Overview of the theory

Abraham Maslow, a well-known psychologist, has a long list of accomplishments to his credit. He was a crucial figure in the development of humanistic psychology, and he believed that there are five types of needs that can influence human conduct in society. Maslow's hierarchy of needs model, invented in 1943, is a theory based on those five categories of human needs.

Representation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

To elaborate, Maslow states that the fulfillment of the previous level of satisfaction is crucial before moving ahead to the next. As per the theory, the 5 categories that affect human behavior in the ascending order of importance are elaborated below

1. Physiological Needs

Maslow’s first stage which comes at the lowest level in the pyramid consists of physiological needs that are vital for survival. These basic needs include

  • Shelter
  • Food
  • Reproduction
  • Sleep
  • Hygiene
  • Fresh Air

Maslow states that these are the primary physiological needs that are required to be met before heading to the fulfillment of the secondary needs of humans. To continue, the motivation of this level of needs is the intent of survival.

2. Safety Needs

Once stage one of physiological needs is fulfilled, the second stage belongs to the safety of a person. This stage deals with the different types of security of the human being that including

  • Emotional Safety - The emotional safety of a person includes mental stability and emotional wellbeing. Lack of emotional security makes a person restless and nervous about everything around which further makes it hard for them to focus on their work. It is also noteworthy that ethical issues in the workplace pose a threat to emotional safety of employees and need to be addressed.

  • Environmental Safety - This section focuses on the safety of an individual from the external environment. Protection from violence, theft, or protection from any other physical harm that can be caused due to the external environment

  • Financial Safety - This part of the safety includes a smooth flow of cash that gives financial security to a person where a person does not have to worry about monthly expenses.

Maslow states that after stage one of Psychological needs, all forms of safety become the primary focus of a person, and the motivation of this stage is an individual’s safety.

3. Social Needs

Once the physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, the next level of the hierarchy is the social needs also referred to as love and belonging needs as per the theory. Because humans are social creatures that always desire attention, hence, at this stage, humans seek the fulfillment of the social need of feeling loved and accepted in the society they live in. The intent to feel connected and to be involved as a part group is motivation at this stage. In fact, workplace belongingness has a direct impact on the motivation levels of employees. Lack of these needs can lead to alleviating the feeling of loneliness and exclusion from society which can further lead to several psychological problems. Some of the factors that can satisfy social needs are mentioned below -

  • A healthy intimate relationship with the partner
  • An invigorating involvement in the social groups
  • An effective bond with family and friends

4. Self-esteem Needs

Next in the hierarchy is the attainment of the self-esteem needs of humans. Maslow states that there are 2 components of this stage

  • Internal self-esteem needs - These needs encompass the fulfillment of esteem within oneself and that can be in the form of maintaining dignity and gaining self-confidence.

  • External self-esteem needs - In this, humans demand respect from all others around them. The desire for respect, status, and fame in society arises at this stage.

The lack of these needs raises the question of self-worth and affects the quality of a person’s mind negatively. The need of gaining self-worth is the motivation in the stage of self-esteem needs.

5. Self-actualization

After fulfilling all the needs of the hierarchy, the last stage and the highest stage of the hierarchy of human needs as per Maslow is the stage of self-actualization. At this age, people want to accomplish everything and try to be the best version of themselves. As it is the final step of human need fulfillment, this stage is extremely rare to achieve and accomplish.

The needs and motivation of this stage vary from person to person, some might want to help others, while others want to continue with their passion or the needs can depend on various factors like age, culture, or lifestyle.

The representation of self-actualization can be done in multiple ways

  • Helping others
  • Continuing further studies
  • Obtaining new skills
  • Utilizing skills into something productive

Probing further, after understanding the theory, the next section will shed light on how this theory can be implemented in the workplace.

Implementation of the theory in a workplace

1. For the fulfillment of physiological needs

Providing hygienic working conditions, fair wages, and a healthy work-life balance can assist employers in fulfilling the basic physiological needs of their employees. This ensures that physiological satisfaction will assist employers in motivating employees to move to the next step and will help foster high employee engagement.

2. For the fulfillment of safety needs

Giving extra monetary benefits like investment in the company’s shares or providing provident funds will assist in giving employees surety of their financial needs. Along with that, various counseling sessions focusing on mental health can be organized to ensure the emotional safety of the employees. These additional efforts will motivate employees to concentrate better on working for the betterment of the company.

3. For the fulfillment of social needs

Organizing interactive mentoring sessions, providing social skills training sessions, or having a fun hour during the official working hours can help employees in socializing with other colleagues which will lead to the fulfillment of the social needs of the employees. It is worth acknowledging that mentoring in the workplace is what most organizations are now subscribing to for supporting their employees’ social needs.

4. For the fulfillment of self-esteem needs

Offering multiple recognitions, and rewards to the deserving candidates will enhance their self-esteem and will motivate them and other team members to give their all to the company.

5. For the fulfillment of self-actualization needs

Initiating multiple activities or introduction to the various courses and programs can encourage the enhancement of various skills in the workplace and that will lead to the fulfillment of the last stage of self-actualization.

Moving ahead, the below mentioned are multiple reasons why it is important to implement this theory in a workplace.

Importance of implementing maslow's hierarchy of needs

1. Assists in identifying the needs and motivating employees

This theory will assist in determining the needs of employees and how those needs can be fulfilled. Once the needs are identified, then an effective strategy can be created and implemented to effectively motivate employees to give their all to enhance the growth of the company.

2. Helps in promoting a healthy work culture

If a company is focusing on fulfilling the needs of employees, then it will lead to more job satisfaction. As a result, satisfied employees can contribute to creating a healthy work culture.

3. Assists in enhancing productivity

Attainment of the basic needs of employees will make them more focused and engaged in the workplace. This will encourage employees to be more productive and efficient during working hours.

4. Helps in developing creative and critical thinking skills

If an employee is free from the stress of basic needs fulfillment, then employees can focus more on enhancing their multiple skills like creative, critical, and enhancement of soft skills.

Flipping to the other side of the coin, there are certain limitations of the theory that need to be taken into consideration while implementing this theory in the workplace.

Limitations of the theory

1. Same order for all individuals

The theory failed to acknowledge the cultural differences and differences in an individual's perspective that can change the needs of humans according to their personal preferences. For example, social needs might be more important for some individuals than security needs.

2. No mention of methods to measure the needs

Maslow did not mention any effective measure by which an individual can measure the fulfillment of basic needs before heading to the next stage. Hence, individuals might not be able to realize the satisfaction of a particular level.

3. Attainment of lower levels is not a necessity to reach upper levels

There are many people who are pursuing their dreams and working hard in following their passion, despite the lack of proper physiological or social needs. Hence, in the contemporary world, the theory might not be 100% true because for a few people fulfillment of the lower level might not be a compulsion to pursue the next level.

Probing further, below given is a real example of a company that implements Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in their organization to promote healthy work culture and to assist employees in achieving their full potential.

Example explaining the implementation of the theory

Google, the world’s largest search engine, has a net worth of almost $1978 Billion as of 2021. One of the secrets behind the success of Google is its continuous efforts of motivating employees to reach their full potential in working towards the escalation of the company’s growth.

Google takes care of all the needs that motivate employees to level up their dedication by providing them various benefits that fulfill all the needs of the theory.

  • By giving free access to multiple cafeterias inside the office, free meals, and excellent pay to its employees, Google ensures the fulfillment of all the basic physiological needs.
  • Multiple health insurance and free vision, dental, and health checkups by the company assist in fulfilling the safety needs of the employees. Google also offers 18-week maternity and 6 weeks of paternity leave in order to give health safety to its employees who are about to begin a new phase in life.
  • Employees have unlimited access to a swimming pool, video game stations, and availability of foosball and table tennis across multiple offices to give time to their employees to socialize and relax by taking time out of work. These perks assist in fulfilling the social needs of employees.
  • Google provides the assistance of $12,000 per year to employees who wish to pursue higher education while working for the company. Tuition reimbursement assists in encouraging employees to enhance their self-esteem and fulfills the need of the 4th stage as per the theory.
  • To enhance the level of self-actualization, Google introduced a ‘20% time rule’ that encourages employees to spend 20% of their time from their regular projects on other projects that can benefit Google. This rule promotes critical and creative thinking skills in the employees of google that assist them in fulfilling their self-actualization needs.

Key takeaway

This assisted Google in fulfilling all the needs of the employees in order to make them more concentrated on work and for the organization to accomplish its business objectives.


How does Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs influence human behavior?

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs explains that individuals are motivated to fulfill unmet needs, and lower-level needs must be satisfied before higher-level needs become relevant. As a result, people may prioritize actions and decisions based on the level of need they are trying to address at a given moment.

Can an individual's position in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs change over time?

Yes, an individual's position in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs can change over time. As lower-level needs are satisfied, people may focus on fulfilling higher-level needs, and vice versa. For example, someone who has met their physiological and safety needs may begin seeking love and belongingness or pursuing self-actualization.