Maslow was born is New York in 1908. His parents were a Russian immigrant couple and he had a rather miserable childhood. He majored in psychology at the University of Wiscosin and his post-graduation was also from the same University.
He studied under the guidance of eminent professors Harry Harlow and William Sheldon. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the sexual and aggressive behaviour of primates housed at the Zoo of Madison.
Maslow was on the factually of Brooklyn College in New York City for about a decade. Later on he became Professor and Chairman of the Department of Psychology of Brandies University in 1951. He held this position until a year before his death in 1970.
Maslow opines that human beings want organisms that are motivated to fulfill and satisfy certain needs in their lives. Man is a wanting animal. His wants are insatiable. When one want is satisfied another takes its place.
Man’s mind is so made that he is never completely satisfied. The origin of wants can be traced to three main sources: Our primary wants we have in common with animals e.g., the wants of food, water and shelter.
Over and above these primary wants, we have many others which arise from our economic and social positions, and that man strives for self-realisation, that is to the attainment of the ultimate in human achievement in the total hierarchy of needs. Maslow recognised five basic human needs in people which constitute a ‘hierarchy’.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory becomes quite popular. His theory of needs says that human behaviour is influenced by a set of needs and that an unsatisfied need motivates while a satisfied need does not.
The needs are arranged in hierarchy of prepotency, meaning as a person fulfils a lower need that next higher need becomes important in directing the person’s behaviour. The hierarchy is shown below:
The first level of physiological needs includes food, air, water sleep, shelter and other necessities to sustain and preserve life. These are the most basic needs and people will be motivated to fulfill them first through whatever behaviour to achieve this end.
Should an individual be deprived of any of these needs, he will bend his entire efforts to their satisfaction. A hungry person will think of food or a person who is drowning becomes frantic in his efforts to obtain oxygen.
However, once this need is satisfied, the need ceases to operate as a prime motivator of behaviour. In fact, they are largely taken for granted. When the psychological needs are satisfied, they no longer stimulate soul-seeking activity and higher needs emerge.
The second level of needs, i.e. safety needs to motivate human behaviour once level of needs is gratified. This need refers to freedom from fears of external threats including protection, comfort, peace and an environment with a predictable pattern such as job security, pension/insurance etc. There may be some overlapping of the physiological and safety needs.
After the safety needs have been satisfied, then emerge the social needs man is a social animal. Man’s desire to be continuously associated in work with his fellows is strong, if not the strongest of human characteristics. Man likes to be relied by others, to be a wanted member and to belong to a group other than just a family.
He feels the needs to relate to others in the work environment as well as in off the job environment. The need for love involves the acceptance, group participation and desire for affectionate relationships. Student groups, political groups, clubs etc. and many organizations fulfill this need for social involvement and acceptance by other. They also speak and act in ways to win social approval.
Maslow’s fourth-level needs are the esteems needs. The desire for status and prestige is an important aspect of the need for esteem and leads to feelings of self-confidence, worth, strength, capability. Esteem needs may also overlap with social needs i.e., belonging, love affection etc.
The fifth level need Maslow calls self-actualisation. It represents the ultimate in human achievement in the total hierarchy of needs and had been described by Maslow as: man’s desire for self-fulfillment, mainly the tendency for level to become actualised in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.
In our contemporary society the needs lower in the hierarchy are more completely satisfied than the higher needs, e.g., most of the physiological and safety needs are fulfilled. Many features of Maslow’s theory which deserve attention are:
1. The hierarchy relates to the motivational scale of normal, healthy individuals belonging to a highly advanced society. This society ensures satisfaction of physiological and safety needs.
2. From the standpoint of what actually motivates human behaviour it can be asserted that a satiated need is no longer a motivator.
3. In advance society, the physiological and safety needs do not form motivators for most normal adults. It is only in the under developed regions that these needs dominate human behaviour.
4. As regards the utility of this theory for understanding human relations and organizational behaviour, it is because of this approach to human motivational that managers have expressed concern for higher order needs.
Although the hierarchy of needs theory is well known to managers and is one of the most popular theories cautions should be exercised in attempting to understand and predict the motivation of employees with the hierarchy concept. The popularity of the need hierarchy can be attributed to the apparent ease of understanding the model as well as to its simple and logical appearance.
The modern management approach to motivation is greatly influenced by Maslow’s need hierarchy. His model, however, is questionable as an overall theory of work motivation. His theory is quite inadequate to answer various aspects of work motivation. His theory has not been strongly supported by research findings.
Maslow’s theory appears to suffer from several logical flows, including confusion between values and needs and a lack of clarity as to just what constitutes self-actualization. At present, therefore, its usefulness as a framework for understanding the basic causes of job satisfaction and dissatisfaction is open to question.
Maslow’s contribution lies in the fact that he produced the hierarchical need concept. He was the first thinker to emphasise that when a need is satisfied it is also longer serving as a motivator. As a matter of fact, the model propounded by Herzberg is an extension and application of Maslow’s theory as applied to work motivation.
Maslow’s research papers were as follows:
1. “A Preface to Motivation Theory’ published in Psychosomatic Medicine, Vol. 5, 1943.
2. “A theory of human Motivation published in the psychological Review’ Vol. 50,
Later his findings were published in a book titled ‘Motivation and Personality’ in 1954.
In summary, the Maslow hierarchy, as well as the others, is of minimal value in understanding and predicting employee work behaviour. The hierarchy concepts fail to address the fundamental questions and issues in motivation theory regarding the direction of behaviour, the amplitude of responses and the persistence of the behaviour.
At best, need theories suggest that people have various needs and in some way seek to fulfill these needs? Need hierarchies have been used to explain and understand motivated behaviour exposed factor. This type of application is not practicing managers who need to predict employee’s behaviour in order to direct human effort effectively.’