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Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

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Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Dr. Abraham Maslow developed a theory of personality that has influenced a number of different fields, including education. This wide influence is due in part to the high-level of practicality of Maslow's theory. The theory accurately describes many levels of personal experiences. Many people find the theory easy to understand, and can recognize some features of experience or behavior, which are true and identifiable, but have never been put into words. Maslow was a humanistic psychologist. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and Content Theory Motivation can be defined as "intensity at a task." [APA citation error (missing. If the author is cited in text = Author's name (year) "direct quote" (p. #). If the author is not cited in text = "direct quote" (author, year, p. #).] The greater the motivation, the more persistent and intense one will learn and perform a certain task. The basis behind the theory of motivation is the knowledge that all behavior is goal driven. Involving motivation is content theory, which deals with basic human needs. Motivation directly involves a person choosing what one will or will not do and how intense of an effort will be put forth. The goal of motivational theory is to better understand the influences of choices and how to use these influences to make a task more interesting and desirable. This paper will discuss the background and function of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, and examines the possible motivational possibilities for diverse job functions within a company.

Dr. Abraham Harold Maslow was born in New York, New York on April 1, 1908 and died June 8, 1970. He was the founder of humanistic psychology in the 1960s. He was an American psychologist and philosopher best known for his self-actualization theory of psychology. His theory argued that the primary goal of psychotherapy should be the integration of self. Maslow studied psychology at the University of Wisconsin and Gestalt psychology at the New School for Social Research in New York City before joining the faculty of Brooklyn College in 1937. In 1951, he became head of the psychology department at Brandeis University (Waltham, Massachusetts), where he remained until 1969 (Maslow, 2006).

Maslow created the theory of self-actualization under the assumption that all people are by nature, good, or at least neutral. He believed that by encouraging the development of self-actualization individuals could better reach full potential. Maslow stated that a healthy development is only possible if a society "offers all necessary raw materials and then gets out of the way and stands aside to let the ... organism itself utter its wishes and demands and make its choices" (Norwood, 2006, ¶5). If an environment is restrictive and minimizes personal choice the individual may develop in neurotic ways.

Maslow contributed significantly to the study of psychological factors that influence human behavior. He pioneered the concept of a hierarchy of needs; which proposes that human needs develop in a sequence of order from "lower wants" to "higher wants." He devised five main categories of needs; physiological, safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization. Maslow declared human needs appear to be capable of almost infinite extension. This process is continuous. The virtually constant search for the gratification of needs is increasingly involved with psychological and socio-cultural benefits. Maslow accepted that variations in individual behavior might occur. The most basic needs start out as instinctual and the higher ones are based on environmental needs. These needs, if met, lead to the highest position in the hierarchy, which is self-actualization. Without the basic needs met first, the others cannot be met.

The first level is the physiological level. The needs on this level are the basic survival needs such as food, water, and air. These are the basics necessary to survive and to live. A person has to eat, sleep, have clothing, shelter, comfort, and be free from pain. In an organization, these needs could be meet by supplying employees with such things as a water cooler, a break room, or a cafeteria. Access to restrooms, comfortable chairs, and adequate shelter satisfy basic needs.

The next level is the social safety and security needs. These are based on one's need to feel safe from physical or psychological harm. Having trust and predictability satisfies these needs. Feeling secure in one's position on-the-job, having a savings or retirement fund, and an opportunity to advance all help to fulfill this need in organizations. Having a feeling of trust between management and employees enhances the feelings of safety in an organization.

The next level is love and relationships, which involves communication and response. These needs are about the desire for love and affection and a feeling of belonging. There is a need to communicate and socialize with others and to feel like a valued part of a whole. People have a desire to be accepted, wanted, and valued. An organization can help foster these needs by making the employees feel that their contributions are worthy and needed. For example, the employee of the month award or certificates of recognition can contribute to fulfilling these needs. The next level on up the hierarchy of needs is the self-esteem needs for self-respect and acceptance. There is a need to maintain a certain reputation and prestige, or a need to feel important and significant. Employees who have advanced in the company could be rewarded with benefits such as a nicer office, a picture on the wall, or special privileges.

The last level and the highest position on the hierarchy is the self-actualization level, meaning fulfillment of goals and dreams. This need is for self-fulfillment stems from a desire to realize one's full potential and become the best one is capable of becoming. Self-actualization refers to realizing one's dreams and highest goals while being able to release and use one's creativity to one's best potential. In the workplace these needs could be fostered by allowing employees to come up with new ideas and delegating to them responsibility. Challenging employees to be innovative and creative and to create large goals will help to meet this need. Below is diagram of Winslow's Hierarchy of Needs from Wikipedia (2000).

Then it is no longer Maslow's theory




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