It is so easy to say that we work to make money to survive, but is this the real reason?
Psychologist Abraham Maslow wanted to understand what motivates healthy people, in life and work. His research resulted (1943, 1954) in what he called a hierarchy of needs, using the terms “physiological”, “safety”, “belongingness” and “love”, “esteem”, “self-actualization”, and “self-transcendence” to describe the pattern that human motivations generally move through. Maslow’s theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire (or focus motivation upon) the secondary or higher level needs. The detail of what he discovered are itemised below, but first, we’d like to ask you to reflect on your personal experience.
How much satisfaction do you derive from your work – and from what level does your satisfaction come? Is it the social activities that come from level 3 – Love and belongingness, or the Esteem needs to achieve, mastery, prestige or respect (yours and others) or do you value your work because of the opportunities it provides to realize more of your potential?
Yes, at base level we value work because it provides us with the cash to meet our basic needs of food, warmth, shelter, security and all the other physiological requirements of our body and its safety, but work can and often does meet our need to belong, our need to love, appreciate and be appreciated for who we are, which is at Level 3. In the next level up, we can meet our need for Esteem through our work – it is a most powerful and useful source for us to gain significance and usefulness. Let us not forget that – meeting the two needs for Love and Belongingness and for Esteem can most often and most easily be met through work, so being consciously aware of this, allows us to create circumstances in which they can be met.
At higher levels of the Maslow hierarchy of needs, we ask ‘Does your work enable you to grow in learning, understanding, to find meaning and value in beauty, design and creation? Does your work allow you to grow your potential, to being as good as you can possibly be? Does your work enable you to make a contribution to others that help them achieve their potential?’ As humans we have innate motivations and drivers that move us to learn, to grow, to love, to be respected and to fulfil our potential.
For managers and leaders, it is useful to realise that work not only can fulfil you, but the people who work for you are also seeking to fulfil their needs through work. They are questioning whether work with you will enable them to create their physiological, safety, belongingness, love, esteem, and self actualization needs? People often feel starved of recognition, appreciation and value (Esteem need) and a major activity that managers and leaders should be involved in providing them these important human interactions.
It is not enough to create work that pays people just to work and not address the unspoken needs that they have. How much does a place of work provide environments in which these needs can be met? When a company does, it creates opportunities for people to feel safe, secure, to be respected, to grow in skills and capability, achieve mastery and bring into expression more of their potential. By giving such opportunities the company benefits from the creativity, innovation and contribution of the gifts of the people that it employs.
Maslow did not investigate the gifts and contributions that people make to the company that provides the satisfactions of these needs to their people. This is a study that has yet to be made, but our pragmatic research in the field points to the fact that when people’s basic needs are satisfied and they engage fully in the actualisation and self transcendence levels, happiness and satisfactions occur and great products and services are created that better our world.
The original Maslow hierarchy of needs five-stage model
- Biological and Physiological needs include air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep.
- Safety needs mean protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.
- Love and belongingness needs – involve friendship, intimacy, affection and love – from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships.
- Esteem needs include achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect and respect from others.
- Self-Actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfilment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.
The lower four of the pyramid, said to be the basic needs, motivate people to get their needs met, whilst satisfaction or happiness at their gratification is often short-lived. The need to fulfil such needs becomes stronger the longer the duration they are denied.
Changes to the original five-stage model were developed during the 1960’s and 1970s and include a seven-stage and an eight-stage model. Two additions were inserted after level 4 Esteem, related to increasing knowledge and understanding:
5. Cognitive needs – knowledge, meaning, etc.
6. Aesthetic needs – appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.
Whilst the eighth item after Self-Actualisation added was:
8. Transcendence needs – helping others to achieve self actualization.
Maslow coined the term “metamotivation” to describe the motivation of people who go beyond the scope of the basic needs and strive for constant betterment.
8 September 2015