Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

What is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is one of the most prominent psychological theories that explain individual motivation. Published in his seminal paper, ‘A theory of human motivation’, Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist and professor, depicted human needs as five hierarchical levels within a pyramid (Maslow, 1943).


Figure 1: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Source: Campbell and Craig (2012, p.609)

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs implies that individuals must satisfy their lower-level needs before they can attend a higher set of needs. As you can see from the figure above, there are five levels of needs, which depict individuals’ inborn desire to self-actualise. Let’s take a closer look at these needs.


Level 1: Physiological needs

The lowest level of human needs, also known as physiological needs, is made up of the most basic, biological needs, which represent the basic physical requirements of any individual. Amongst other things, these requirements include the need for food, oxygen, shelter, and water and form the basis for the pyramid. Within the scope of Maslow’s framework, these needs are the strongest ones since if an individual is deprived of all needs, they will strive to address the physiological needs in the first place. Indeed, you are unlikely to think about personal growth if you are starving, for example (Maslow, 1981). All you can think about in this situation is how to eat something because without food your body cannot function optimally. At this point, all other needs become of secondary importance until your stomach is full again.


Level 2: Safety needs

Once the needs for food (and other physiological needs) are met, the need for safety and security becomes prominent. According to Maslow, individuals strive to minimise risks and uncertainty, meaning they want predictability and order in their lives. They also want to be secure in the knowledge that this safety and security need will be addressed in the future too (Campbell and Craig, 2012). For example, medical care, police, business, and education are amongst the things that allow us to fulfil our safety and security needs. In the organisational context, this need is often addressed by financial remuneration and a safe workplace. Social and financial stability is what provides safety against external pressures and accidents. Together, the first two levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs make up the basic needs.


Level 3: Belongingness and love needs

At the third level in the hierarchy of needs by Maslow is social needs, which involves feelings of love and belongingness (Smith, 2017). Once the needs for security and safety are addressed, individuals strive to establish a give-and-take relationship with others in their attempt to overcome the feeling of alienation, depression, and loneliness. Examples of social needs include friendship, acceptance, trust, and love. The role of these needs in the organisational context is also significant since a lack of acceptance and poor relationships with colleagues can have a devastating effect on one’s motivation, engagement, and productivity in the workplace.


Level 4: Esteem needs

Similarly to the first three levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, esteem needs are attributed to deficiency needs, which arise because of deprivation. In other words, these needs are said to motivate individuals when they are unaddressed (Smith, 2017). Maslow categorised the esteem needs into two groups, namely (a) esteem for oneself and (b) the desire for respect and reputation from others. Have you ever wanted your efforts to be recognised by others? This is an example of the esteem need. It is quite natural to need to sense that you are valued and that your contribution to the world is important to others. Your personal hobbies, the acquisition of an academic degree, and participation in social and professional activities can all contribute to the satisfaction of your esteem needs.


Level 5: Self-actualisation

Self-actualisation, according to Maslow’s classification, is a being or growth need. What distinguishes it from the lower-level needs is that it does not stem from a lack of something. Instead, the need for self-actualisation is driven by one’s desire to realise their potential to its fullest. This need can be developed and addressed only after all the aforementioned needs are addressed. It does not mean, however, that need satisfaction is an ‘all-or-none’ phenomenon. In his later works, Maslow (1987) admitted that a need must not be satisfied 100% before the subsequent need emerges. That means that you can feel a desire to become the most you can be even if your self-esteem needs are not fully addressed.


Using the Tool

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can be used in a variety of contexts, making it a really useful model when it comes to analysing employee motivation and engagement. But you should not think about this framework as a process or instrument when exploring the issue of employee motivation. Instead, it is more beneficial to approach Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as an idea of what drives employees. From this standpoint, workers have numerous needs that must be met to build and maintain a high level of motivation. You should remember that salary and financial bonuses only address the first two levels of the pyramid. Even if employees are well-paid and provided with a high level of job security, they can still experience a lack of motivation and satisfaction. This is because their higher-level needs are not addressed. Job enrichment, cross-training, involvement in the decision-making process, and recognition are just a few examples of how it is possible to address one’s esteem and self-actualisation needs (Smith, 2017).


Getting Help with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Applying Maslow’s hierarchy of needs when writing a business or marketing report or a dissertation might be a tricky and challenging task. This is because the framework is usually used in conjunction with other strategic management instruments, adding to the overall complexity of the analysis process. If you are looking for the help of a reliable academic writing service with guaranteed top grades, we believe that your search is over. With a team of highly experienced academic writers, we make sure your report or dissertation meets the highest quality requirements and standards of your university.



Campbell, D. and Craig, T. (2012) Organisations and the business environment, London: Routledge.

Maslow, A. (1943) “A theory of human motivation”, Psychological Review, 50 (4), pp. 370-396.

Maslow, A. (1981) Motivation and personality, New Delhi: Prabhat Prakashan.

Maslow, A. (1987) Motivation and personality, 3rd ed., Delhi: Pearson Education.

Smith, L. (2017) Meet Maslow: How understanding the priorities of those around us can lead to harmony and improvement, Scotts Valley: CreateSpace Independent.