Maslow's hierarchy of needs. An introduction

Research Paper (undergraduate) 2011 15 Pages

Business economics - Business Management, Corporate Governance


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Objective

3. Biography of Abraham H. Maslow

4. Theory of humanistic psychology

5. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

6. Possible applications of Maslow’s needs in the modern workplace
6.1. Example for establishing basic prerequisites
6.2. Example of achieving physiological needs
6.3. Example of achieving security needs
6.4. Example of achieving social needs
6.5. Example of achieving self-esteem
6.6. Example of achieving self-actualization

7. Conclusion



1. Introduction

It would appear that the discussion of methods to motivate employees has become a never-ending topic under those responsible for company personnel. The question of how to get employees fully engaged with the goals of the company appears to remain a central issue in human resource management. The difficulty might be in the continuing adjustment necessary in a changing company. Keeping the employees involved in the frequently changing goals is more important than ever before in company management. Sustained success of the company is only possible when the workers are included in the strategic planning. But what means are available in the modern workplace to ensure that the employees remain satisfied and motivated? One can consider Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which was developed in the 40s and 50s in the USA. His theory remains valid today for understanding human motivation, management training and personal development. Indeed, Maslow’s ideas surrounding the Hierarchy of Needs may be applicable. The responsibility of employers to provide a workplace environment that encourages employees to fulfill their own potential (self-actualization) is today more relevant than ever. To visualize his theory and to illustrate the hierarchy needs, Maslow developed a pyramid which was published in 1954 in his book “Motivation and Personality”.

2. Objective

The objective of the assignment is to explain and illustrate how the Maslow theory can be applied to the modern working environment and what importance it can have for the motivation and satisfaction of the worker. To begin, the founder himself will first be introduced, followed by an explanation of the theory of humanistic psychology.

3. Biography of Abraham H. Maslow

Abraham Harold Maslow was born on April 1, 1908 as the son of a Jewish immigrant in Brooklyn, New York. He discovered his passion for books and psychology at a young age. Despite the wishes of his parents, he dropped out of his legal studies and devoted himself to psychology. After attending various universities, he obtained a doctor’s degree in psychology at the University of Wisconsin in 1934. Maslow returned to Brooklyn in 1937 and began to teach psychology at Brooklyn College. From then on, his publications showed his interest in personality traits, social behavior, self-respect and motivation of the human being. At Brooklyn, he also made contact with recognized psychologists such as Alfred Adler and Erich Fromm. His own psychological works began in 1951 when he was named Head of the Psychological Institute at Brandeis University. He held this office until 1969 and remained active in promoting the idea of humanistic psychology. At the age of 61, he moved to Menlo Park, California and subsequently died of a heart attack on June 8, 1970 (see www.abraham-maslow.com/m_motivation/Biography.asp).

4. Theory of humanistic psychology

The underlying basic principles of humanistic psychology, propagated by psychoanalysts such as Carl Rogers, Charlotte Bühler, Abraham Maslow and others, are found in the psychoanalytical works of Sigmund Freud. Apart from psychoanalysis which concentrates on the subconscious mind, behavioral therapy was considered insufficient in describing the entire range of human activities. A confrontation developed between the mechanistic and causal-deterministic views, which assumes negative and pessimistic behavior and no actual control of an individual’s motivation.

Humanistic psychology received its name out of the conviction that the human being basically has the intention of doing good. He is viewed in terms of his human relationships and social interaction with his environment and allows for feelings such as spontaneity, creativity, responsibility and freedom. Maslow assumes that every human is born with the desire to grow and develop personally and has the desire of achieving the best possible for himself. The person can only find satisfaction in the reality of what is here and now and, to remain mentally sound, he must be able to take full responsibility for his acts. Maslow gave the best and most understandable explanation of this condition in the frame of humanistic psychology. He thus became the most predominant figure in this field. In his research work, Maslow found that people who actualize themselves have traits such as acceptance of themselves and others and the ability to recognize the needs and wishes of other persons without forgetting their own needs. They are also often capable of reacting to peculiarly unusual people and situations and have the ability to successfully judge the right or wrong in a person. In addition, they can face reality through the strength of their creativity and are capable of redirecting their frustration into motivation for overcoming a problem. Maslow’s theory assumes that every human being possesses the potential of developing and acquiring all of these properties one after another (see Maslow, 1954, p. 179-190).

The so-called “Third Force” developed from this, which is the active desire of the human being for a fulfilled life, for recognition and for self-actualization. Maslow published his book on “Motivation and Personality” relating to this subject in 1954. His central idea was a hierarchy of the human needs, according to which the higher needs can be fulfilled as soon as the lower needs have been sufficiently satisfied (see Maslow, 1954, p. 82).

5. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

The Hierarchy of Needs developed by Maslow intended to classify the needs in order. His research focused on the question of values and the purpose of life, where psychological health is the central aspect and is seen to be a self-fulfilled personality (see Maslow, 1954, p. 216).



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University of applied sciences, Munich
BWL HR Human Resource Management




Title: Maslow's hierarchy of needs. An introduction