In this term paper we will discuss about Maslow’s theory of motivation.

Term Paper # 1. Introduction to Maslow’s Theory of Motivation:

A. H. Maslow developed a conceptual frame work for understanding human behaviour which has widely acclaimed. He defined a person’s effectiveness as a function of matching man’s opportunity with appropriate position of hierarchy of needs.

Process of motivation begins with an assumption of that behaviour, at least in part, is directed towards the achievement of needs. He is considered as the pioneer in contributing a systematic theory to this problem and arranged the needs of a person in order to priority.

Man’s needs are classified as basic needs and secondary needs. Basic or primary needs are those which are very important for the survival and preservation of life. These needs are universal and are felt by everyone. The intensity may differ from man to man or from society to society.



Food, clothing and shelter. Secondary needs are those which are related to mind and spirit rather than physiology of life. These needs develop as one gets maturity or education. These needs are called acquired needs.


Self-esteem sense of duty, self-assertion. Man feels both the needs in his life. But it is not clear which one is the most important and to be satisfied first in priority over others.


According to Maslow human needs tend to follow the pattern to be discussed in a sequence in which the individuals are usually concerned with it.

In analysing the hierarchy of needs Maslow pointed out the human behaviour in the following way:

(a) Man is Wanting Animal:

This means wants of men are innumerable and never ending. On satisfying one want another want appears in its place. The unsatisfied want is the motivator for performance.


(b) The human needs are arranged in a hierarchy of importance from the basic physiological to complex self-actualisation needs.

(c) An individual’s needs at any level on the hierarchy emerge only when the lower-level needs are reasonably well satisfied.  

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

The need hierarchy arranged by Maslow is as follows:


(1) Physiological Needs:

Other name Basic needs. These needs refer to the fundamental requirement of food, clothing and shelter. These needs are more or less universal. These are called the needs of lowest level and they are to be satisfied first for existence and survival. This is a powerful motivating force when thwarted.

(2) Safety and Security Needs:

These needs come next in the hierarchy. They are concerned with physical and financial security. Man is always worried about security as life is full of uncertainties. So human beings always expect physical security job security and security of income at all times. Management can motivate people by providing against uncertainties in the form of secured jobs, insurance plans and pension plans.


(3) Social Needs:

Other name Love Needs Recognition Needs. Man being a social animal is always interested to live in a society or group which loves him most. He wants to give or receive love. These are to be reflected by recognition, conversation, sociability, Exchange of feelings and grievances, Acceptance and friendship.

(4) Esteem Needs. Other Name: Ego Needs:

These needs represent the individual’s concern for feeling important and respected by others. These needs relate to the need for achievement, recognition and status.


This may be classified as:

(i) Self-esteem needs

(ii) Public-esteem needs.

The first one refers to an individual’s feeling that he is doing something worthwhile while the latter means the image in the eyes of the public like praise, admiration, Public appreciation etc.


(5) Self-Actualisation Needs:

Other name self-realisation needs. This refers to the need to realise one’s capacities and potentialities by achieving specific goals. It is need “to become everything that one is capable of becoming.” It is the drive to become what one is capable of becoming and includes growth, achieving one’s potential and self-fulfilment. So the individual needs for realising his own potentialities, opportunity for creativity and for continuous development of the individual power and skill. This is what a person considers to be his mission in life.


Of the five needs the first two are classified as lower order needs and others are known as higher order needs:

(a) The lower order needs are finite. These are to be satisfied in priority to others. No man can survive without them and he will ready to do anything to satisfy these needs. After satisfying first type of needs his safety and security needs get priority.

(b) The rest three needs are secondary needs. They are infinite but they are satisfied only after lower level needs are satisfied. All the three needs under this category should also be satisfied in order of priority.


(c) The lower level needs dominate higher order needs but higher order needs can in no case dominate lower level needs. These needs are likely to be dominant factors in motivating people at higher level in the management.

(d) The two general hypotheses that have been developed by Maslow are:

(i) Deprivation — domination i.e. when a person feels deprived or is unable to fulfil a particular need in the manner he desires so that a balance can be achieved, this lack of balance dominates his thinking and creates a sense of need.

(ii) Gratification — activation which means, when a need is gratified and the imbalance is corrected the next higher level of need is automatically activated, thus leading to hypothesis of gratification — activation.

Term Paper # 2. Evaluation of Maslow Theory:

This theory is a landmark in the field of motivation. It helps the management in understanding human behaviour of people at work. His approach is very simple, direct and practical. This theory can be used to explain and predict both individual and group behaviour. This is more so for those people who is closely related to that of others and whose work brings them into contact with others. It also explains when and how people’s needs and expectations are revised upward.

Besides these merits, the theory is subject to certain criticisms.


They are:

(a) This theory is not applicable at all times in all places and in all circumstances.

(b) The need hierarchy as advocated by Maslow may not be followed. The sequence recommended gives a general description. The hierarchical order is not very much rigid as recommended by Maslow.

(c) Human behaviour is not a result of his needs or desires only. There are other factors like perceptions, experience, expectation etc. are responsible for human behaviour. These were not considered by Maslow.

(d) This approach has over-looked the interaction of needs. No single need is responsible for motivation as it is caused by the interaction of several needs at a time.

(e) Maslow’s theory has not been tested adequately, even in part, because it emphasises the development of human needs throughout the employee’s career. Thus, an adequate of test of the theory would necessitate following the evolution of needs of several individuals over their entire life cycle.


In spite of these criticisms this theory has directly influenced all theories of motivation. The management must keep in mind the above weaknesses of this theory in designing motivation plan.

Term Paper # 3. Relationship between Theories X and Y and Maslow’s Need Hierarchy:

Theories X and Y can be related to the need hierarchy, the assumptions of theory X imply that average human being works to satisfy his physiological and safety needs primarily. It is also assumed that the employees may have a vague feeling about other needs. Once his basic needs are fulfilled it should be sufficient to motivate him.

Management can play about his needs through a carrot and stick approach to force him to work. Moreover when the employees are struggling to meet their basic needs they will have neither the time nor the inclination to think of higher level needs which are more difficult to fulfill and call for a higher level of managerial sophistication to handle.

McGregor argued that the indifferent human behaviour in work situations assumed in Theory X is not a consequence of man’s inherent nature. It is a consequence of management’s wrong notions and policies on human motivation.

Once the basic needs of employees are met they are not motivated to work by these needs any longer once the higher level needs gain some importance and crave for fulfilment. If these needs are not met, people naturally behave in an indifferent manner with little motivation to work.

Theory Y assumes that individuals have the necessary willingness and ability to contribute to enterprise objectives that their motivation to work could be triggered if their higher level and social needs are recognised and met by creating opportunities realising the employees, potential, removing obstacles and providing guidance so that the employees may prove to be valuable assets to the organisation.


A managerial system based on Theory Y assumptions can make a very significant contribution in the area of use and development of human resources for a high level of organisational performance.

Home››Term Paper››Motivation››