Hierarchy of need theory

Introduction

Abraham Maslow, a human psychologist developed a theory of human needs known as ‘Hierarchy of need theory‘ in 1943. This theory has a vital contribution to understanding human behavior in the organization. According to him, Human needs tend to follow a basic hierarchical pattern from the most basic need to the highest level need. They are; Physiological, safety, social, ego, and self-actualization. When one need is fulfilled, other needs emerge but in a sequence. It means a person will not try to get the highest level need until the completeness of lower-level needs.

Assumption:

  • Human needs and motives are complex
  • Need form a hierarchy
  • Unsatisfied needs motivates workers
  • People seek growth and development

What are the 5 levels of needs according to Maslow?

The 5 levels of needs according to Maslow are; Physiological, safety, social, ego, and self-actualization. Maslow classified these five needs into two categories; Lower level needs and Higher level needs. The lower level includes Physiological Needs, Security/safety needs, and some part of social needs. And Higher level needs include social, Esteem, and Self-actualization needs. When one need is fulfilled, other needs emerge but in a sequence. It means a person will not try to get the highest level need until the completeness of lower-level needs.

Hierarchy of need theory

Physiological Needs

Physiological needs are the basic needs essential to survive which include food, shelter, clothing, water, air, sex, etc. Adequate wages and a good working environment generally satisfy these needs. Almost all organizations are used to satisfy physiological needs.

Security/Safety Need

Security needs include protection against deprivation, danger, and threat on or off the job. Organizations fulfill security needs by providing stable jobs with medical, employment, and retirement benefits.

Affiliation/Social Need

Social need includes affection, a sense of belonging, acceptance, and friendship. Employees with high affiliation need to enjoy working closely with others. When an organization does not fulfill affiliation needs, employee dissatisfaction appears regularly in different forms like frequent absenteeism, low productivity, street-related behaviors, and emotional breakdowns.

Esteem Needs

Esteem needs include internal factors such as self-respect, autonomy, and achievement and external factors such as status recognition and attention. In order to satisfy these needs of people opportunities for achievement, promotion, prestige, and status.

Self-Actualization Needs

These needs are related to personal growth, self-fulfillment, and the realization of one`s full potential. Self-actualization is the desire to become what one is capable of becoming.

Managers must recognize the need pattern of each worker because the needs of each worker are different from others. Therefore, a single approach can’t be used to motivate all workers towards the accomplishment of the organizational objectives. Further, managers must have knowledge that after fulfilling the lower needs of workers, new higher-level needs emerge. Then, managers again have to fulfill those needs to accomplish the objective. This process is continuous up to the self-actualization needs.

Why is it important?

‘Hierarchy of Need’ theory has a vital contribution to understanding human behavior in the organization. As we know that one person’s behavior is different from another. It is difficult to study human behavior in an organization and motivate according to it. But this theory gives a way to understand ‘What people need’ and ‘when it changed or promoted’. For example; one who has not enough money/salary to fulfill his/her basic need, S/he will be more concerned with the fulfillment of his/her basic need rather than higher-level needs. Once fulfillment of his/her basic need, the next level needs i.e. safety/security needs emerge. It is the responsibility of managers to understand the needs of each employee and fulfilled them. This theory also suggests the management of organizations, ignored higher-level needs, if the lower-level need is not fulfilled.

Key To Point

  • Human needs tend to follow a basic hierarchical pattern from the most basic need to the highest level need.
  • 5 levels of needs according to Maslow are; Physiological, safety, social, ego, and self-actualization.
  • Maslow classified these five needs into two categories; Lower level needs( Physiological Needs, Security/safety needs, and some part of social needs) and Higher level needs ( social, Esteem, and Self-actualization needs).
  • A person will not try to get the highest level need until the completeness of lower-level needs.
  • ‘Hierarchy of Need theory’ also suggests the management of organizations, ignored higher-level needs, if the lower-level need is not fulfilled.

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