What is the Maslow Pyramid?
The Maslow pyramid is also known as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and was developed by the American psychologist Abraham Maslow. The Maslow pyramid is used to show what needs people have. With its shape as a pyramid, the model shows which hierarchical needs have to be met first.
The Maslow Pyramid is a model that classifies people’s needs and arranges them hierarchically. Seen from bottom to top, there are the following levels:
- Physiological needs (air, water, food …)
- Security needs (housing, protection …)
- Social needs (family, relationship …)
- Individual needs ( status, recognition …)
- Self-realization (developing the meaning of life)
According to the model, needs must be met from the bottom up. This means that the next level can only be reached once the level below has been largely satisfied. The first four levels are summarized under the term deficit needs. The point of self-actualization falls under the concept of growth needs. The model states that all basic (deficit) needs must first be met before people begin to care about the meaning of life (i.e. the last level of the pyramid).
So that the need for self-fulfillment can be satisfied, people want to develop their skills, their personality and their creativity. Some companies use Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to increase the satisfaction and productivity of their employees. However, it is also used, among other things, to analyze customer needs and ultimately tailor products and services better to the customer.
What are Physiological Needs?
The physiological needs include the means necessary for survival such as air, water and food. If these needs cannot be met, even for a short time, then humans cannot survive. That is why the physiological needs are the cornerstone of the pyramid: without them it is impossible to get to the next level.
Physiological needs at work
The steps of the Maslow pyramid can be easily transferred to professional life. The physiological needs must of course be met so that employees can work at all. Here, however, an employer can, for example, ensure a good air supply in the office space in order to meet this need .
What are security needs?
Security needs include measures that give people security. This includes shelter, in the best case a house, and other protective measures. This is how people want to protect themselves from cold or heat, or from diseases.
Security needs at work
In the job, the need for job security is central. People need a secure income in order to finance their home and to be able to buy necessities such as clothing or medicine.
What are social needs?
In terms of social needs, Maslow refers to the need for belonging – whether in family, with relatives or friends. Man does not want to be alone or to be cast out.
Social needs at work
Social needs should not be underestimated in everyday work either. Dealing well with work colleagues promotes employee motivation . A sense of togetherness can strengthen the team and help them work together even in difficult business situations.
What are individual needs?
Individual needs describe people’s striving for praise, recognition or status .
Individual needs in the job
Employees feel it is important and appreciative when they are recognized for their work. Extraordinary measures are not always required for this ; spoken praise or a little attention can also satisfy the employee’s individual needs .
What is Self Realization?
The top and last level of the pyramid is self-realization. While the remaining areas represent deficit needs, self-actualization is a need for growth. Only here is it about people developing their skills and character and developing their personality.
Self-realization in the job
At this stage, people want to develop further. For example, training or further education can be offered that open up new perspectives for the employee. Bringing in your own ideas – privately or at work – is also an aspect of self-realization.
Maslow pyramid: an example
In order for a person to survive, their physiological needs must be met. When a person gets into an emergency, all of a sudden only needs such as air to breathe, water and food count. As soon as these are secured, additional needs arise in humans, which Maslow summarizes in the second stage. These are the need for protection (e.g. from the weather) or a place to sleep. If all wishes are fulfilled at this level, people want to live out their social needs. For example, building a relationship with other people or starting a family. This is followed by the next stage in which the person strives for status and recognition.
When all these needs have been met, people want to realize themselves: Here people live creatively, work on their abilities or their character. Without passing the previous levels, according to Maslow, man cannot begin self-actualization, and without reaching the highest level of the pyramid, according to this theory, a person cannot live happily.
Two factor theory
Herzberg’s two-factor theory states that so-called motivators contribute to job satisfaction, while disregarding hygiene factors leads to dissatisfaction. Motivators are factors such as the work itself and its success, as well as the recognition of achievements by others. The hygiene factors include wages, physical working conditions or the status in the company.
In addition to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Frederick Herzberg’s two-factor theory is considered a fundamental content theory on the subject of motivation . The two models are therefore often viewed together, as both deal with people’s needs – be they basic needs or those in the world of work. Both models can thus be used by companies and employers, for example, to reflect and improve the working environment or conditions .
Pros and cons of the Maslow pyramid
The Maslow pyramid is a very well known model that is often used in practice. However, it is not free of errors, which is primarily related to the creation of the model.
Abraham Maslow created the hierarchy of needs without doing empirical research. He relied on his own experiences and beliefs, which were heavily influenced by his life in the western world. Thus, the model cannot be applied to all countries and cultures.
Furthermore, the structure of this hierarchical model is criticized for the fact that the needs cannot just be met in stages and one after the other. It is more of a path or a cycle that the person goes through – for example, the desire for self-realization can exist without the person having received praise and recognition.
In addition, the Maslow pyramid is not all-encompassing and focuses almost too tightly on the positive aspects – praise, belonging, security. In doing so, the downsides go under, such as the fact that people can be oppressed or marginalized or that there can be a desire to rule over others. These negative feelings or issues do not appear in Maslow’s theory.
Nevertheless, the Maslow pyramid can be used as a basis to understand people a little better. What are we striving for and what is particularly important – that is what the model shows. In this way, it can also be determined in (professional) practice which needs have not yet been met and how the conditions can be adapted and improved accordingly.