Maslow’s hierarchy

Last Updated: 08 Jul 2021
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Each of us in the world are motivated by needs, and its part human nature that if the acquired needs seems to be fulfilled makes one more and more towards it. The hierarchy justifies managerial power, while at the same time absolving managers of accountability for ineffective motivational practices. The hierarchy seems to describe what the average employee seeks; it gives management a simple and quick means of understanding differences or changes in employee motivation (Huczynski, 1993: 24).

Salvation is also available to the masses since proper management of the ways in which people work and earn their living "can improve them and improve the world and in this sense be a utopian or revolutionary technique" (Maslow, 1965: 1). In this time of economic growth and plentiful jobs, when employees are easily able to leave one organization for another, Maslow's hierarchy helps managers to treat those employees considerately, in order to ensure that they remain in the organization. The practical implementation of Maslow Theory was seen in Non-Linear Systems (NLS), a high-tech company based in California.

Its owner-entrepreneur Andy Kay organized the work environment around the principles of Maslow Theory. Employee creativity, cooperation and self-direction were encouraged as much as possible. There was a strong emphasis on employee training and growth on the job. Teams of line workers helped determine daily work schedules and activities. There was even a "vice president for innovation. " It produced results: Absenteeism and turnover plummeted, while productivity and profits soared. NLS was demonstrating that the company's and the employees' interests could converge through what Maslow called "enlightened management." (Hoffman, 1988)

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Criticism or Limitations of Maslow's Theory

  • In reality people don't work one by one through these levels. They are much less structured in the way they satisfy there needs.
  • Different people with different working backgrounds and in different situations may have different hierarchy of needs.
  • According to McClelland in 1980 who identified needs for achievement, affiliation and power, claims that other needs are also significant or even more significant.
  • Some employees don't seek to self-actualize in the workplace; fulfillment for them lies elsewhere.

Humanistically minded managers and trainers who attempt to force their idea of self-actualized traits and values upon employees may well produce resistance and resentment-especially when they try to "align" the whole package with the current goals of some particular corporation.

Herzberg's two-factor theory (1959)

Herzberg's work categorized motivation into two factors: motivators and hygienes (Herzberg, Mausner, & Snyderman, 1959). Motivator or intrinsic factors, such as achievement and recognition, produce job satisfaction. Hygiene or extrinsic factors, such as pay and job security, produce job dissatisfaction.

He used the word 'hygiene' in the sense that they are considered maintenance factors that are necessary to avoid dissatisfaction but that by themselves do not provide satisfaction. He referred the hygiene factors as "KITA" factors, which means these factors doesn't provide motivation but can only provide movement. We can present few factors that cause hygiene or dissatisfaction and motivator or satisfaction by listing in the order of higher to lower importance. Herzberg's theory raises two useful points. Firstly, improving pay and conditions may not have much effect, other than in the very short term.

It can depend on whether a person feels they are fairly rewarded, or not. Secondly, the psychological factors need much more attention. Does the job challenge an individual's skills and abilities? How much variety does it have? Does the manager recognize and praise the person's achievements? The answer might be more challenges. Herzberg's theory, although doesn't answer completely but does give food for thought. In particular, it does suggest that focusing on the money principle should not be the automatic choice for managers. There may be more important issues.

These issues are developed in the more recent process theories of motivation, which look at how people interpret what is happening to them and how they decide whether to increase their efforts.

Analyzing the job satisfaction of agricultural employees using Herzberg's theory which is broadly employed in management. Herzberg's theory has had a persisting impact on managers' thinking, workplace design, and other practical matters. Analysis of county-extension administrators was based on Herzberg's theory and results supported it (Clegg).

The analysis on job satisfaction of agricultural employees has a variable outcome which agricultural employers seek to influence through management practices and supervisory behaviour. Components of job satisfaction relevant to employees were family-business values, achievement, recognition, work itself, involvement, personal life, interpersonal relationships, job security, supervision, working conditions, organization, safety, compensation, and information driven by managers for the progress of a successful striving working environment.

Support for Herzberg's theory is useful for classifying employees' attitudes (Bitsch: Vera: Hogberg: Michael, Dec 2005).

Criticism on Herzberg's two-factor theory

Critics on Herberg's Theory argue that the two-factor result is observed because it is natural for people to take credit for satisfaction and to blame for dissatisfaction on external factors. Furthermore, job satisfaction does not necessarily imply a high level of motivation or productivity. Process Theories: Skinner's reinforcement theory (1953):

Skinner's theory simply states those employees' behaviors that lead to positive outcomes will be repeated and behaviors that lead to negative outcomes will not be repeated (Skinner, 1953). Managers should positively reinforce employee behaviors that lead to positive outcomes. Managers should negatively reinforce employee behavior that leads to negative outcomes.

There are three basic principles of this theory. These are the Rules of Consequences. The three Rules describe the logical outcomes which typically occur after consequences.

  1. Consequences which give rewards increase behavior.
  2. Consequences which give Punishments decrease behaviour.
  3. Consequences which give neither Rewards nor Punishments extinguish behaviour.

Implications for Management

Skinner's Theory is based upon the idea that learning is a function of change in overt behaviour. Operant conditioning has been widely applied in instructional development (e. g., programmed instruction) and is a direct response to manager's behaviours.

  1. Behaviour that is positively reinforced will reoccur; intermittent reinforcement is particularly effective
  2. Information should be presented in small amounts so that responses can be reinforced ("shaping")
  3. Reinforcements will generalize across similar stimuli ("stimulus generalization") producing secondary conditioning

A manager can modify behavior by negative reinforcement, which is defined as removing a negative stimulus in the environment after the behavior occurs. Another way to modify behavior is punishment, which decreases the chances of the behavior to occur. This works on the principle that punishment is something unpleasant and that human will try to avoid. Another method of behavior modification is lack of reinforcement.

The idea behind this method is that if a behavior is not reinforced in any way that it will decrease in frequency, and be eliminated.  Skinner's theory, as well as other reinforcement techniques can be applied for organizational settings with the idea that using reinforcers could increase the frequency of productive behaviors and decrease the frequency of disruptive behaviors.

Contingency Contracting

This contract between the employees and managers and specifies what behaviors are appropriate and which are not by listing what types of rewards or punishments will be received.

Token economy

In a token economy, employees are given some type of token for appropriate behaviors, and those tokens can later be exchanged for prizes or privileges.

Incentive System

Applying an incentive system should involve all employees in the workplace. It would be designed to shape a misbeaving employee's behavior. For example, this sytem could be set up to reward the whole organization for its total compliance

Encouragement System

The managers could focus on one target behavior to work on with the erring employees, at first ignoring his other misbehaviors. For instance, the manager could give the offender a reward card.

For every problem that employee completes correctly, he would get a hole punched inhis card. After so many holes, the employee would be rewarded some kind of prize, like bonus. Which shows that using reinforcement to help manage organization discipline has been successful, especially for managing behavior in creating an orderly and stable environment that has helped in providing the essential foundation by improving employees behaviors, working habits, and organizational skills. The key is to be consistent in applying the positive and negative consequences (Skinner, 1969).

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Maslow’s hierarchy. (2018, Jun 22). Retrieved from

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