Psychologist Abraham Maslow first developed his famous theory of individual development and motivation in the 1940′s. He suggested that human beings have a hierarchy of needs. That is, that all humans act in a way which will address basic needs, before moving on to satisfy other, so-called higher level needs.


Maslow represented this theory as a hierarchical triangle. This shows how basic needs must be met before one can “climb” the hierarchy, to address more complex needs.

Each of us is motivated by needs. Our most basic needs are inborn, having evolved over tens of thousands of years. Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs helps to explain how these needs motivate us all.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states that we must satisfy each need in turn, starting with the first, which deals with the most obvious needs for survival itself. Only when the lower order needs of physical and emotional well-being are satisfied are we concerned with the higher order needs of influence and personal development.

Conversely, if the things that satisfy our lower order needs are swept away, we are no longer concerned about the maintenance of our higher order needs.

Maslow’s original Hierarchy of Needs model was developed between 1943-1954, and first widely published in Motivation and Personality in 1954. At this time the Hierarchy of Needs model comprised five needs. This original version remains for most people the definitive Hierarchy of Needs.

Maslow proposed the follow hierachy of needs:

1. Biological and Physiological needs: air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.

2. Safety needs: protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, etc.

3. Belongingness and Love needs: work group, family, affection, relationships, etc.

4. Esteem needs: self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility, etc.

5. Self-Actualization needs: realising personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

Implications for Management

If Maslow´s theory holds, there are some important implications for management. There are opportunities to motivate employees through management style, job design, company events, and compensations packages, some examples of which follow:

  • Physiological needs: provide lunch breaks, rest breaks, and wages that are sufficient to purchase the essentials of life. 
  • Safety needs: provide a safe working enviroment, retirement benefits, and job security
  • Social needs: create a sense of community via team-based projects and social events
  • Esteem needs: recognizes achievements to make employees feel appreciated and valued. Offer job titles that convey the importance of the position
  • Self-actualization: provide employees a challange and the opportunity to reach their full career potential