Probably one of the most influential and widely regarded theories with regards to human relations is known as Maslow's hierarchy of needs. One of the most legendary ideas in the history of psychology is located in an unassuming triangle divided into five sections referred to universally simply as ‘Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs’.
And Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs was the work of a thirty-five year old Jewish psychologist of Russian origins called Abraham Maslow, who had been looking, since the start of his professional career, for nothing less than the meaning of life.
This research was published in a 1943 paper titled ‘a theory of human motivation’. It has since become a mainstay of psychological analyses, business presentations and online lectures – and grown ever more colourful and emphatic in the process. Maslow wanted to find out what could make life purposeful for people (himself included) in modern-day America, a country where the pursuit of money and fame seemed to have eclipsed any other interior or authentic aspirations.
And what he was trying to do is essentially assess if we had a series of different behaviours that we had the option to choose to engage in.
What made it more likely for us to engage in one behaviour over another?
How do we prioritise these particular things? What predisposed us to choose one behaviour over another?
What were the set of conditions that had to exist?
And so what he determined was that our behaviour was driven by what our needs were at that particular point in time. And so how this worked is that he developed a hierarchy of five different needs, and basically stated that these needs must be met in order for someone to progress up the hierarchy and pursue what were termed some of the higher level needs. And so you can see (above) these here we have physiological needs, safety and security needs, social needs, esteem needs, as well as self actualisation needs. Now in order to pursue or to progress up this hierarchy you had to have a lower level need met first.
And so let me explain. The first of which is what we call the physiological needs. A physiological need is something that's necessary to sustain life, something like food, or water or oxygen. Those are considered to be things that you probably couldn't live without.Some you would need more quickly than others like oxygen. Of course, you can probably go a little while without food, less without water, but oxygen you'd be pretty hard pressed to survive for any lengthy period of time.
So if you had a physiological need - if you had a need for food or water, that tends to drive your behaviour. Now think about it when you're thirsty. Are you thinking about all the other things that you have to do or is your need to quench your thirst paramount at that particular point?
Well, according to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, it would take precedent, you wouldn't care about all the other things that you could or should be doing, because that (quenching your thirst) would be the most important need to you at that particular point in time.
Assuming that you had your physiological needs met, you would then progress to the next particular area and that is the safety and security need. Now safety and security need ~ when you think of that ..you think automatically of the physical safety and well being kind of idea .. that I'm going to be safe from any type of bodily harm and it does encompass the physical sense, but we're also talking about emotional safety/security...maybe even financial safety as well.
So let me give you an example. If you were working on the job and somehow you found out that your company was beginning to downsize.According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs from a behavioural standpoint, you would now be concerned for your financial safety and security. And so your behaviour would be driven by trying to fulfil or eliminate that particular need. So you might start looking for other jobs. You might start networking a little bit, calling up old contacts, seeing if something else was available out there in the workforce, possibly because your behaviour is being driven by your need for safety and security. Now, assuming that you were able to, obviously fulfil that particular need, then you may move on to the next area which are called social needs.
We all have a little bit of social needs ..some more than others.And a social need is for us to have a sense of belonging to someone or some particular group. We all have people that we want to associate with - family, friends.. acquaintances.And so a social need is a feeling to be to belong to someone or a particular group. We all have social needs in different areas. Usually in the workplace - we have maybe a handful of people that we usually communicate with and correspond with, and that has to be met essentially, for us to be able to move on to a to a higher level need.
Think about it: when you first start on an actual job for many of us..as we begin to get comfortable with our position - we start to branch out and try to make friends at work and go out with coworkers after work etc to essentially build that particular friendship and that's all out of a desire to belong to a particular group of people.
Now, assuming your social needs were met, you would move on to the esteem needs area.
And esteem needs are essentially driven by our desire to be not necessarily liked, but to feel good about ourselves, to look in the mirror at the end of the day and to think positive things about yourself.
And there are a number of different ways that you can satisfy esteem needs. This is mainly kind of driven by a desire for prestige. So you think about the things that might make people feel good about themselves. luxury vehicles, homes in the right zip code, the clothing that you wear, the size of Office that you have, the location of the office that you have, the company that you work for, the title that's behind or in front of your name ~ those are types of things that are proven to gain esteem.
So in the workplace, if you typically have people who are there who have been working at a particular job for some time, their behaviour may be driven by their need for esteem.
Maybe they want that very prestigious position, or they want to work hard & then they can have that country club membership!
Those are all things that help us tackle this need for esteem, our desire to feel good about ourselves and to feel like we are successful.
Now next and last is the need for self actualization.
And this is a need to feel like we are reaching our fullest potential and we all have different levels of potential, of course, some higher than others.
To think that we would all attain the same level is a little ridiculous, but we all have different levels of what that might be.
So things that help us reach our fullest potential are things like education, developing skills etc .. these help us become better versions of ourself.
And that is the last level of the the pyramid so to speak. And for the most part, many people argue that that is a level that's not truly attainable.But that tends to drive behaviour. So people that are in school, in part are trying to fulfil this self actualization need because they want to do better and to reach their fullest potential.
From a management perspective,managing people is all about understanding what people's motivations are. And Maslow's hierarchy of needs could be something that can help you understand what people's motivations are.
So by understanding what people's needs are, you can predict what their behaviour is likely to be, which is a very, very important piece of the puzzle there.
So think of this as climbing Mount Everest. You have to start at the bottom. But then along the way, you're gonna have different checkpoints. Each of these checkpoints are managed by all the Sherpas on the mountain. You can't go from the bottom to the next level unless you check in with the Sherpa and he makes sure that you're okay - you've eaten properly,you're getting enough rest etc and only then can you jump to the next level. Again, a Sherpa there at the higher level is going to check and make sure you're breathing.And so on.So you get to the next point and the next point and finally, there at the top where you've realised your maximum potential.
Let's think about how do we feel when we are under the weather. We are not very motivated to do anything. What happens if we are happy if we are well fed and if we have a family support. We continue to feel motivated and then we even dream and think about our future. What do we dream of? If we think about this theory and shape of a pyramid, we can start from lower levels and see what are the things that we need to have in order to feel motivated and achieve something?
First we have physiological needs, which are very basic such as air, water, shelter, food, sleep, clothing and reproduction. After the physiological needs. We have a safety needs, which include security, employment, resources, health and prosperity. After the safety needs. We need to have love and belonging satisfied in order to thrive the things that we need. There are friends, friendship, intimacy, family support. After the love and belonging we need to have some self esteem and esteem includes things such as respect, recognition, freedom and of course, this being self actualization is the final step of the motivational pyramids and if closed - the desire to become the most one can be is achieved.
Now researchers have reevaluated a pyramid and they realise that a pyramid is not actually a pyramid. And then our motivation is more shaped in circles, which are constantly in connection with each other.
There are criticisms regarding the pyramid...that discussion will be for another day.
Now that you've seen the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs or maybe you already know very much about it,what would be the practical use of such a theory in your life?
And some say there is a need for immortality to be added at the very top.Methinks nah...
Think about it.
With love & gratitude,