Abraham Maslow's Theoretical Ideas

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Maslow's theories can be tools for managers and supervisors.
Maslow's theories can be tools for managers and supervisors. (Image: Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Psychologist Abraham Maslow's humanistic theory of the hierarchy of needs is one of his most well known concepts. His theoretical idea of human behaviors and personal needs is still well respected, albeit occasionally modified by others. The purpose of Maslow's hierarchy of needs model is to explain human motivation and personal development needs. The model can be especially relevant to employers trying to retain and motivate employees. More recent versions of Maslow's theory of the human hierarchy of needs have appeared, but they are not wholly attributed to Maslow.

Humanistic Psychology

Humanistic psychology maintains a core belief in the general goodness of humanity and a respect for people, according to the website Abraham-Maslow. Psychologist Carl Rogers and Maslow initiated this movement in psychology, which is focused on understanding people's personalities and improving their sense of satisfaction with their lives.

Maslow illustrates human needs with a pyramid called the "hierarchy of needs."
Maslow illustrates human needs with a pyramid called the "hierarchy of needs." (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow developed his human hierarchy of needs model in the United States in 1940's and 1950s. The purpose of the model is to explain human motivation and the personal development needs of employees. Maslow's concept is illustrated by a pyramid explaining the needs of humans. The most basic are considered "basic life needs," such as food, water, shelter and air. The next level of needs is for order and stability. The third level of needs describes a person's need to be loved and for group membership. The next-highest level of needs illustrates the need for status, achievement and responsibility. Finally, the highest level of personal human needs is for personal growth and fulfillment. Note that Maslow's original theory includes only these five levels.

Group membership and belonging is part of the third level of Maslow's pyramid of needs.
Group membership and belonging is part of the third level of Maslow's pyramid of needs. (Image: Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Recent Adaptations

Recent adaptions of Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory have been developed by other. If the pyramid is illustrated with more than five levels, you'll know this is a more recent interpretation of Maslow's ideas. Augmented diagrams can show seven or eight levels, including a need for transcendence and a need to help others succeed.

Maslow's Theories in Action

Human Resources specialists, supervisors and business managers benefit from understanding Maslow's theories when relating to their staff. In Maslow's view, for example, a manager cannot expect a sales rep to excel at his job if his home is being repossessed. Similarly, an employee will not find meaning in an award for excellence in the workplace if he cannot afford groceries. However, keep in mind that Maslow's theory is a general model. It is a guide that requires further interpretation and thoughtfulness on the part of supervisors to understand the underlying motivators of their staff.

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