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  • Maslow ‘in his classic paper ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’ published in 1943 outlined an overall theory of motivation.
  • He analyzed the relationship flanked by the human beings and organisations from the stand point of ‘human needs’. Human beings become members of organisations to fulfill their needs.
  • These needs arise in many areas. Fulfillment of these needs motivate the human beings to a higher stage of performance.
  • Non-fulfillment of needs will have adverse effect on the motivation of individuals to contribute to the organisation to realize the organizational objectives.


  • Maslow arranged a person’s motivational needs in a hierarchical manner. According to him there are many needs of human beings which explain human behaviour in organisations.
  • These needs have a hierarchy. The needs are: physiological needs, security needs, social needs, esteem needs, and self actualization needs. Physiological and security, needs are lower order needs in the hierarchy.
  • Self-actualization need is the highest in the hierarchy. In flanked by comes the social and esteem needs. Maslow whispered that unless the need at the lower stage is satisfied, it will not motivate a person.

Physiological needs

Vital things necessary for human survival are hunger, thirst, shelter, etc. The human being, has to satisfy these needs first, after they are fulfilled he no longer strives hard to obtain them. They no longer motivate him.

Security needs

Job security or safety in the work place gives psychological security to human beings Maslow stresses both physical and emotional safety. Human being is a safety seeking mechanism. Once safety and security are ensured, they no longer motivate the human being.

Social needs

This represents the relationships flanked by and in the middle of groups of people working in the organisation. This need gives emotional security to people. This gives a sense of belongingness and association. Every human being needs friendship with others. If these social needs are not met, the employee becomes resistant and hostile.

Esteem needs

This represents higher stage needs of human beings. At this stage human beings strive for power, attainment, and status. Esteem commutates both self esteem and esteem from others.


This higher stage need represents culmination of all other needs. The fulfillment of this need gives a high degree of satisfaction to the individual in work and life. ‘This will further improve a person’s ‘performance in an organisation. A self-actualized person has fulfilled all his potential. This represents a person’s motivation to transform perception of self into reality.


  • Each need, according to Maslow, is a goal to a person at a point of time. If a person’s vital necessities, viz., physiological needs are not fulfilled, he concentrates all his energies to achieve satisfaction in that area.
  • Once he gets satisfaction in that need area, he moves to the after that order need. This procedure continues in the daily life of all human beings.
  • Non- attainment of a scrupulous goal in a need area motivates a person to achieve it. Once it is achieved, it no longer motivates or drives, a person to work further in that area. This is one of the main, foundations of Maslow‘s theory of need hierarchy.
  • The lowest in the hierarchy are the physiological needs like hunger, thirst, shelter etc. Such needs call for contributions from the organisation in the form of salary and other amenities to the members of the organisation.
  • Once a person’s needs in physiological areas are satisfied through the contributions from the organisation. The moves up in the hierarchy and the after that higher stage needs become significant to him.
  • He strives hard to satisfy himself in that need area. Fulfillment of physiological needs drives one to pursue satisfaction of his security needs. Security need dominates and motivates his behaviour.
  • Once security needs are satisfied, social needs come to the surface. Human beings are social beings and they value affiliation and association. Social needs contain fulfillment of psychological needs like acceptance in the organisation. Social needs drive people to improve their interpersonal relations.
  • Once the need to affiliate is fulfilled, human mind searches for the autonomy and prestige in organisation and freedom to work with and through people as described under esteem need.
  • The fulfillment of esteem needs gives self-confidence to people and prepares them to take up leadership positions, guiding others and appraising the performance of people. The highest and the final stage in the need hierarchy is the self actualization need.
  • This is described as achieving the meaning and purpose in life through personal and professional growth. This is expressed through achieving higher performance in a role, be it a worker, or a supervisor or a manager in an organisation. This is the spirit of excellence found in all societies and organisations.
  • We have examples of high performers in all walks of life all over the world. Self actualized people search for meaning and purpose in all their endeavors and contribute their energies for the development of the organisation. According to Maslow, this need arises only when all the needs lower to it, viz., physiological, security, social and esteem, are fulfilled.


  • An organization‘s culture, history, policies, procedures environment and its skill to attract, develop, and retain people play an significant role in the need fulfillment of its members.
  • We come crossways excellent organisations which consider in people. We also witness organisations which hardly think about human factor, i.e., about its members.
  • Organisations, which consider in people and their skill to perform, give for the fulfillment of the needs of their members.
  • Organisations which are not people oriented, create it hard for the members to fulfill their needs. Such organisations, will face negative consequences of non-fulfillment of needs of their members.
  • This would at least be the case in the long run! Conversely, people without a work ethic, self control, and performance orientation become negative forces in an organisation. They cannot fulfill their higher order needs like esteem and self-actualization. Need fulfillment in an organisation requires self control, goal orientation, and work ethic from the organisation an well as from its members.
  • Maslow clarified that the hierarchy is riot as rigid as it is implied theoretically. His argument is that the hierarchy is a framework which helps in understanding the human motivation in organisations. In other words the hierarchy need not necessarily operate in a fixed order and there is scope for deviations.


  • Maslow‘s theory, in spite of its importance in understanding human behaviour, is subjected to criticism. Many empirical studies concluded that Maslow’s model is open to question as an overall theory of work motivation.
  • These studies found absence of correlation flanked by satisfaction of needs at one stage and activation of needs at the after that higher stage. Modem management theory is influenced through Maslow’s writings to a great extent.
  • Some of the later researchers like Herzberg developed on Maslow‘s theory and contributed to the enrichment of the discipline.
  • Though there are many limitations in Maslow‘s conceptualization, his theory is helpful in predicting human behaviour on a low or high probability basis if not in absolute conditions.

Public Administration by G.Rajput

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