Maslow’s hierarchy of needs Theory – Role of Motivation

maslow's hierarchy of needs theory

Motive starts an internal process inside every individual to make an action. It is an impulse that causes us to set, act, and attain the objectives of our life. Motivation is the crucial element that can be inferred by observing the behaviors of an individual. This article is all about motivation and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Before moving towards Maslow’s theory and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory it is important to understand what motivation is the types of motivation, and the components of motivation. This theory is still applicable in the corporate sector.

After discussing all these points we will discuss Maslow’s theory of motivation, some of its examples, and about the implementations and what kind of benefits we get out of this theory.

What is Motivation?

You can understand motivation in these words: To meet the certain needs a process emerges to start the activities, then direct these activities in a particular manner and finally sustains it. This process of guidance to accomplish our goals is termed as Motivation.

There is no specification of needs and these can be both physical and psychological. This is a kind of force that works in a particular manner to achieve the target.

Types of motivation:

Motivation has mainly two types:

  • Intrinsic: It is a kind of motivation an individual feels from inside. Being intrinsically motivated means a person performs some actions for their gratification. For example, you learn swimming or dancing because you feel it challenging for yourself.
  • Extrinsic: A motivation comes from your environment or outside that provokes you to get a reward or avoid punishment. For example, scoring good marks to get admission to a professional institute or giving your best in a competition to win it.

Components of motivation:

The three main components of motivation are:

  • Activation that encourages deciding to perform certain action or behavior.
  • Persistence that stops you from being disappointed or discouraged in case of facing an obstacle. It aids to put in the efforts to achieve the aimed goal.
  • Intensity is the third component that defines how quickly a person can achieve their goal. It is about the concentration of efforts and the energy anyone puts in to accomplish the desired objective.

After discussing the main features of motivation let’s move towards Maslow’s theory.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory:

Abraham Maslow presented the hierarchy of needs theory in 1943. This theory puts forward that five basic categories of need motivate an individual. So, these are Safety, self, self-actualization, love, and physiological needs.

According to Maslow, all humans have to need to be satisfied, and all of them work hard to satisfy those needs. These needs vary for every individual and needs are the requirements of a person. He assumed that the needs could be arranged in a manner of their importance. This hierarchy of needs is called Maslow Pyramid or it is also termed as the theory of human behavior.

What is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?

According to Abraham Maslow Theory People always do struggle and remain motivated to fulfill their needs whether these are personal needs or professionals. Without any distinction of age, he categorized the human needs into five hierarchical levels.

Maslow considered that if a person wants to reach an advanced level, that person has to satisfy the needs of the previous level. Without completing the lower level or the previous level of satisfaction no one can attain the privilege of satisfying the next level. No one can skip any level of this hierarchy and it is important to satisfy the skipped or lost needs at a later date.

This need pattern is from basic to advance level of needs. The pattern of needs begins with the lowest level of Maslow’s Pyramid that is the foundation of hierarchy. As the level increases, it becomes difficult to fulfill the needs of that stage.

Let’s understand every level and its requirements from bottom to top of the Maslow’s pyramid.

1.     Physiological Needs:

Physiological needs are the basic needs that are vital to surviving. These are essential and primary needs that help people to function properly. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, this is the base pillar of this five stages model. Survival-ensuring needs such as food, water, shelter, and sleep are included in the foot of Maslow’s hierarchy. To move through further stages of Maslow’s hierarchy, you must satisfy these basic needs. When a person gets all his/her physiological needs they attain a condition where they can say: ‘’I am comfortable’’.

2.     Safety Needs:

After the physiological requirements the safety, security, and stability are the secondary needs. From early childhood, safety needs are apparent. The needs for security explain why people go for saving accounts and purchase insurances. These safety needs include:

  • Safety form aggression, violence, and delinquency (Physical security)
  • Assurance of resources and revenues
  • Security of employment
  • Security of family
  • Safety of health
  • Security of property against crime
  • Moral security

Classical and operant conditioning could be considered as the main driving factor behind it.

3.     Love & Belonging Needs:

The next need for hierarchy includes the feeling of love and being accepted. This need encompasses the fondness of being loved and fondness of love towards others. A romantic relationship, the relationship between parents, siblings, and friends all are included in this need. Every human wish to belong with a group of people wants to make friends, cares for others, and gets intimidated because of this need for love and belonging. The absence of this element can cause anxiety, depression, and loneliness.

4.     Esteem Needs:

Maslow says all humans feel a need to be respected, to have respect, and to respect other people. Desire to feel good about own self is something inborn. When the basic two needs get satisfied the longing of being appreciated arises. According to Maslow, there are two components of esteem needs. The first component is about feeling good about oneself or being confident while the other component shows the desire of being valued and praised by others.

When these needs are not met, people become to feel inferior and suffer from an inferiority complex. An individual needs to get appreciation at the workplace. Doing a job or performing some work is not only about being paid but the encouragement, praise, and support from the employer also mean a lot.

5.     Self-Actualization:

A feeling of being living up to the mark or according to the maximum potential a person has is self-actualization. Self-actualization is a unique feature that is different for every individual. Everyone has their definition of self-actualization. Maslow explained that achieving self-actualization is almost rare and there are very few people in the world who may consider them being contented. According to Maslow following are self-actualizing people:

  • People who are casual in their thoughts and actions.
  • Creative people
  • People who appreciate life and feel a closeness to others.
  • In addition, the morality comes from their inside and requires no external authority. To know more about authoritarian personality and the ruling behavior, you can visit this article.
  • People who judge others objectively without prejudice.
  • People who show interest in solving problems. This often includes finding solutions to the problems for others.
  • People who embrace life with their goods and bad. They do not avoid the facts and realities of life rather than denying and refusing.

Criticism of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

Abraham Maslow’s theory is almost seventy years old but still it provides great value. But there is some criticism of Maslow’s theory of motivation and that is:

  • There is not a single supportive scientific evidence of Maslow’s theory.
  • Maslow has not included the cultural influence in his theory. (e.g. how to explain the situations of the starving artist?)
  • It is a universal fact that the needs of all people are not the same that is why a single motivation theory cannot explain various circumstances.
  • The fundamental needs of human beings are invariant and ontologically universal. These needs are non-hierarchical.
  • The hierarchy of needs created by Maslow is according to an individualistic self-centered perspective that is why he has explained the needs of individualistic societies. But never explained the needs of collective societies.
  • One big problem with Maslow’s pyramid is that needs do not disappear after they are met and certain environmental causes can make them come back again.
  • Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is failed to explain the difference between social and intellectual needs of people who rose in two different kinds of societies (individualist or collectivist societies).

Things to learn from Maslow’s Hierarchy:

In spite of all the criticism, Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs is still very much useful. It is simply a flow that can spark passion, inspiration, and encouragement in a person’s life. So, let’s discuss some ways that can put this theory of motivation to use in our life.

Personal life & Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

Sometimes it happens with all of us. We feel something is eating us, but we aren’t sure what that is Maslow’s theory of needs assists us to know the actual cause of feeling down and unmotivated. Whether it is a cognitive need or a need for self-esteem, anyone can easily get what runs inside their mind and how to deal with it.

Maslow’s hierarchy in Leadership & Management:

Being a leader or a manager the hierarchy of needs by Maslow is highly beneficial to understand the needs of the people you rule or the staff you need to manage. Moreover, meeting the needs of a group of people can be complex and challenging. With the help of Maslow’s pyramid of needs, a leader/manager can easily understand the requirements of esteem, safety, and self-actualization of their people/staff.

Maslow’s hierarchy and getting some perspective:

Today’s materialistic way of life bounds us to think only about our basic and physiological needs. We remain worried about either we are exercising or not, eating a healthy diet, sleeping well, and what our friends and relatives think about us and what’s our opinion about them, etc. But in all this mess of thoughts, we simply forget about the peak of the pyramid. Self-actualization is something that makes us different from other mammals. Life is not only about the big things but we need to take care of little things too.

Maslow’s theory & the importance of feelings:

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is not only about how things are but it also includes how things feel. It is also essential to care about feelings. For example, in business management, the need for security has been advised. If you sack someone, they lose their security but at the same time doing it in a wrong way or harshly may be the entire company might lose their feeling of security.


If we observe a little thoughtfully we realize that most of the needs in the hierarchy pyramid of Maslow are not met by cold hard facts. But these needs change according to the circumstances that change our feelings about the environment, people, and our own-selves.

The basic concept of Maslow’s Theory is that the needs of people are changing constantly. As one needs is met individual starts struggling for the next need. And it is the fact that this theory leaves an open end for everyone and encourages everyone to find the answers to the following questions:

  • What I planned for the future 2 years ago motivate me for the next 5 years?
  • Was the best employee of the year award I received last year will satisfy my needs of recognition for the rest of my life?
  • Will the challenging circumstances I faced 4 years ago have the same effect on me today?

Every one of us has to answer these questions. But it is also important that Maslow’s theory of motivation always remains working in the background. It is not something you simply shutoff after achieving the topmost place of the pyramid.

What is your opinion about the importance of motivation and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?

2 thoughts on “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs Theory – Role of Motivation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *