used and the external environment – all influence our needs.

So, although the need hierarchy is well known and undoubtedly used by many managers as a guide toward motivating their employees, little substantive evidence exists to indicate that following the theory will lead to a more motivated work force.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory – Important Propositions about Human Behaviour, Merits and Demerits

Maslow was the pioneer in contributing to a systematic scheme of need hierarchy. He arrived at a conclusion, after a proper research, that there are certain perceived needs of their employees and when they join any organisation they somehow believe that the needs can be better satisfied by doing so.

They have a perceived expectation from organisation working. If the perceived needs are satisfied according to their expectation they feel satisfied and motivated. On the other hand, if there is a gap between these two, they become slow or refuse to work.


The following are the important propositions advanced by A. H. Maslow about human behaviour:

(1) Man is a Wanting Being:

Man’s wants are continuous and more and more. What he wants or will want depends upon what he already has. As soon as one of man’s needs is satisfied, another appears in its place. This process is unending. It keeps man to work continuously.

(2) Fresh Needs Can Motivate Persons to Work:

A man wants to satisfy his needs. When a particular need is satisfied, fresh needs can motivate persons to work.

(3) Man’s Needs Have a Hierarchy of Importance:

Maslow thinks that a man’s needs are arranged in a series of levels. As soon as needs on a level is fulfilled, those on the next higher level will emerge and demand satisfaction. Thus, Maslow views an individual’s motivation as a pre-determined order of needs.

A brief description of these needs is as follows:

(1) Physiological Needs:

The needs that are taken as the starting point of motivation theory are the so-called physiological needs. These needs relate to the survival and maintenance of human life. These needs include such things as food clothing, shelter, air, water and other necessaries of life.

(2) Safety and Security Needs:

When physiological needs of a man are reasonably fulfilled, needs at the next higher level i.e. they want job security, personal bodily security, security of source of income, provision for old age, insurance against risk etc.

(3) Social Needs:

These needs refer to the needs of the love and social security. Every individual aspires to be loved by others; to be associated with others and to get affection from his group members. Deprived of these things, man wants them as intensely as a hungry man wants food.

(4) Esteem and Status Needs:

Next in this hierarchy are esteem or egoistic or status needs. These needs embrace such things as self-confidence, independence, achievement, competence, knowledge, initiative and success. These needs are concerned with prestige and respect of the individuals.

(5) Self-Realisation or Self-Fulfillment Needs:

The final step under the need priority model is the need for self-fulfillment or the need to fulfill what a person considers to be his mission in life. It involves realizing one’s potentialities for continued self-development and for being creative in the broadest sense of the word. After his other needs are fulfilled, a man has the desire for personal achievement.

He wants to do something which is challenging and since this challenge gives him enough encouragement and initiative to work, it is beneficial to him in particular and to the society in general. The sense of achievement gives this satisfaction.

Evaluation of Maslow’ Classification of Needs:

Maslow felt that the needs have definite sequence of domination. Second need does not dominate until first need is reasonably satisfied and third need does not dominate until first two needs have been reasonably satisfied and so on.

The other side of the need hierarchy is that man is a wanting animal, he continues to want something or the other. He is never satisfied. If one need is satisfied the other need arises. Another point to note in this is that once a need or a certain order of needs is satisfied, it ceases to be a motivating factor. Man lives for bread alone as long as it is not available. In the absence of air one can’t live, it is plenty of air which ceases to be motivating.

There are always some people in whom for instance, need for self-esteem seems to be more prominent than that of love. There are also creative people in whom the drive for creativeness seems to be more important. In certain people, the level of operation may be permanently lower.

For instance, a person who has experienced chronic unemployment may continue to be satisfied for the rest of his life if only he can get enough food. Another cause of reversal of need hierarchy is that when a need has been satisfied for a long time, it may be under-evaluated.

Merits or Utility of Maslow’s Classification of Needs:

Maslow’s classification of needs has been a landmark in the field of motivation. Its main utility is this that has suggested the priority and nature of needs. This hierarchical concept of needs is important for understanding the managerial task in relation of human resources working in organisation. His approach is direct, simple and practical. Maslow has himself pointed out that this hierarchy of needs is not rigid and fixed in order and it is not the same for all individual.

Individuals who are high in position in organisation are able to satisfy their high order needs but the lower level people are unable to do so. Once an individual has moved from a lower level of needs to a higher-level of needs, the lower-level needs assume a less important role.

Demerits or Weaknesses of Maslow’s Theory of Human Needs:

Apart from the merits of this theory, Maslow’s theory of human needs has certain weaknesses.

They are as follows:

Firstly, it is a general expression not specific.

Secondly, the levels in the hierarchy are not rigidly fixed. The boundaries between them are hazy and overlapping.

Thirdly, it does not have any allowance for exceptions.

Fourthly, this approach overlooks the interaction of needs. An act is seldom motivated by a single need. An act is more likely to be caused by several needs.

These limitations should be kept in mind by the management when preparing any plan for motivation. Again, people differ in their expectations significantly. The same need does not come in same response in all individuals. Hence, a diversity in motivational efforts is also required.