What is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?


A well-known theorist from the behavioral era of management history, psychologist Abraham Maslow, proposed a theory of motivation based on universal human needs. Maslow believed that each individual has a hierarchy of needs, consisting of physiological, safety, social, esteem, and self-actualization needs, as shown in the diagram below.

Maslow’s theory of motivation says that people act to satisfy their unfulfilled needs. When you are hungry, for instance, you look for and eat food, thus satisfying a key and basic physiological need. Once the need is satisfied, its importance to the person diminishes, and the higher level need is more likely to inspire the person.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the most basic human needs are physiological needs, that is, the needs for food, shelter, and clothing. In a broad part, it is the physiological needs that encourage a person to find a job. People need to earn money to afford food, shelter, and clothing for their families.

Once people have met the basic needs, they enter the second level in Maslow’s hierarchy, which is safety needs. People need to feel secure, to be guarded and secured from physical harm, and to bypass the unexpected. In work terms, they require job security and protection from work hazards.


Physiological needs and safety are physical needs. Once these are fulfilled, individuals concerns about needs that involve relationships with other people. At Maslow’s third stage are social needs, or needs for belonging (acceptance by others).

Informal social groups on & off the job help people satisfy these needs. At the fourth level in the hierarchy are esteem needs, which are needs for the other’s respect and for a sense of accomplishment.

The satisfaction of these Maslow’s needs is reflected in feelings of self-worth. Cheers and recognition from managers and other colleagues in the company contribute to the sense of self-worth. Lastly, at the highest level in Maslow’s hierarchy, are self-actualization needs, or needs for fulfillment, for using one’s abilities to the utmost and for living up to one’s potential.

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