ManagementManagement TheoriesPersonal Skills

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

As a kid, everyone (parents, teachers etc.) insists on setting goals. In university or work interviews, they ask, “What do you want to be in five years from now” or “What do you want in life”. Do you know how Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory can help you set your personal and professional goals?

We, as humans, are believed to be brought into this world for a purpose. And we all have to find that. Probably, that’s the meaning of life.

I found that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory is the best (starter template) way to find that path.

This page will tell you in detail about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.


Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Abraham Harold Maslowa psychologist, coined the Theory of Human Motivation in 1943. The theory of Maslow is a well-known and widely referenced theorem of motivation and is based upon the hierarchy of human needs

According to Maslow, human behavior is influenced by needs. It is modified according to the nature of the need to meet them. In the hierarchy of needs theory, Maslow identified five types of human needs or sets placed in order of their importance. He concluded that it no longer serves as a motivator after one set of requirements is satisfied and achieved. The next set of needs within the hierarchy takes its place. These needs in the hierarchy are similar to the pyramid. At the bottom, there will be the initial need that could be described as fundamental and universal. Then, there will be additional sets of requirements.

Maslow’s Assumptions in Hierarchy of Needs Theory

#1 Human beings are needy

Their desires are constantly growing even when certain desires are fulfilled. Human needs are diverse and varied. You can organize these needs in order of importance that progresses from a lower to a higher priority.

#2 Human Needs have a clear priority order.

Once the lower levels’ requirements are met, those at higher levels will appear and will require fulfilment.

This implies it is true that food (food) is vital and is a fundamental need of everyone. In the words of Maslow, “Man lives by bread alone when there is no bread.” However, they can feel the other needs when the first one is met. They know food is vital, but they cannot live only on bread.


There are additional requirements (security or protection, social esteem and self-actualization that affect the decision-making of employees (employees) to perform work. This is the fundamental feature of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Attention to the human needs of all is vital to motivating employees. The mere provision of food is not sufficient to inspire employees.

Bread may act as a motivational factor if there is no bread, but once it is readily available, the use of bread as a motivational factor ends. Other motivational factors (e.g. the security of work, social status, etc.) should be made available to motivate employees.

The attention paid to other needs like security, social needs, esteem requirements, and self-actualization is equally crucial to the motivation of various types of employees.

Maslow, in his theories, has spoken of various requirements and suggested that consideration is required for all these needs because only focusing on physical needs does not suffice to motivate employees.

#3 A satisfied need will not provide a reason to be motivated.

#4 When one need is met, another need will replace it.


Maslow’s Pyramid of Human Needs

Maslows Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Pyramid of Human Needs:

Physiological Needs

The physiological needs are the fundamental necessities for the human body to sustain its existence. These needs include shelter(house), food(basic to exotic), clothing(simple to designer), rest, water, air, sleep, and sexual pleasure. 

The basic human requirements (also known as biological needs) are the lowest stage of the hierarchy of human needs because they are the most important over the rest of the needs.

This is a fact that cannot be delayed for too long. If these fundamental physiological requirements are met to the extent required and right, other similar demands are not enough to motivate an employee. For instance, those who are hungry cannot think of anything other than food or hunger.

Management attempts to satisfy these needs by paying fair wages and relevant allowances.

Security/Safety Essential

These are the demands associated with the fear of losing property, jobs, natural catastrophes, hazards, etc. A worker wants to be protected from these types of fears. They would prefer adequate safety or security, i.e. protection from physical dangers and security at work, pensions for the elderly, insurance coverage for life, etc.

The safety requirements are met after satisfying the physiological requirements. The physiological needs cease to have motivational power once they have been satisfied. In the end, security needs to take over.

They start to show themselves and take over the behavior of humans. Safety issues act as motivating forces only when they’re unhappy.

Social Needs

Human beings are considered social animals. They would like to be part of a group or a society. They believe that they should be a part of one group or another and that the group members should welcome them with love and affection.

Every person wants to be a part of such groups, which is considered a fundamental social desire of every person. They also want to be loved by all family members.

They require friends and be part of the group interactions with superiors and friends, such as peers or supervisors. Social needs rank third in the order of need.

Esteem Needs

This group of needs includes the desire to be acknowledged by others and the need to be influential. Lastly, the need to be in a position of honor.

After the prior three needs are met, the person feels that the other people should respect them. Recognition, respect and honor in the workplace and society boost self-esteem and builds self-confidence and competence.

The other needs for esteem are those relating to position, reputation, and admiration by other people.

This is a kind of ego which requires satisfaction. The Organization can fulfil this desire (ego) by recognizing the great work done by employees.

Esteem needs don’t assume the motivational qualities unless prior needs are met.

Self-actualization Needs

Maslow outlines the highest need within the hierarchy.

Self-actualization is the need to achieve what you are capable of becoming. It is a desire to grow and become someone in life by performance and efficiency to be satisfied. People here believe that they must accomplish something within their lifespan.

They are determined to use their abilities to the greatest extent possible and hope to achieve big.

The people want the opportunity, ready to face challenges to accomplish something extraordinary within their field of expertise.

While everyone can achieve self-actualization, many people do not get to the point of self-actualization. The need for self-actualization is met very rarely.

The limitations to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory 

The theory behind motivation developed by Maslow (Hierarchy of Needs Theory) is very well-known across the globe and gives guidelines to managers and leaders to motivate employees. But, this theory of Maslow has several limitations.

  • Maslow’s theory is oversimplified and founded on human needs only. It is not clear if there is a direct cause-and-effect relationship between needs and behavior.
  • The theory refers to the other factors that motivate us, like expectations, experiences, and perception.
  • The needs of employees of all kinds do not meet uniformly. Many employees are content with their physiological needs and safety needs.
  • The structure of the hierarchy of needs, as proposed by Maslow, might not apply universally to all types of employees.
  • Maslow’s belief in a need hierarchy’ is not true in today’s world since everyone has a variety of desires to satisfy and may not adhere to Maslow’s need hierarchy.
  • Maslow’s theories are widely accepted, but no evidence supports the idea. It’s largely speculative and not tested. The writings of the author are more philosophical rather than scientific.

The importance of the Hierarchy of Needs Theory

While Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory has been criticized for the reasons above, it has many benefits. It aids managers in understanding the actions that their workers exhibit.

This also assists the managers in providing the proper financial and non-financial motivation to their employees.

All of this helps increase the business’s effectiveness, efficiency, and profits.

For individuals,

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is the best goal setting template in life. Go to the pyramid and think about what and when you want to achieve in life.

Convert needs into goals, for example,

  1. Do you want a house or a mansion: You can start with a basic house, but you want to buy a mansion at some point. Then, set a timeline.
  2. Have you secured your life: You can always invest more(plan now). Think of additional life and health insurance(put a timeline in writing).
  3. Relationship goals: Set your goals about the type of relations you want in life and cherish them. You could draw a timeline for each aspect of social needs in life.
  4. What you want to achieve in your personal and professional life: List all that you want to achieve, and you will realize that you can now draw a path of achievement with a proper timeline. It will enhance your self-confidence. 
  5. Recognition: List one thing you want to achieve that will get you permanent recognition in this world. At one point in their lives, all great people aimed for self-actualization and accomplished it.

For organizations,

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is the best tool to motivate employees. You need to understand their status on the needs pyramid and work towards motivating them to achieve the next stage.

Only a handful will reach the self-actualization stage, but if you can bring a maximum of your employees to the fourth stage, you will have a winning team and great organizational leadership.

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Mihir Karnik

Mihir Karnik MBA Management Consultant, Corporate Trainer and Personal Empowerment Coach More »

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