Maslow theory of Motivation

In 1943, Abraham Maslow published a paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation”. In this paper, he proposed that people have different levels of needs that they seek to meet. Maslow mentioned that people are more motivated by the most basic needs.

When these needs were placed in different levels, it was found that people have five levels of needs that they seek to meet. The most basic needs, i.e. the most motivating needs were placed at the bottom of this pyramid model.

Physiological Needs

These needs are considered the most important because they are the most immediate needs and hence are also known as “basic needs”. They include food, clothing, shelter, sexual activity, etc. These are all the necessities for our bodies to stay functional. The bottom, or most important needs, are the physiological needs.

One of the most important reasons people look for a job is to meet these basic necessities. However, a person whose job enables him to only provide these basic amenities to himself and his family is very difficult to be motivated.

People who are working on a minimum wage are tough to motivate because they realize that their efforts won’t ever be sufficient to reap the rewards that go beyond providing food on the table. These people are more interested in putting in just the efforts that helps them keep their jobs, as compared to trying and putting in a better performance.

Safety Needs

Once a person makes sure that all his basic necessities have been met, he will think about safety and security. That’s why many insurance companies or loan-offering companies generally check for people’s incomes to see if they earn beyond a considerable limit, before approaching them for services.

They know that a person who is not able to provide the basic necessities won’t be interested in future security or safety, protection from health issues, financial issues, etc. When they breach this line, they face issues. The biggest example of this is the sub-prime loan-lending by the USled banks to the people who were never in a condition to pay back the loans.

The safety here is not only about financial safety or health. It’s also job safety and security. Employees won’t be easily motivated in an environment where they see employees being removed frequently. They will be more worried about saving their jobs, compared to giving any importance on listening to motivating stuff.

There are many jobs where health safety is not an assured thing. For example, people in military services are well-aware that they could face fatal injuries any day. In these cases, they are motivated by their anger towards their enemy, how their sacrifices are keeping their families safe back in their homes, how they are doing their country a great service, and how they are inspiring millions to join the forces and fight to keep their nation safe.

Another outcome of constant efforts in providing safety and stability in jobs is the “Whistleblower Policy”. In this policy, rules and conditions are drafted in such a way that the employees don’t fear being exposed to threats, dangers, bullying, and harassment of any kind when they report any wrong-doings happening in their company. Other such policies include health insurance, sick leaves, company leaves, welfare programs, etc.

Belonging Needs

Once a person is done taking care of basic needs and has gotten a secure life and job, he will look to establish relationships with individuals. At these stages, people would want to go out and socialize, and mull over the absence of any companion in their lives.

These needs are emotional in nature and can be fulfilled by friendship, love and care. They develop a need for the sense of belongingness, i.e. they want to feel that they belong to the place they are working in.

It has been observed that employees who feel that their presence in the office doesn’t have any impact on others gradually feel isolated and depressed. This affects their productivity and makes them socially awkward. Many people feel as if they don’t belong at their office because they are constantly ignored by the management or peers.

If the needs of relationships are not met, people tend to become nervous, emotionally fragile, depressed and lonely. Some of them end up becoming irascible and ill-tempered. Some actually end up sacrificing some lower needs to feel this need.

People forego their necessity to feed themselves to look slim so that they can draw attention of people towards themselves. As you might have already guessed, many of such practices end up in people foregoing important necessities which may cause long-term ill-effects in the long run.

Making friends, being close to family, being in relationships, having memberships in different clubs, associations, teams, and belonging to different organizations are multiple ways of keeping people emotionally secure. Many companies do a lot of homework on their office culture, so that all the employees feel that their efforts are integral to the success of the company.


Esteem” means self-perception. It is the image of the self in the eyes of the others. Esteem is the image that a person thinks he has in the eyes of others. A person with high esteem thinks that people think highly of him. It’s our esteem that gives us a recognition of our own skills. For example, when someone says that he is funny, entertaining and amiable, he must have heard others saying the same things about him.

People who have the need of esteem will try to improve their perception in people’s minds. They often want to achieve success at work, and are interested in accumulating wealth and status symbols like premium cars, etc. They take pride in the achievements of their family-members and seek opportunities to socialize with people who are looked up to in the society.

When there are people like these in a team, it’s important to note that they are motivated more by name and prestige. A handsome hike in salary couldn’t mean as much to them as an honorary title like, Assistant Project Manager.

When the efforts of these types of people are directly mapped to the company’s achievements, they feel happy and motivated. However, if their efforts are not acknowledged and their hardwork isn’t appreciated, then their productivity falls.


Self-actualization is the realizing of oneself. Many people reach a stage in their life where they start wondering what is expected out of them in their life. They hear a voice that tells them to fulfill their destiny. Such people try to figure out the meaning of their lives and face existential questions.

Generally, such people are found to have achieved every other level in the Maslow Pyramid. They feel they have provided for all the needs that they had in their lives, and are now looking for a purpose of their life.

It’s often found in the lives of successful career-oriented professionals who retire and then feel that they want to be model grand-parents to their grand-kids. Some feel that this is the time they should switch their profession and take up an artistic pursuit.

Many successful businessmen have abandoned successful, stable careers and have changed their professions at the top of their game. Lawyers have become hoteliers, bankers have become actors, actors have become investigative writers, and so on.

People who seek self-actualization have crossed the stage when they used to worry about what other people think about them. They also partake in activities that they find genuine fun doing.

Not every job can be made to feel self-actualizing for everyone. The trick here for the supervisor or the manager is to find someone who feels that this is the job that he would love to do for his entire lifetime.

Many people are initially excited about their profession and feel happy and satisfied in their jobs. However, with age and experience, they could start yearning for some other activities. A successful manager should know how to utilize his team-members so that they stick to their jobs and keep feeling fulfilled. Until these employees believe that they are in a job that they must be taking care of, they will be dealing with self-actualization in a positive manner.

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