Motivation and Maslow

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Maslow (1908-1970) introduced his theory back in 1954, and became of one of the founding father of motivation after publishing his booked ‘Motivation and Personality’.

His theory is one of the most widely recognised and effectively used in today organisations all around the world.

Maslow’s (1954) theory supports the need for understanding individual human behaviour and that different things motivate different individuals. For example, a need that needs to be fulfilled by an individual is very significant and valuable to one person, but this need may not have any significance and value to another person. Therefore, Maslow’s (1954) theory can be seen as supporting of his definition of motivation.

Maslow’s (1954) Hierarchy of need model identifies different motivational factors in a hierarchical approach which identifies five levels of motivation within employees, known as the ‘Hierarchy of Needs’.

The ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ consisted of 5 levels of need which were; Physiological needs; Safety needs; Social needs; Esteem Needs; and Self-actualisation.

Today the hierarchy is presented as a triangle, although Maslow himself did not present it in this way (see figure 1).

Fig. 1 Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Based on original 5 stage model)

Each level is contained by the other, before an employee can move onto the next level of need; they need to be satisfied with the first need before they can move onto the next. However, Burwash (1988, p173-175) argues;

“...that a person who has had all of his or her lower level needs fulfilled, and is looking to meet higher level needs, may go back to the lowest level needs if there is a sudden reversal in the environmental”.

Maslow does recognise in his later work that employees can satisfy upper needs before lower ones are fulfilled.

This finding has led to Maslow’s (1954) work being criticised on both theoretical and empirical grounds (Neher 1991; Wahba &...
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