A Guide To The 5 Levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

What is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?

Abraham Maslow, a human psychologist proposed a motivation theory ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ in his paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” in 1943. Succeding as motivation theory it is later added in the book “Motivation and Personality”. It is regularly well known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. According to Maslow, people always have needs and when one need is relatively fulfilled others emerge in a predictable sequence to take place.

Maslow argues that needs are what motivate people to do work. Human wants are unlimited and to fulfill unlimited needs they are motivated to do given work.

Maslow in his hierarchy of needs outlined human needs into 5 levels from the lowest to the highest, the needs are physiological, security, social, esteem, and self-actualization. Human needs favor obeying a primary hierarchal pattern from the most essential needs to the highest level. Unless the most basic needs are fulfilled, a person will not try to fulfill his higher-level needs.

Maslow’s need hierarchy theory is based on the following assumptions:

  • Human needs and motives are complex
  • Needs to form a hierarchy
  • Unsatisfied needs motivate people/workers
  • People seek growth and development

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is applicable to every individual, school, business as well as organization.

Let’s take a deep look into five categories of needs given by Maslow that starts from physiological needs.

hierarchy of needs
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

On the above pyramid, the most under the level of the pyramid are the most primary needs, and upwards the needs are complicated.

Maslow’s pyramid also represents the number of people. The wider the pyramid the higher the people size, and the narrower the pyramid the smaller the number of people. At lower levels of the pyramid, people are high, as the pyramid goes upwards the people’s size becomes smaller. It means fewer people are self-actualized.

In the hierarchy of needs, Maslow arranged five needs into two divisions, the first is lower-order needs and higher-order needs, and the second is deficiency needs and growth needs.

Lower Order Needs Vs. Higher-Order Needs

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the basic needs physiological and security needs are lower-order needs. Lower order needs are fulfilled through external factors i.e. through available materials and need fewer efforts. Social, self-esteem, and self-actualization are the higher-order needs. Higher-order needs are fulfilled through internal factors i.e. within the individual’s mindset and need higher efforts to fulfill.

Deficiency Needs Vs. Growth Needs

Maslow termed physiological, security, social, and esteem needs as deficiency needs and self-actualization as a growth need. Deficiency needs arise due to unmet needs. Deficiency needs are essential to meet in order to avoid harmful, unpleasant, and loneliness. Also, when deficiency needs are met the motivation decreases.

Growth need or being need is the desire of a person to grow. It does not arise due to a lack of something, it is an individual willing to become what he wants to become. When the growth need is met the motivation level of an individual also increases, and when this need does not meet it does not make a person feel boring. Before meeting the growth need the lower levels or deficiency needs must be met at first.

The 5 Levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Physiological Needs

At the very first level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs the physiological needs come. Physiological needs are the most basic needs essential to survival. These needs are vital to fulfilling the regular functioning of individuals. Unless the basic needs are not fulfilled people do not go for other higher needs. The examples are:

  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Clothing
  • Water
  • Air
  • Sleep
  • Sex

Maslow also argues that the reproduction or sex need arises only after the other physiological needs are met.

In addition, in organizations, adequate wages and a good working environment generally satisfies the physiological needs of employees.

Security and Safety Needs

As we satisfy physiological needs, security and safety needs assume to take place. Security need includes protection against deprivation, danger, and threat on or off the job. Safety needs can be sub-divided into three categories economic security, physical security, and social security.

Economic security involves assurance about the fulfillment of basic needs on a continuous basis, for this, a person contributes his money to a saving account.

Physical security involves protection against unexpected events like fire, accidents, etc. for this, a person proceeds with insurance.

Social security involves needs for security in old age, diseases, and permanent incapability, for this a person saves as much as possible for his old age life difficulties.

Organizations fulfill security and safety needs by providing stable jobs with medical facilities and retirement benefits.

Social Needs/ Affiliation Needs

At the third level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, here come social/affiliation needs. It includes affection, a sense of belonging, acceptance, and friendship. At this level, people want to feel loved and accepted in society. Some examples of these needs include:

  • Friendships
  • Love
  • Family
  • Social Groups
  • Team Spirits
  • Intimacy

The deprivation of such needs creates people’s loneliness, depression, and anxiety. People are social beings, thus they need to interact with others. We know, love is the best feeling that helps to reduce feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety, and other mental problems among people.

In organizations, employees with high affiliation need to enjoy working closely with others. When an organization does not fulfill affiliation needs, employee dissatisfaction appears regularly in different forms like frequent absenteeism, low productivity, stress-related behaviors, and emotional breakdowns. Management has to develop the feeling of belongingness, team spirit, promotion, the authority on the basis of efficiency, etc. to fulfill these needs.

Esteem Needs

When the previous level’s needs are fulfilled, the esteem needs take place which include respect and appreciation. It also includes the self-esteem and personal growth of a person. At this level, esteem needs to play an important role as a motivator to motivate the behaviors of individuals.

Esteem or ego needs are psychological in nature and represent higher-level needs. At this point, people want to feel valued and want to make a contribution to society.

Maslow categorized esteem needs into two categories, the first is respect from oneself and the second is respect from others. Respect from others includes status, recognition, and attention. Respect for oneself includes self-respect, autonomy, and achievement.

In order to satisfy these needs, people seek opportunities for achievement, promotion, prestige, and status.

In organizations, management can fulfill ego needs by defining the position and by developing a system of reward and punishment.

Self Actualization Needs

The last level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is self-actualization needs, it is the most complex need among the others. It is based on the quotation ‘What a man can be, he must be’.

Self-actualization needs are related to personal growth, self-fulfillment, and the realization of one’s full potential. Self-actualization is the desire to become what one is capable of becoming.

At this level, an individual seeks challenging works that allow for creativity and opportunities for personal growth and advancement. Self-actualized individuals are creative, independent, self believers, less concerned with others’ opinions, spontaneous, and have a good perception of reality.

Management can motivate such employees by providing challenging work with sufficient freedom to make decisions.

Evaluation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Many scholars appreciated Maslow’s theory of motivation, while many criticized it. Following are the usefulness and criticism of Maslow’s needs hierarchy theory.

The Usefulness of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s needs hierarchy theory is significant for employee motivation. It is comparable with the economic theory of demand. This theory facilitates knowing why a person behaves differently in two similar situations. It leads administrators to learn human behaviors and start motivational designs.

This theory is quite comprehensive as this starts with the basics and reaches up to self-actualization needs. It is the common observation of managers that basic needs arise first and gradually increase to a higher level.

Maslow’s needs hierarchy theory is a universal notion. The needs which are described have values not only in the context of the organization but also significant in all the stages of human life. For example, safety needs, social needs, ego needs, and self-actualization needs are part of the personal life of individuals.

Maslow has focused that when lower needs are satisfied higher order needs replace them. As human wants are unlimited and unsatisfied, needs motivate workers. It is the responsibility of managers to create a situation to satisfy dominant needs.

Criticisms of Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory

Apart from its usefulness, many scholars have identified the weaknesses of this theory. Some limitations of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are:

Hierarchy Classification is not Universal

Maslow’s need hierarchy theory is not universally applicable to all individuals. Each individual may have their own needs. For example, some creative people, in spite of a lack of basic needs, may attain self-actualization.

Ignores Simultaneous Emergence of Needs

Maslow emphasizes that needs at a particular level arise only when the needs of the preceding level of needs have been satisfied. This theory does not recognize the simultaneous emergence of two or more needs at a time.

Neglected Situational Factors

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory ignores situational factors. It may not apply all the time, in all the places, and in all the situations. For example, all the countries of the world do not have the same level of economic prosperity and so people of different countries might have different levels of living standards.

Ignores Complex Human Behavior

Human behavior is quite complex and difficult to understand. Therefore, it is not fully correct to say that human behavior is not only an outcome of human needs. It may be the outcome of several other forces i.e. perception, expectation, experiences, etc. Hence, management must also admit that there are many determinants of behavior other than needs and desires.

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