Abraham Maslow: Hierarchy of Needs

12 May, 2015

Abraham Maslow never set out to be a management thinker: his attention was on people in the round. It was only his desire to test out his ideas – and those of colleague Douglas McGregor – that led him to be one of the best known names among managers. His model of motivation is almost certainly the most widely known in English speaking organisations. Does it deserve to be?

Abraham Maslow

 

Short Biography

Abraham Maslow was born in 1908 to Jewish emigré parents, who had come to New York to escape Tsarist pogroms in Russia. There, Maslow grew up amidst antisemitism.

He took his undergraduate degree at City University of New York and then gained his MA and PhD in psychology at the University of Wisconsin in 1934. His thesis considered dominance and sexuality in Monkeys, which later led noted sexologist Alfred Kinsey to seek out his assistance in the 1940s. Maslow, however, rejected Kinsey, challenging the rigour of his research and later publishing evidence of bias in Kinsey’s sample selection (of young women for his study).

Maslow spend the late 1930s and the 1940s teaching and researching at Brooklyn College, where he published his most notable work on The Hierarchy of Needs in 1943 (A Theory of Human Motivation, Psychological Review, 50, pp370-396). This was later fully documented in his most important book, Motivation and Personality.

In 1951, he moved to Brandeis University, where he stayed until 1969, a year before his death in 1970

A Humanist First

The core of Maslow’s work as a psychologist was his move away from studying the psychology of people with problems, towards people who are successful. He used the term ‘positive psychology’ and was almost certainly the first to do so. It is now widely used, since its establishment as a (now very vibrant) field of research by Martin Seligman.

However, the movement he was instrumental in had the name of humanistic psychology and it is one that last week’s Management Thinker, Mary Parker Follett would have embraced.

The Hierarchy of Needs

His major contribution was a model that was designed to explain human behaviour and has subsequently come to be used as a theory of workplace motivation. He built a needs theory of human behaviour by first grouping human needs into classes, and then arranging these classes into a hierarchy. He argued that the prospect of satisfying an unmet need leads to motivation to act or choose.

Often shown as a pyramid, with basal (or ‘deficiency’) needs at the bottom and higher (or ‘growth’) needs at the top, the sequence means that our first instinct is to focus on the lowest level of unmet need.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

 

Physiological Needs
include warmth, food, sex, sleep and shelter – anything necessary to survival.

Safety and Security Needs
can now be thought of as job, wage or other economic security.

Love and Belonging Needs
are for social acceptance and the development of trusting relationships.

Esteem Needs
are firstly for power, status and prestige and then, for a self-belief that our place is merited.

Self Actualisation
was what Maslow was interested in: maximising our potential, living life to the full and contributing to our society.

In more modern needs theories of motivation, like Self Determination Theory of Ryan and Deci (popularised by Daniel Pink), belonging, esteem and self actualisation are still seen as powerful workplace motivators in the forms of relatedness (love and belonging), competence (esteem), and autonomy (actualisation).

Critiques

There are two critiques that are commonly levelled at the Hierarchy of Needs – one valid, one not.

It is often argued that the hierarchy presents a rigid sequence and that we continually want more, so do not fully escape the lowest levels, whilst some artist, say, will self-actualise away in lonely poverty in a cold garrett ignoring the basement motivators. In fact, Maslow himself said that the hierarchy is neither universal, nor a rigid sequence. The price his legacy pays for fame, is that most people learn the model from a few paragraphs in a text book or fifteen minutes in a management training session – and not from Maslow’s own writing. (Up goes my hand too!)

The more valid critique is the shallow research base for the model, and the reliance Maslow placed on anecdote, interview and subjective interpretation. However, we must understand his motivation: which was to create a springboard for studying what really interested him – Self Actualisation.

In fact, he did spend time in industry, studying motivation, but it was Douglas McGregor’s Theory Y that he was testing – and he found it wanting. Much as he supported it, he found it too simplistic in the real world, where people need a dose of Theory X predictability to feel fully secure.

Above and Below the Pyramid

Interesting to me is Maslow’s argument that we cannot satisfy our needs unless we have sufficient freedoms. As a humanist, he argued strongly for basic human freedoms such as expression and speech, the ability to defend ourselves, and for a society that prioritises justice.

Above the pyramid, he argued we would find needs higher than self-actualisation in the way he described it. These may be some form of aesthetic, spiritual or transcendent needs. This is an idea that Clare Graves developed into Spiral Dynamics, although the merits of that model need careful assessment.

More on Motivation

The Motivation Pocketbook


 

Pronunciation

Maslow, Mahslow, Mazlov… ?

For may years, knowing he came from Russia, I pronounced his name Mazlov. My research for this article shows that I was wrong. The name is common among Polish and Western Ukrainian Jewish families, where the -ow ending is pronounced with the soft w sound. A research student of his from the early 1940s records on a Wikipedia discussion page that Maslow pronounced his own name as Mah-zlow.

 


David McClelland: Competency and Achievement

21 April, 2015

David McClelland is best known to managers for his theory of Motivational Needs,which we covered back in 2012. He was a giant of the twentieth century psychology community, whose ideas remain relevant, practical, and valuable to manangers today.

David McClelland

Short Biography

David McClelland was born in New York state, in 1917 and grew up in Illinois. He gained his Bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1938, from Wesleyan University, a Master’s from the University of Missouri, and a PhD from Yale in 1941. He went on to teach at Connecticut College and then, as professor, at Wesleyan University. In 1956, he joined the Harvard University faculty as a professor, and he stayed there until his retirement to Professor Emeritus, in 1986. However, it’s hard for an active mind to stay retired, so in 1987, he started teaching at Boston University, continuing to do so up until his death in 1998.

Along the way, McClelland published many important books, few of which remain in print. Of those that do, the most notable are:

He also co-founded with David Berlew (and Chaired) a business consulting firm, McBer and Company, that trained and advised managers in recruiting and developing staff. McBer is now a part of the Hay Group.

Contributions

McClelland made two primary contributions that managers should know about. The first and best known is his psychological theory of three key motivators that drive our performance in the workplace. He applied this to corporations, small businesses, the medical profession, higher education and to large scale economic development.

Motivational Needs

The three needs (discussed more fully in the earlier Pocketblog, ‘David McClelland’s Three Motivational Needs‘) are:

  1. The Need for Affiliation (nAff)
    Our drive to form attachments, to be accepted by others, and to interact with them.
  2. The Need for Power (nPow)
    Our drive to control the way people behave, to influence their thinking, and to win status.
  3. The Need for Achievement (nAch)
    Our drive to accomplish demanding tasks, reach high standards, and overcome obstacles.

He also developed the work of Henry Murray to create a “Thematic Apperception Test‘ That allows trained users to evaluate the balance of these needs in an individual, based on their story-telling response to imagery.

McClelland studied how different balances of these three motivators impact people’s performances in different job roles. For example, he concluded that the most senior managers and leaders do not fare well if they have a dominant need for achievement. Rather, they tend to have this (and a need for affiliation) at moderate levels, with a high need for power.

Entrepreneurs and middle managers, however, thrive best with a high need for achievement. So much so, indeed, that McClelland believed that a nation’s economic development was dependent on the level of need of achievement among its citizens. This is what leads, he says, to setting big (but realistic) goals, taking calculated risks, and feeling a sense of personal responsibility for our work.

Competencies at Work

In the 1960s, McClelland took what was then a radical perspective on successful recruitment. He argued that we should hire for demonstrated competencies in the area of work we need people to perform and not, as was common in the US at the time, for IQ levels and the results of batteries of personality tests. This does not seem so revolutionary now, but it is well to be aware of when this idea started to emerge. His company, McBer, was at the forefront of developing lists of competencies.

More recently, his ideas have been applied to the workplace by popular psychologist, Daniel Goleman – particularly in his 2002 book, The New Leaders: Transforming the Art of Leadership, but also in his earlier, 1998 book, Working with Emotional Intelligence.

Learn More

There is an excellent interview with McClelland, from the end of his life, at: orientamento.it/indice/interview-with-mcclelland/

For more on motivation:

For more on McClelland’s theory in particular:


Frederick Herzberg: KITA versus Enrichment

17 March, 2015

Frederick Herzberg was a clinical psychologist who saw a gap in the research on workplace psychology and filled it with his convictions about what gives people a sense of wellbeing. This places him amongst other great humanistic psychologists, from Maslow to McGregor. His work was widely influential and his keystone Harvard Business Review article, ‘One More Time: How do you motivate employees?’ remains one of the most widely read of that publication’s reprints.

Frederick Herzberg

Short Biography

Frederick Herzberg was born in Massachusetts in 1923 and grew up in New York, where he attended the City College of New York, initially studying history. Incidentally, Maslow also attended City College. Although he loved history, he found the way it was taught too impersonal and overly-focused on events, so he transferred to psychology. But before he completed his course, he enlisted in the US Army, where he served with distinction as an infantry sergeant. He was among the liberators of the Dachau concentration camp which must have affected him profoundly, not least because he was a Jew whose family had come to the US as emigrants from Lithuania.

After the war, he returned to New York to complete his degree and went on to earn a masters degree and a PhD at the University of Pittsburg. In the mid-1950s, Herzberg worked at the US Public Health Service where he started to become interested in workplace psychology. After surveying all of the existing literature and finding it wanting, he conducted his own research, interviewing over 200 engineers. This work led, in 1959, to his first book, with Bernard Mausner and Barbara B. Snyderman, Motivation to Work. He followed this with his 1966 book, Work and the Nature of Man, in which he extends the same ideas in a more philosophical direction, adopting the metaphor of the characters Adam and Abraham from the Bible.

Herzberg’s earlier academic work was done at Case Western Reserve University, from where he moved to the University of Utah in 1972. He remained there up to his retirement. He died in January 2000.

Herzberg’s Contribution

Our earlier post, What Motivates your Team Members?, summarises Herzberg’s Hygeine and Motivation theory. He discovered that the things that leave us dissatisfied at work are different from those which satisfy us. Fixing the dissatisfiers (or ‘hygiene factors’) will only stop us being grumpy. Other things motivate us positively and Herzberg argued that employers should stop trying to use the granting and withholding of hygiene factors (which he colourfully described in his HBR article as giving employees a Kick in the Ass – KITA) and start working on the positive, aspirational motivators that enrich our lives. He was an early advocate of engaging employees and bringing the best out of them.

Indeed, Herzberg catalogued what he saw as essential in bringing out creativity and innovation from your team:

  1. intelligence
  2. expertise
  3. an unconventional viewpoint
  4. effectiveness in ambiguity
  5. self awareness
  6. separating motivation from hygiene factors
  7. controlling anxiety
  8. suppressing over-concern for advancement
  9. accessing intuition
  10. passion

Ultimately, Herzberg had an individualistic view of workplace success, ascribing more significance to personal talents and attitudes than to team efforts. He drew a balance between the attitudes and talents that eschewed simplistic egalitarianism, in favour of offering primacy to individuals with more relevant knowledge and expertise. But he also wanted to create a balance between a focus on data and fact on the one hand, with passion and experience on the other.

He taught us, as much or more than anyone else, that the simple approach of carrot and stick brings little more than ‘okay’ performance out of people. It is virtuous behaviours that enrich a workplace, which create great results.


David Packard: The HP way

17 February, 2015

When I was a physics postgrad, all of the best electronic equipment in our lab was made by one company; the oscilloscope, signal generator, analog-digital converter and the plotter. They were made by Hewlett Packard.. My professor had a deep admiration for the quality of their engineering. Every since, I have had an almost blind faith in the quality of HP printers. Hewlett Packard was founded by two college friends, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. It was Packard who ran the company for many years, and his management style is the epitome of Theory Y.

David Packard

 

Short Biography

David Packard was born in 1912 and grew up in Colorado. He attended Stanford University, graduating in electrical engineering in 1934. There, he met two people who were to dominate his life: his wife to be, Lucile, and Bill Hewlett.

After a spell at General Electric and further study at MIT, Packard and Hewlett formed a partnership in 1938, starting the Hewlett Packard business with just $538 of capital, in a garage in Palo Alto, in what is now known as Silicon Valley. HP, as it is known, quickly became a successful business, becoming one of the world’s most admired companies. This is, in large part, due to the exemplary management style of its founders and of Dave Packard in particular.

In 1957, Packard wrote ‘The HP Way” a statement of the values and management principles of their business. This later (1995) evolved into the book, The HP Way, How Bill Hewlett and I Built our Company.

In 1969, Packard temporarily left the company to take up a political post (Deputy Secretary of Defense) in the Nixon administration. There, he became involved in resource management, setting up the Defense Systems Management College and in amending the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act to extend presidential powers to involve military personnel in certain civilian matters.

He returned to the company in 1972 and remained Chairman, and then Chairman Emeritus, until his death in 1996. He left around 4$ billion to the charitable foundation that he and his wife founded, and which is now administered by his son and three daughters.

Packard’s Contributions to Management

Not only was Dave Packard a model of humanistic management, but he is closely associated with his own particular style of management…

Management by Wandering About (MBWA)

Management by Wandering (or Walking) About is exactly what it sounds like. He and Hewlett would wander about the business, engaging staff in conversation, listening to them, showing respect, and empowering them to do their best work. They valued both the informality and the egalitarianism (in a time when the senior management of most US corporations ate apart, in a management dining room).  This seemed to come naturally to them both and is not, perhaps, too surprising, as they were both, like many of their staff, skilled and enthusiastic electronics engineers. You can get a good sense of the level of respect that Packard had for his people from 11  rules that Dave Packard presented at HP’s second annual management conference, in 1958 – a year after he wrote the first version of The HP Way. We cold all do a lot worse than to try and live by these rules, which you can see on the HP website.

Organisational Agility

Another important principle that HP lived by was the need for organisational agility. They maintained this by breaking the company up into smaller divisions whenever any of them grew too large (1,500 people or so). By keeping a business made of small units, each one could stay focused and  its leaders could fully understand what was going on and, crucially for a cautious business leader like Packard, stay aware of the risks it was incurring.

Innovation and Compassion

In 1972, despite early scepticism, HP introduced its first pocket calculator, which led to another round of significant growth and its subsequent investment in the computing business. I still use my HP12C financial calculator, which is so admired that there are numerous apps cloning its looks and functions on my iPhone.

But Packard’s innovative sense could also be applied compassionately. In 1970, the US economy fell into recession and many of HP’s competitors made massive lay-offs. HP did not. Instead, it agreed with all workers and management to cut wages by 10% in return for them working only 9 days out of ten. This meant that no-one lost their job and, to the company’s advantage, it also meant that there were no costs of redundancy and , when the economy recovered, they could get back to full productivity without the costs, delays and pain of re-hiring.

Quality First

The final lesson to learn from Packard is his over-riding commitment to the quality of the firm’s products. This was what had so enchanted my professor and won his loyalty. In one memo to HP staff (1961), Packard wrote:

‘Our main task is to design, develop and manufacture the finest [electronic equipment] for the advancement of science and the welfare of humanity.’

That is an ideal worthy of our respect, as well as the loyalty of one eminent physics professor.


Victor Vroom and Why Motivation Goes Wrong

24 September, 2013

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


Have you ever wondered why people suddenly lose motivation?

Victor Vroom gives us a simple way to understand not what motivates people, but when they are and are not going to be motivated by something.

It is simple really…

The only problem is the obscure words Vroom chose for some of his model. But let’s not let that get in the way.

I am going to ask you to do something and promise you a reward if you do it. Will you be motivated?

Here is what goes on in your mind…

First, do you believe that if you put in your best effort, then you will get the result I am looking for? If you do, then that is good, but if you think you don’t have the skills or the resources, or if you think the task is too hard, or my standards are too high, or I am deliberately setting you up to fail, then you won’t be motivated – and that is that.

This is what Vroom called ‘Expectancy’.
Let’s say you are satisfied…

The next question you will be asking yourself is whether you believe that if you do as I ask, I will actually deliver the reward I promised. A lot of organisations have a record of letting people down here; promising promotions and pay awards that never come. Can they be surprised if people get demotivated?

This is what Vroom called ‘Instrumentality’.
Let’s say you do believe me…

Finally, you will consider whether the promised reward is worth the effort. This is a simple cost-benefit assessment: a chocolate bar for a day’s work – No; a meal out for two at a posh restaurant for an hour’s work – Yes.

This is what Vroom called ‘Valence.
Let’s say you want the reward…

Then you will be motivated to undertake the task.

But… if any link in the chain is broken: no motivation.

I told you it was simple. Here is an illustration from The Management Models Pocketbook, and you can read the section on Vroom in the free extract from that book too.

Expectancy Theory

Further Reading 

The Motivation Pocketbook

The Management Models Pocketbook


Motivational Needs

17 September, 2013

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


If you need to motivate your team, then you absolutely need to understand the concept of ‘needs’.

Most psychological models of motivation, starting with the best known of all – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – are based on a simple premise:

Human beings have needs. Therefore the promise to
satisfy them is necessarily motivating.

Maslow is overdone in training courses, management guides and, yes.. blogs. So we’ll skip that for a moment, but you can always take a look at The Motivation Pocketbook.

Modern thinking focuses strongly on four workplace needs:

1. The Need to Master our Work

We have a deep psychological drive to achieve proficiency and mastery and, when we do so and are able to work at that level, we find our work deeply satisfying. We fall into a ‘flow state’ where our work totally absorbs us.

2. The Need to Feel a Sense of Purpose

What question do small children ask, continually?

Why? Why? Why? Why?

As adults we equally need an answer to this and if we sense that our work has a real meaning and purpose that aligns with our values, then it is highly motivating.

3. Relationships

If you work full-time, then you probably spend more time with your work colleagues than you do with the person or people you thought you had chosen to spend your life with. People are social creatures and we have a powerful need for strong social relationships in which we feel there is a place for us – and ideally some sense of esteem from those around us. Respect is also a very important motivator.

4. Control

Once again, young children hold a mirror to us as adults. Much toddler mis-behaviour (and the same is true for a lot of teenage actions) is driven by a desire to control our lives, our environment and our choices. Rob people of control and stress is a rapid result. Give workers more control and that is intrinsically motivating.

Two other Needs Based Models on the Management Pocketblog are:

  1. David McClelland’s Three Motivational Needs
  2. Ryan and Deci’s Self Determination Theory

 

 

Further Reading 

The Motivation Pocketbook

The Management Models Pocketbook


What Motivates your Team Members?

10 September, 2013

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


Exercise 1: What Motivates You?

This is a list of factors that commonly motivate people at work. Score the factors from 12 to 1, with 12 being the most important and 1 the least important, according to your perceptions of what motivates you.

What Motivates You

Herzberg’s Hygiene and Motivational Factors

Traditionally, motivation was viewed as single scale from low to high. Frederick Herzberg’s research led him to propose that dissatisfaction and satisfaction were not opposites of each other, but that we have two scales:

  1. From strong dissatisfaction to no dissatisfaction
    Some things leave us upset or angry. Take them away and we don’t feel good – we just stop being dissatisfied.
    Herzberg called these ‘Hygiene Factors’.
  2. From no satisfaction to strong satisfaction
    Some things don’t bother us if they are missing, but we are really pleased by their presence and motivated to achieve them.
    Herzberg called these ‘Motivational Factors’.

Hertzberg - Hygiene and Motivational Factors model

This nicely explains why a messy workplace kitchen or rest-room gets people massively annoyed, but nobody celebrates the fact that their warehouse has clean facilities – this is quite literally a hygiene factor.

If hygiene factors are not right, they dominate workplace agenda, causing poor morale and motivation. Putting them right will not make a great workplace but it will stop the rot.

Few people will be motivated by motivation factors until hygiene factors are right. But once they are, use motivating factors to boost morale.

Note that some people have different attitudes. To some, money is a hygiene factor, for others it is a motivator. What is nearly always true is that my perception of a fair wage determines the point at which money for me moves from being a hygiene factor (below that level) to a motivational factor (above). However, my attitude to money and what it could bring me will determine the extent to which it really motivates me.

The Results

Hertzberg gave examples of hygiene and motivating factors and there were six of each in the list you looked at. Tot up your scores for each by entering the scores from the top of the article into these boxes. If you score highly on hygiene factors, this suggests things aren’t quite right at work for you. If you score highest on motivational factors, then let your bosses know what they need to do for you.

Hertzberg - Hygiene and Motivational factors

 

Further Reading 

The Motivation Pocketbook


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