Abraham Maslow's Theory of Motivation: Application in HR Management

Abraham Maslow , born on April 1, 1908, was mainly known by his theory of Hierarchy of Needs.

Maslow had been a professor of psychology at Brandeis University, Brooklyn College, New School for Social Research and Columbia University.

He believed that people should focus on the positive qualities in people. He took notes about two of his mentors and their behavior. This became the basis for his research on mental health as well as human potential. From there he developed the concepts of a hierarchy of needs, self-actualization, among others.

Abraham Maslow's "Humanistic Psychology"
Maslow was said to have brought a new face to the study of human behavior.

This is his own theory of self-actualization, influenced by his family life and life experiences. His more known theory is the Hierarchy of Needs.

As an employer or employee or a manager, What do you understand by this and how useful is it to an organization?

It is believed that everyone has a desire to become what he or she can become as a person. Every person wants to reach a certain level of "self-actualization".

In his observation, Maslow found that when a person is in harmony with self and the surroundings, that person experienced high point experiences many times during the day. However, these people were individuals who were healthy mentally.

These people were more productive during certain times.

Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow's hierarchy of needs is represented as a pyramid. At the bottom are the more basic needs. These needs are either psychological or physical.

At the lowest level are the basic needs or psychological needs of a human being. These include the need for food, water and sex. At the next higher level are found the safety needs, namely, security, health, safety and stability. The needs at these two levels are important to physical survival. These are important things to employees.

At the highest level, you find the “esteem” level. This is where the individual has achieved personal success and status. That person had reached "self-actualization."

Click HERE for a fuller explanation of Abraham Maslow's Theory of Hierarchy of Needs on human motivation.

It had been stated that Abraham Maslow found that the individuals he studied -

  • were "reality centered",
  • could differentiate between what was fraudulent and what was not,
  • were "problem centered",
  • felt comfortable being alone,
  • had healthy personal relationships,and
  • had a few close friends and family.

Are these people better at problem solving? Do they prefer to work alone? Or members of a teams?

Criticisms of Maslow's Theory
www.intropshych.com has states the following:

  • Not very scientific in his investigations
  • He loved lists. such as list of characteristics of self-actualizers
  • Did present data to prove that his lists of characteristics of self-actualizers were accurate, saying it was obvious

But it has been admitted that Maslow's theory is original.

Application of Abraham Maslow's Theory to Human Resource Management

Managers and supervisors may well want to know whether Maslow's Theory on Hierarchy of Needs does have some application when managing people.

It is advisable for managers to look beyond financial rewards and incentives and find ways to make people feel important in their jobs. Giving regular salary increases based on merits is fine. But there is a certain point at which money ceases to motivate workers especially those in senior positions.

It does not mean that the lower levels needs are not important. For example, some organizations make available loans for the purchase of the family homes, implement safe working methods within a healthy and safe working environment, provide medical and hospitalization benefits, paid leave, insurance coverage, and so on.

However, the higher level needs appear more relevant in the long run. You may have heard about job enrichment, making the job more challenging, making more apparent to employees the end result of their jobs, and so on.

People are motivated by monetary rewards. But more than this, they need appreciation and respect, trust, belief in their ability to do the job well, and control over the way the job is done, among others.

Abraham Maslow's theory of Hierarchy of Needs, however, has its supporters as well as critics. But this is relevant to organizations. Look for ways how you can make effective practical use of this theory.




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"I was awfully curious to find out why I didn't go insane." ~ Abraham Maslow

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