Maslow, through his Need Hierarchy Theory established that motivation of people arises from levels, a hierarchy of needs. The essence of his theory can be summarized as follows:
1. Wants and desires of human beings influence their behaviour. Already satisfied wants and desires do not act as motivators. People show their motive or behaviour to fulfil their unsatisfied wants and desires.
2. Needs of the people are arranged in order of their perceived priority or hierarchy. Perceived need factors of people vary.
3. People can advance from one level of need hierarchy to another, only when their preceding need factors are satisfied. To take an example, without satisfaction of lower-order needs like, physiological and safety, people cannot advance to the satisfaction of belongings or social needs.
4. More the people advance to the higher-order needs, the more they display their satisfaction and motivation to work.
Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory divides human needs into five distinct categories as follows:
Physiological needs are the basic needs of human beings which are essential to sustain or survive. Such needs include food, water, air, clothing, shelter, etc. From the organizational point of view such needs are met through salary and basic working conditions.
Safety needs ensure protection from economic and physical environment. People expect some reasonableness in their perceived environment, which minimizes the degree of uncertainty. Job security, degree of continuity, order, structure and predictability are precisely the nature of such needs. Organizations fulfil such needs of the employees by ensuring a protective work environment. Need for belongingness and love arises after satisfaction of earlier two lower order of needs.
This kind of needs is also known as social needs. People in this need level develop a strong sense of affiliation and get concerned with love, affection, belongingness, acceptance and friendship. Organizations meet such needs by providing appropriate work culture to help employees identify with the organization.
At self-esteem need level, employees look for satisfaction of their esteem or egoistic needs. Esteem needs pertain to self-respect and respect or esteem from others. Self-respect is ensured by achieving competence, confidence, personal strength, adequacy, success, independence and freedom.
While respect from others come from prestige, recognition, acceptance, attention, status, reputation and appreciation, organizations, to fulfil such needs of employees, provide challenging work assignments, performance feedback, performance recognition, participative work culture, empowerment, participation in decision making, etc.
At the self-actualization need stage; employees desire to become what they are capable of becoming. They want to create something of their own using their talent, capacities and potentialities. Organizations try to fulfil such needs of employees by nurturing an environment that fosters creativity and growth.
Critical Evaluation of Need Hierarchy Theory:
Concepts of needs help the managers to understand the human behaviour at work. It also accounts for interpersonal variations in human work. Another important aspect is that it is dynamic as the model defines motivation as a constant changing force.
Despite above advantages, the theory is criticized for following reasons:
1. The theory has no empirical support. Moreover, it is not a theory of work motivation. Maslow even did not intend to relate his theory to work motivation. Maslow’s theory was in fact popularized by Douglas McGregor and others, as work motivation theory.
2. It is not possible to put needs in strict defined levels. In fact, hierarchy of needs is simply a misnomer. An employee who is motivated by self-actualization need may still have lower-order needs like food and shelter.
3. The theory is not culturally aligned. It is more specific to western culture than anything else. However, work is perceived differently in different culture. Hence, motivations to work are different in different countries; sometimes it even varies within a country, from one individual work group to another. Therefore, the theory cannot hold good for heterogeneous work groups.
4. Maslow’s existential philosophy is questioned as people may not like to remain content and plateaued with the satisfaction of their lower order needs. They may like to move further up in the hierarchy.
5. Diagnosing need deficiency for employees, following Maslow’s approach is time consuming. Even after such diagnosis, it may not help an organization to develop a tailor-made model for employee motivation.