Hierarchy of needs theory

The process that account for an individual’s intensity, direction and persistence of effort towards attaining a goal. It’s probably safe to say that the most well know theory of motivation is Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He hypothesized that within every human being there exists a hierarchy of five needs. These needs are:



1. Physiological: includes hunger, thirst, shelter and other bodily needs.
2. Safety: includes security and protection from physical and emotional harm.
3. Social: includes affection, belongingness, acceptance and friendship.
4. Esteem: includes internal esteem factors such as self-respect, autonomy and achievement and external esteem factors such as status, recognition and attention.
5. Self-actualization: the drive to become what one is capable of becoming; includes growth, achieving one’s potential and self-fulfillment

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

As each of these needs become substantially satisfied the next need becomes dominant. So if you want to motivate someone, according to Maslow you need to understand what level of the hierarchy that person is currently on and focus on satisfying the needs at or above that level.
Maslow separated the five needs into higher and lower orders. Physiological and safely needs were described as lower order and social, esteem and self-actualization as higher order needs. The differentiation between the two orders was made on the premise that higher order needs are satisfied internally whereas lower order needs are predominantly satisfied externally.

Maslow’s need theory has received wide recognition, particularly among practicing managers. This can be attributed to the theory’s intuitive logic and ease of understanding. Unfortunately, however research does not generally validate the theory. Maslow provided no empirical substantiation, and several studies that sought to validate the theory found no support for it.
Old theories, especially ones that are intuitively logical, apparently die-hard. Although the need hierarchy theory and its terminology have remained popular with practicing managers, it has minimal empirical support for its predications. More specifically, there is little evidence that need structures are organized along the dimensions proposed by maslow, that unsatisfied needs motivate or that a satisfied need activates movement to a new need level.

The 1950s were a fruitful period in the development of motivation concepts. Three specific theories were formulated during this period, which although heavily attacked and now questionable in terms of validity are probably still the best known explanations for employee motivation. These are the hierarchy of needs theory, theories X & Y and two factor theories.

The Theories represent a foundation from which contemporary theories have grown and practicing managers still regularly use these theories and their terminology in explaining employee motivation.Thus motivation is one of the most frequently researched topics in an organization. In spite of the fact that managers continue to search for innovative ways to motivate their employees and that a significant proportion of today’s workers seem to be unmotivated, we actually know a great deal about how to improve employee motivation.

The three key elements in the definition are intensity, direction and persistence. Intensity is concerned with how hard a person tries. This is the element most of us focus on when we talk about motivation. However high intensity is unlikely to lead to favorable job performer outcome unless the efforts are channeled in a direction that benefits the organization. Therefore we have to consider the quality of effort as well as its intensity. Effort that is directed towards and consistent with the organization’s goals is the kind of effort that we should be seeking. Finally motivation has a persistence dimension, this is a measure of how long a person can maintain their efforts. Motivated individuals stay with a task long enough to achieve their goals.

Human wants are innumerable it is these want which are responsible for all economic activities. When one need is satisfied another need crops. Thus an individual has to priorities his needs with the available resources to optimize his satisfaction. Motivation is a tool that is used to increase the morale and output of an individual. All the employees in an organization need to be motivated directly or indirectly to get the best out of an employee. Motivation can be done by way of giving a rise in salary, or a promotion, a appreciation letter from the senior member etc.


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