A long list of theories that attempt to explain human’s personality traits have been put forward by psychological theorists especially of the 20th century. Some of the prominent theorists include Sigmund Freud, B. F. Skinner, and Abraham H. Maslow (Newman & Newman, 2007). Maslow was an American psychologist who was born and grew up in Brooklyn in New York. He is greatly honored for conceptualizing a theory about the trend of human development which is popularly known as “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”.
Being a humanistic psychologist, Maslow optimistically believed that all human beings have an inherent desire to realize and achieve their given potential to the highest possible level, which he referred to as self-actualization (Newman & Newman, 2007). This essay seeks to discuss, in summary, the five major levels of human needs that Maslow arranged in a hierarchical manner. It will then provide its applicability to the professional practice.
The Hierarchy of Needs model has withstood the test of time as a very instrumental tool for understanding human motivations. This model takes a pyramidal shape with the basic needs at the broader base and the need to self-actualize at the apex (Newman & Newman, 2007). Maslow believed that people are motivated most by physiological needs which are inherent and include; the need for air (oxygen), water, food, rest, comfort (excretion), sleep, need to avoid pain, and to have sex.
The second layer of the pyramid is the need for safety and security. Once the physiological needs have been met to acceptable minimum, a person moves to satisfy the second layer. The person is motivated by the need to be in a safe environment, as well as assurance for security in life like job security, retirement benefits and or constant care.
The sufficient satisfaction of the first two layers paves way for the third which is the need for love and sense of belonging. One starts being motivated by the need for friendship, a lover, general affectionate needs, the need to have children, and a sense of association. This strong need can push one into all sorts of groups ranging from good to the worst. This level also defines the need to pursue a given career.
The fourth level, the need for esteem, follows immediately once the first three have been largely met. This involves the search for self-esteem. The first category is the need for the respect for others, fame, glory, attention, reputation, dignity, dominion, recognition, and appreciation.
The second category is the need for self respect through feelings like; confidence, achievement, independence, competence, and freedom. The first four levels are characterized by unique negative effects if they are not met and therefore, Maslow referred to them as deficit-needs or otherwise ‘D-needs’. This implies that one will be motivated as long as there is a deficit (Griffin & Moorhead, 2009).
The fifth and the last level is the self-actualization need. People in this level are motivated by the need to grow and ‘being’ needs. A person is driven to fulfill his or her optimum potential. Due to the challenge that exists in meeting the lower needs, a very small percentage of the people in the world reach the summit of the hierarchy/triangle.
Self-actualized people are characterized by their reality-centeredness, problem-centeredness, and are not conventionally convinced by the idea that the end justifies the means. Basically, they are nonconformist.
This model of considering human developmental needs has proved useful and is applicable in virtually all human engagements. In the professional practice, for instance, the Hierarchy of Needs has been employed by leaders and executive officers to motivate their employees to ensure maximum output from the professional workforce (Maslow & Stephens, 2000).
This will largely depend on how each employee/professional is treated through the type of leadership used, plans for compensation, clear definition of roles, and company culture.
Under physiological motivation, the workforce should be allowed to have adequate breaks as well as providing salaries that can enable them to buy essential things in life. Safety needs should be taken care of by creating an environment which is safe and free from threats and feelings of job insecurity.
Generating a company or professional culture that encourages feelings of acceptance, community, and belongingness through the use of group dynamics will go a long way in addressing the social needs. The chance for professional advancement like study leaves and promotions should also be provided at this level. The fourth level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can also be applied to professional practice quite effectively.
The esteem motivation can be exploited by recognizing individual achievements, assigning key projects, and ensuring that the workforce feels valued and upheld. Self-actualization motivation of professionals can be achieved through the assignment of high level projects or assignments/tasks that are quite challenging and demanding a lot of creativity, and innovation in the quest to reach the set goals (Griffin & Moorhead, 2009).
The essay has provided a summary of the five key levels of needs as laid out by Abraham Maslow. It has also explained how the motivational theory can be effectively used in the professional world to ensure maximum input as well as output from professionals and workforce in general.
Griffin, R. W. & Moorhead, G. (2009). Organizational Behaviour: managing people and organizations (9th ed.). Cengage Learning
Maslow, A. H. & Stephens, D. C. (2000). The Maslow business reader. John Wiley and Sons
Newman, B. M. & Newman, P. R. (2007). Theories of human development (4th ed.). Routledge