Theories of Motivation: Abraham Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Model

A.H.Maslow developed a theoretical framework for understanding human motivation, which has been widely acclaimed. According to him motivation arises from the needs and wants of an individual and drives the people towards action or work by doing which he makes efforts to fulfill these needs and wants. So the manager should understand the needs and wants of the people for the purpose of creative motivation. Famous psychologist “A. H. Maslow develop a hierarchy/frame work for understanding human needs. Mallow proposed two ideas (i) only need not yet satisfied can influence the behaviour and (ii) needs are arranged a hierarchy of importance and they follow a definite sequence. The need hierarchy is as follows:

  1. Basic physiological needs: the physiological needs relate to the survival and maintenance of human life. These needs include such things as food, clothing, air, water and other necessaries of life, which are biological in nature. These needs are primary needs.
  2. Safety and security needs: after satisfying the physiological needs, people want the assurance of maintaining a given economic level. They want job security, personal bodily security, security of source of income, provision for old age, insurance against risks, etc.
  3. Social needs: man is a social being. He is, therefore, interested in conversation, sociability, exchange of feelings and grievances, companionship, recognition, belongingness, etc.
  4. Esteem and status needs: these needs embrace such things as self-confidence, independence, achievement, competence, knowledge and success. These needs boost the ego of individual. They are also known as egoistic needs. They are concerned with prestige and status of the individual.
  5. Self-fulfillment needs: the final step under the need priority model is the need for self-fulfillment or the need to fulfill what a person considers being his mission in life. It involves realizing one’s potentialities for continued self-development and for being creative in the broadest senses of the word. After his other needs are fulfilled, a man has the desire for personal achievement. He wants to do something, which is challenging and since this challenge gives him enough dash and initiative to work, it is beneficial to him in particular and to the society in general. The sense of achievement gives him psychological satisfaction.


Maslow proposed that all human needs are kept as per rank of importance and human behaviour is to fulfill its needs as per importance rank and so he continuous in a proper sequence but after fulfillment of a need another need arise. Moreover satisfied need will no longer be a motivator and needs and wants are infinity.

Appraisal of Need Hierarchy model:

The need priority model may not apply at all times in all places. Surveys in continental European countries and Japan have shown that the model does not apply very well to their managers. Their degrees of satisfaction of needs do not vary according to the need priority mode. For example, workers in Spain and Belgium felt that their esteem needs are better satisfied than their security and social needs. Apparently, cultural differences are an important cause of these differences. Thus, need hierarchy may not follow the sequence postulated by Maslow. Even if safety need is not satisfied, the egoistic or social need may emerge.

Proposition that one need is satisfied at one time is also of doubtful validity. The phenomenon of multiple motivation is of great practical importance in understanding the behaviour of man. Man’s behaviour at any time is mostly guided by multiplicity of motives. However one or two motives in any situation may be prepotent, while others may be of secondary importance. Moreover, at different levels of needs, the motivation will be defferent. Money can act as a motivator only for physiological and social needs, not for satisfying higher level needs. Employees are enthusiastically motivated by what they are seeking, more than by what they already have. They may react cautiously in order to keep what they already have, but they move forward with enthusiasm when they are seeking something else. In other words, man works for bread alone as long as it is not available.

There are always some people in whom, for instance, need for self-esteem seems to be more prominent then that of love. There are important also creative people in whom the drive for creativeness seems to be more important. In certain people, the level of operation may be permanently lower. For instance, a person who has experienced chronic unemployment may continue to be satisfied for the rest of his life if only he can get enough food. Another cause of reversal of need hierarchy is that when a need has been satisfied for a long time, it may be under-valued.