The Maslow hierarchy of needs

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

According to Maslow, the source of motivation is certain needs. Needs are biological or instinctive; they characterize humans in genera and have a generic base. They often influence behaviour unconsciously. What causes people to behave as they do is the process of satisfying these needs. Once a need is satisfied, it no longer dominates behaviour, and another need rises to take its place. Need fulfillment is never ending.


The five types of needs from Maslow's theory are discussed below:

Physiological needs:

The physiological needs include the basic needs for food, water. These needs cannot be ignored for long and must be met before all others. To the person in a state of virtual starvation or water deprivation, matters other than food or water are of little concern.

Security needs:

Once the physiological needs are relatively well met, a new set of needs, categorized generally as safety needs, emerges. These are concerned with protection against danger, threat and deprivation. In an industrial society the safety needs may be important to the dependent relationship between employees and employers. The safety needs may serve as motivators in such circumstances as arbitrary management actions, behaviour which arouses uncertainty of continued employment, and unpredictable administration of policy.

Social needs:

Once the physiological and safety needs are reasonably well fulfilled, the social needs become important motivators of behaviour. These include needs for belonging, for association, for love, for acceptance by one's fellows, and for giving and receiving friendship.

Self esteem: the self esteem needs are those needs that relate to one's self-esteem, that is, need for self confidence, for achievement, for competence, for knowledge


Self actualization needs are those needs that relate to one's reputation, needs for status, for recognition, for appreciation, for the deserved respect of one's peers. In contrast with the lower order needs the self-esteem and self actualization needs are seldom fully satisfied.

Maslow believed that the hierarchy was characterized by some supporting aspects or features, a few of which are given here:

The higher the need, and the less imperative it is for sheer survival, the longer gratification can be postponed and the easier it is for the need to disappear permanently.

Living at the higher need level means greater biological efficiency, greater longevity, less disease, better sleep, better appetite, and so forth.

Higher needs are less urgent, subjectively

Higher need gratification produces more desirable subjective results, more profound happiness, serenity and richness of the inner life.

Pursuit and gratification of higher needs represent a general trend towards good health.

Higher needs require better outside conditions (economic, educational, etc) to make them possible.

Mc Corwick(1987)

(Ernest J. Mc Cormick and Daniel Ilgen, 1987, Industrial and organizational psychology, eighth edition, Routledge Co Ltd, London, pg 270-271)

Figure 3.1: Maslow's hierarchy of needs applied in today's work environment

Source: Luthan, F, (2008), Organisational behaviour, eleventh edition, pg 170)

Frederick Herzberg's Dual factor theory:

The dual factor is based on considerable proof. It is built on the basis that people are motivated towards what makes them feel good, and away from what makes them feel bad. His research identifies motivators as factors producing good feelings in the work situation. By contrast he suggests that hygiene factors arouse bad feelings in the work situation.

Hygiene factors are clearly concerned with the work environment rather than the work itself. They differ significantly from motivators in as much as they can only prevent illness but not bring about good health. In other words, lack of adequate "job hygiene" will cause dissatisfaction, but its presence will not of itself cause satisfaction, it is the motivators that do this. The absence of the motivators will not cause dissatisfaction, assuming the job hygiene factors are adequate, but there will be no positive motivation. It is axiomatic in Herzberg's approach that job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction are not opposite. The opposite of job satisfaction is not job dissatisfaction; it is no job satisfaction, while the opposite of job dissatisfaction is lack of job dissatisfaction

Adopting Herzberg's approach, a manager should build motivators into the job so as to promote job satisfaction positively; in order to minimize dissatisfaction, hygiene factors should be improved. In the motivation of sales representatives, the motivators and hygiene factors discussed in the pane overleaf might be considered.



Hygiene factors


Company policy and administration



Work itself



Interpersonal relations


Working conditions




Table 3.1: Dual factor theory

Source: McKenna, 1994, pg 78

(Eugene McKenna, 1994, business psychology and organizational behaviour, a student's handbook,2nd revised edition, United Kingdom, BPC Wheatons Ltd, pg78)


The need for achievement was one of the twenty needs motivating behaviour suggested by henry Murray. Murray developed the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), as a way of gauging the strength of these needs. David Mc Clelland then used the TAT to concentrate on the need for achievement, which he labeled n Ach, and tried to find both historival and cross-cultural evidence for its collective importance to societies.

People high on n Ach, Mc Clelland maintained, have a preference for particular situations, where:

The degree of risk involved is neither high nor low but moderate

Feedback on their performance is provided

Individual responsibility is acknowledged.

Moderately risky tasks would provide a reasonable probability of success for people high on n Ach whereas low risk situations would be unchallenging and unlikely to engage their interest. However tasks that look too daunting would also be avoided for fear of failing at them. Thus it is not making the attempt that counts but the outcome. Failure would apparently be too damaging to self-esteem, regardless of the worth and importance of the goal.

Mc Clelland also investigated two other, and related specific needs, the need for affiliation (n Aff) and the need for power (n Pow). These other two suggested needs have not been investigated to anything like the same extent as n Ach but they are interesting ideas.


(David A. Statt, 2004, psychology and the world of work, second edition, New York, Palgrave Macmillan Ltd, pg 253)

The 3 acquired needs theory set by Mc Clelland are as follows:

Need for achievement (nAch):

It is the desire to achieve high in terms of quality and accomplish challenging responsibilities in ones work.

Need for affiliation (nAff):

It is the desire to maintain warm, friendly relationships with others. High nAff individuals are attracted in organizations which involve a large number of interactions with others. Need for power (nPow):

It is the desire to influence others and control one's environment. The need for power can be divided into two forms namely personal power and institutional power.

Akinson and Feather (1973 cited Ghosh P.K, 1991, pg 356) proposed that the tendency to approach or continue a task depends both on the difficulty of the situation and on the individual's motivation. According to the theory the characteristics which differentiate persons with high and low achievement need (n-ach) are as follows:

A person with a high n-ach:

Seeks accomplishement for its own sake;

Wants to be challenged, sets moderately difficult(but not impossible) goals for himself and takes a realistic approach to risk;

Is not strongly money hungry, although may acquire wealth in his drive to achieve;

Is not a gambler but, rather, prefers to analyse and assess problems, assume personal responsibility for getting a job done and likes to prompt feedback on how he is doing

Tends to be restless, likes to work long hours, does not unduly worry about failure if it does occur and is fairly independent.

A person with a low n-ach:

Tends to approach tasks of intermediate difficulty but a comparatively lower level of difficulty, as his standard of difficulty is set at a lesser level than the high n-ach person

Mc Clelland through extended studies of his postulates, found along with others that achievement motivation is not a stable personality characteristic determined exclusively by childhood experiences as he originally thought it to be. Further investigations and experimental applications established that achievement motivation can be learned. Such learning has been brought about through special training programmes. It is also recognized that a person's achievement motivation may increase because of being placed in a position in which some extent of achievement motivation is expected and rewarded.

(Ghosh 1991)

Dr P.K Ghosh,(1991), Industrial and organizational psychology, first edition, Bombay :Himalaya publishing house, pg 356)

Vroom's expectancy theory:

Victor Vroom developed the first formal description of expectancy theory. The theory's basic premise is simple:

The strength of their expectation that the behaviour will be followed by a given outcome.

The anticipated value of that outcome.

Expectancy theory, as described by Vroom, consists of two related models. The first of these is the valence model, which is used to predict the valences that workers place on various outcomes. In the terminology of expectancy theory, an outcome is an event that might follow a worker's behaviour, such as praise, punishment or increased productivity. The valence of an outcome is the satisfaction that the worker expects to experience should he or she receive the outcome.

First model:

According to the valence model, an outcome will have a positive valence for a worker if he or she believes that it has positive instrumentality for obtaining other valued outcomes. Instrumentality is the extent to which a person believes that attaining one outcome is associated with attaining other outcomes, and can range from +1.00 to -1.00. in other words, an instrumentality is the perceived correlation between two outcomes.

Second model:

The second model in Vroom's expectancy theory predicts the motivational force to perform a particular behaviour. This model states that the force or strength of motivation, to engage in any behaviour depends upon the expectancy that various outcomes will result from performance of the behaviour and the valence of those outcomes as defined in the valence model. Vroom defined expectancy as the perceived probability that an outcome would follow a behaviour, so it can range from 0 to +1.00.

Saal & Knight(1995)

(Frank E.Saal and Patricj A.Knight, 1995, industrial/Organisational psychology, science and practice, 2nd edition, United States of America, Brooks/Cole Publishing Company, 252).

The valence model of expectancy theory:

outcomes and instrumentality

valences of PPP



High pay in future jobs

High valence

Developing new skills

High valence


Valence of a PPP consumer research internship



Flexibility in job choice

High valence -

-.50 0

Making business contacts

Low valence


Figure 3.2: the valence mode of expectancy theory

Source : Saal & Knight(1995)

(Frank E.Saal and Patricj A.Knight, 1995, industrial/Organisational psychology, science and practice, 2nd edition, United States of America, Brooks/Cole Publishing Company,pg 253)

Figure 3.2 illustrates how the valence model predicts the valence of performing well on an internship for one of PPP's Consumer research interns. Four possible outcomes of performing well, along with their valences are listed on the left side of the figure. The particular intern, Keil Hardy, places positive values on earning higher pay in later jobs, developing new skills and having greater flexibility in choosing jobs in the future. However he places little value on making "business contacts " during the internship. In the center of the figure are Mr Hardy's estimates of the instrumentalities of having a PPP internship for attaining each of the four outcomes. He perceives positive associations between the internship and greater pay in the future jobs, learning new skils and making business contacts. The perceived instrumentality of the internship for achieving flexibility in job choice, however is negative.

Combining this information, the valence model predicts that he potential for higher pay and imporoved skills will increase the valence of the internship for Mr Hardy because:

He values these outcomes

The internship is seen by him as a way to attain them

The opportunity to develop business contacts will have no effect on the valence in this case because even though Mr Hardy believes that contacts can be made through the internship(positive instrumentality), he believes that having a PPP internship will decrease the chances of this happening(negative instrumentality), which lowers the valence internship.

Saal & Knight(1995)

(Frank E.Saal and Patricj A.Knight, 1995, industrial/Organisational psychology, science and practice, 2nd edition, United States of America, Brooks/Cole Publishing Company, pg 252)

Implications of the Vroom Model for Organizational behaviour:

Although the Vroom model does not directly contribute much to the techniques of motivating personnel in an organization, it is of value in understanding organizational behaviour. It can clarify the relationship between individual and organizational goals. For example, suppose workers are given a certain standard for production. By measuring the workers' output, management can determine how important their various personal goals (second-level outcomes such as money, security and recognition) are; the instrumentality of the organizational goal (the first level outcomes such as production standard) for the attainment of the personal goals; and the workers' expectancies that their effort and ability will accomplish the organizational goal. If output is below standard it may be that the workers do not place a high value on the second level outcomes; or they may think that their efforts will not accomplish the first- level outcome.

(Luthan, 2008)

Luthan, F,2008, Organisational behaviour, eleventh edition, Singapore, Mc Graw Hill international edition, pg 177


The equity theory, built by psychologist J.Stacy Adams, argues that a major input into job performance and satisfaction is the degree of equity(or inequity) that people perceive in their work situation. In other words, it is another cognitively based motivation theory.

For instance inequity occurs when a person perceives that the ratio of his or her outcomes to inputs and the ratio of a relevant other's outcomes to inputs are unequal. Schematically, this is represented as follows:

Person's outcomes < other's outcomes

Person's inputs other's inputs

Equity occurs when; person's outcomes = other's outcomes

Person's inputs other's inputs

Both inputs and the outputs of the person and the other are based on the person's perceptions. Age, sex, education, social status, organizational position, qualifications and how hard the person works are examples of perceived input variables. Outcomes consist primarily of rewards such as pay, status, promotion and intrinsic interest in the job. In essence the ratio is based on the person's perception of what the person is giving (inputs) and receiving (outcomes) versus the ratio of what the relevant other is giving and receiving. This cognition may or may not be the same as someone else's observation of the ratios or the same as the actual reality.

(Luthan ,2008)

Luthan, F, (2008), Organisational behaviour, eleventh edition, Singapore, Mc Graw Hill international edition, pg 179


The reinforcement theory, pioneered by psychologist B.F Skinner argued that our behaviours can be explained by consequences in the environment. In fact the theory relies heavily on a concept called law of effect, which states that behaviours having pleasant or positive consequences are more likely to be repeated and behaviours having unpleasant or negative consequences are less likely to be repeated.

The argument is that people perform certain work-related acts that are subject to reinforcement contingencies. People work with a certain degree of effectiveness and when particular behaviour results in a reward, performance increases.

Types of reinforcement:

There are four types of reinforcement available to facilitate behaviour modification. They are positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, extinction and punishment. Skinner argued that positive reinforcement and extinction encouraged individual growth whereas negative reinforcement and punishment are likely to encourage irresponsibility in individuals and eventually contaminate the entire organization.

Positive reinforcement:

Positive reinforcement arises when organizations compliments employee for satisfactorily accomplished work. It increases desired behaviour. It involves providing a pleasant rewarding consequence to encourage that behaviour.

Negative reinforcement:

Negative reinforcement focuses on optimizing desired behaviour. However it involves providing unpleasant incentive so that an individual will engage in the desired behaviour in order to stop the unpleasant consequences. The desired behaviour is reinforced in a negative way because an individual must engage in the behaviour in order to get rid of an unpleasant condition.


Extinction occurs when positive reinforcement for a learned or previously conditioned response is withheld. Under such non-reinforcement, undesired behaviour decreases until it disappeared.


Punishment is a technique that involves negative consequence in order to decrease or discourage behaviour. Punishment is usually applied after an employee has involved in undesirable behaviour. For example, managers may increase employee workload each time work is handed in late. Punishment will decrease desired behaviour.

(Bartol, 1998)

Bartol K.M & Martin, D.C.1998, Management, 3rd edition, McGraw-Hill, New York pg 400)


According to Muchinsky(1993), like any feeling of satisfaction, job satisfaction is an emotional, affective response. Affect refers to feelings of like or dislike. Therefore, job satisfaction is the extent to which a person derives pleasure from a job.

Muchinsky P., 1993, psychology applied to work, fourth edition United States of America, Brooks/Cole Publishing Company Ltd,pg290)

According to Fred Luthan(2008) there are three generally accepted dimensions of job satisfaction. First satisfaction is an emotional response to a job situation. As such it cannot be seen, it can only be inferred. Second, job satisfaction is often determined by how well outcomes meet or exceed expectations. For example, if organizational participants feel that they are working much harder than others in the department but are receiving fewer rewards, they will probably have a negative attitude towards their work, boss, and/or co-workers. They will be dissatisfied. On the other hand if they feel they are being treated very well and are being paid equitably, they are likely to have a positive attitude toward the job. They will be job-satisfied. Third, job satisfaction represents several related attitudes. Through the years five job dimensions have been identified to represent the most important characteristics of a job about which employees have affective attitudes. These are:

The work itself: the extent to which the job provides the individual with interesting tasks, opportunities for learning and the chance to accept responsibility.

Pay. The amount of financial remuneration that is received and the degree to which this is viewed as equitable vis-à-vis that of others in organization

Promotion opportunities. The chances for advancement in the organization

Supervision. The abilities of the supervisor to provide technical assistance and behavioural support.

Co-workers. The degree to which fellow workers are technically proficient and socially supportive.

Luthan, F, 2008, Organisational behaviour, eleventh edition, Singapore, Mc Graw Hill international edition. Pg 140

The work itself:

The content of the job itself is a major source of satisfaction. Cooper (1974)

proposed a framework of intrinsic job characteristics which attempts to deal with job satisfaction. The framework outlines four distinct intrinsic job dimensions namely:

1. Spatial variety

2. Skill discretion

3. Goal characteristics

1. Spatial variety:

Spatial variety is exemplified by the variety of operations performed, their cycle times, as well as by features outside the task itself such as the number of people available for social interaction in the immediate work area. It seems likely that performance and satisfaction will be affected largely by 'stimulus satiation' (a form of boredom produced by continued exposure to the same stimulus pattern) which can be dissipated by perceptual alternation among the various elements in the situation.

Limitations of variety:

It is doubtful if Variety is a true motivator. Its value is probably limited to routine, repetitive-type jobs which characteristically induce feelings of boredom; an increase in Variety simply means a decrease in boredom.

Skill Discretion:

Discretion means being free to exercise choice. According to Robert Cooper (1974) discretion in work means the ability to individually choose appropriate knowledge in the solution of problems.

Skilled occupations are more complex and varied than unskilled and semiskilled occupations. They require more training time and often a higher educational attainment. Abstract thinking in specialized fields may be required.

Examples of skilled jobs are:



school band directors



CEO of a business

Satisfaction and job-commitment from discretion:

The motivational value derived from the previous form of discretion, that is autonomy and responsibility is that one is responsible for one's own job behaviour and the experience of being free from externally-mediated pressures, thereby enhancing job commitment and satisfaction. Skill Discretion is of course a key characteristic of skilled-work. For example when faced with a job problem, the employee refers to his store of appropriate knowledge and from it selects a set of responses which he believes will lead to a solution; this is the essence of Skill Discretion. The choice of an appropriate response is usually done through the exercise of logic or trial-and-error. A high level of Skill Discretion in a job produces a keen sense of challenge which leads, after successful performance, to a feeling of achievement.

Goal characteristics:

Employees pursue goals because they value a lot the rewards they will be offered after having achieved the goals, that is, to gain food, shelter, money, promotion, love and so on Robert Cooper adds that in addition to goal content, goals possess a certain structure or form which is constituted by:

1. The clarity of the goal

2. The level of difficulty of the goal

He further adds that it is these structural features which directly affect task behaviour. Goal clarity performance may differ according to the clarity or specificity with which the performance criteria are described.

For instance if an individual instructs a student to write a paper and presents him with a goal of low clarity; he is unclear as to how long the paper should be and when he should complete it by. The clarity of his goal is increased when he provides additional information to the student. Goal Difficulty which is either too easy or too difficult is less motivating than those of medium difficulty - the latter provide a manageable degree of challenge to the employee and thus draws on his motivation.


According to Luthans(2008), money not only helps people attain their basic needs but is also instrumental in providing upper-level need satisfaction. Employees often see pay as a reflection of how management views their contribution to the organization. Fringe benefits are also important, but they are not as influential.

Ref: Luthan, F, (2008), Organisational behaviour, eleventh edition, Singapore, Mc Graw Hill international edition, pg 140


According to Luthans(2008) promotional opportunities seem to have a varying effect on job satisfaction. This is because promotions take a number of different forms and have a variety of accompanying rewards. For example, individuals who are promoted on the basis of seniority often experience job satisfaction but not as much as those who are promoted on the basis of performance.

Ref: Luthan, F, (2008), Organisational behaviour, eleventh edition, Singapore, Mc Graw Hill international edition, pg 140



According Kossen (1931) autocratic leaders feel that they know what they want and tend to express those wants as direct orders to their subordinates. Autocratic usually keep decisions and controls to themselves, since they have assumed full responsibility for decision making. Autocratic leaders usually structure the entire work situation for their employees, who merely do what they are told, that is, follow orders.

Advantages of autocratic style:

Many autocratic leaders have been successful in accomplishing their goals. To be successful, however, autocratic leaders must have broad and diversified backgrounds. They must also have subordinates who expect and want their leaders to give them strong directions. Workers who are either somewhat submissive or prefer not to be responsible for participating in planning and decision making tend to respond positively to boss-centered leadership. Also, a more directive leadership is often welcomed by employees whose job responsibilities are not clearly defined or who lack sufficient knowledge and training to perform their jobs without assistance.

Disadvantages of autocratic:

Managers who use this approach frequently feel that the individual employee lacks the capability of providing constructive input. Autocratic leadership has the potential for creating problems of both morale and production in the long run. It also fails to develop the workers' commitment to the objectives of the organisation. Employees on the receiving end of autocratic leadership frequently lack information about their functions and fear using their own initiative in their work. Furthermore, individual growth and development are far more difficult to attain within an autocratic framework.

Participative management style:

This style of leadership assumes that individual members of a group who take part personally in the decision making process will be more likely as a result to have a far greater commitment to the objectives and goals of the organisation.

Advantages of participative:

Workers like to feel that their ideas are important and tend to feel considerably more committed to changes in which they have participated. Workers also develop greater feelings of self-esteem. Often the combined knowledge and experience of the members of a group exceed that of the leader. Furthermore problems worked on collectively often give birth to new ideas, created as a result of interpersonal exchange.

Disadvantages of participative:

This approach assumes a considerable commonality of interest between the managers and employees. However, in any group some individuals may be genuinely uninterested in their jobs, especially those who perceive their position merely as means to other, more satisfying, needs.

The participative approach also assumes that workers have the necessary knowledge and skill to participate in the decision making process if knowledge and skill are lacking, managers may find that they must either be bound by bad decisions or override the decision of the group, thus detracting from the participative approach.

Another potential problem with the participative approach is that group members whose ideas have been rejected may feel alienated.

Kossen( 1931)

(Stan Kossen,1931, the human side of organizations, fourth edition, United States of America, Harper & Row Publishers, New York, pg 220-223)

Work group:

The nature of work group or team will have an effect on job satisfaction. Friendly, cooperative coworkers or team members are a modest source of job satisfaction to individual employees. The work group, especially a "tight" team, serves as a source of support, comfort, advice and assistance to the individual members. A good work group or effective team makes the job more enjoyable. However this factor is not essential to job satisfaction. On the other hand, if the reverse conditions exist- the people are difficult to get along with-t his factor may have a negative effect on job satisfaction.

From the work of Jon P.Briscoe and Douglas T.Hall (cited Fred Luthan,2008, pg 142) the validity of the five dimensions of job satisfaction have been widely used and a recent meta-analysis confirmed its validity.