Motivating Employees Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

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Motivating Employees Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Jeannie Hahn
MBA 601
Organizational Behavior
Fall 2012

In 1943 Abraham Maslow introduced his theory that there are five basic needs that lie beneath all human activity, a hierarchy of needs, in his paper "A Theory of Human Motivation" (Cherry n.d.; Sadri 2011). Maslow’s theory suggests that people are driven to substantially satisfy their basic needs before moving on to other, more advanced needs (Cherry n.d.; Sadri 2011). Maslow’s hierarchy is most often visually displayed as a pyramid with the most basic needs at the bottom of the pyramid and the complex needs at the top of the pyramid (Cherry n.d.). The needs at the base of the pyramid are basic physical requirements including the need for food, water, sleep, and warmth and the needs at the top of the pyramid are about safety and security (Cherry n.d.). The five basic needs, in hierarchical order from the most fundamental to the most complex, are: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization (Sadri 2011). Maslow’s model has been studied in various disciplines, however, in business it is approached as a model for understanding motivation (Benson & Dundis 2003). The use of Maslow’s model in the business or organizational setting provides a means to understand and affect employee motivation. Maslow’s model has the same five levels in the work setting, but the definitions were modified (Benson & Dundis 2003). Physiological needs, according to Maslow, are the most basic fundamental human needs because all other needs become secondary until these basic physiological needs are met (Cherry n.d.). Physiological needs cover two main concepts: homeostasis and appetite (Datta 2011). Homeostasis is defined as “the tendency of a system, especially the physiological system of higher animals, to maintain internal stability, owing to the coordinated response of its parts to any situation or stimulus that would tend to disturb its normal condition or function” (Homeostasis n.d.). Appetite is defined as “a desire to satisfy any bodily need or craving; a desire for food or drink” (Appetite n.d.). Basically, physiological needs are the need for food, air, water and shelter in addition to the need to be active, to rest and to sleep (Sadri 2011). When applying Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to motivate employees the physiological, basic, needs typically involve monetary compensation, including wages and salaries, bonuses, stock options and retirement plans, and other benefits such as vacation days and other time off (Sadri 2011). Money is a very important part of an employees’ reward package and because it helps fulfill the bulk of their physiological needs: food, clothing and a place to live (Benson & Dundis 2003; Sadri 2011). Additionally, if an employee feels they are fairly compensated through wages and benefits it is believed that they will spend less time thinking about their salaries (Benson & Dundis 2003). In addition to monetary compensation and benefits there are other ways to motivate employees with physiological needs like providing a comfortable work environment, free or subsidized cafeterias, regular break times and break rooms stocked with drinks and food along with various other perks (Sadri 2011). Perks that are provided free or at a subsidy by an employer help provide physiological needs to employees. Because the employees’ expenses are reduced, they in turn have more discretionary income to purchase other necessary items (Sadri 2011). Once an employee’s physiological needs are met they move on to the second level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs: safety and security needs. While security needs are essential for survival they are not as serious as the physiological needs (Cherry n.d.). Safety and security needs consist of the desire to be safe from physical and mental harm (Benson & Dundis 2003; Sadri 2011). A secure and safe working environment leads to...
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