Before you read this post I strongly recommend reading my Introduction to Updating Theories. Note: Since I focus on work motivation more than overall life motivation in my own studies, I’ll keep this post mostly focused on the bottom 4 levels of the pyramid.
The New Pyramid
Maslow didn’t get everything right back in 19431Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370. Retrieved from http://doi.org/10.1037/h0054346, but he DID get our basic needs down perfectly (the bottom four levels), which is an excellent start. The idea that Maslow’s pyramid felt right but wasn’t quite right got a ton of attention thanks to a team of evolutionary psychologists led by Douglas Kenrick of Arizona State University (2010)2Kenrick, D. T., Griskevicius, V., Neuberg, S. L., & Schaller, M. (2010). Renovating the Pyramid of Needs: Contemporary Extensions Built Upon Ancient Foundations. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 5(3), 292–314. http://doi.org/10.1177/1745691610369469.
What human needs are universal?
As explained in more detail below, the bottom four levels of the pyramid have been supported for years by research in many different fields (though they often use slightly different terms for the same ideas). Thus, we can absolutely all agree that these represent universal human needs: Immediate Physiological Needs → Self-Protection → Affiliation → Status/Esteem.
The Universal Needs + Work
Psychologists, sociologists, and all the other -ologists have a tendency to use slightly different words to talk about what are, for our purposes, the same thing. I’ve included lots of words to describe the same things for each of these concepts to help you research the topics if you want to.
How our Needs Affect Our Work
The very best workplaces make sure we can meet our needs either because we are there or while we are there. That’s the ticket to highly motivated employees actually – as soon as someone DOESN’T feel these things their focus shifts and then they can’t produce at a high level. And if they feel their needs are threatened at work (or at home) all the time they will deteriorate – chronic stress is very very bad for people.
Optional▸ Further Exploration
- Listen to the TED Radio Hour: Maslow’s Human Needs
- Read the history of the original pyramid: Kremer, W., & Hammond, C. (2013, August 31). The pretty pyramid that beguiled business.
- Ted-Ed Lesson: Sinek, S. (2014, May) Why good leaders make you feel safe. (The Dig Deeper section has some real gems!)
If you want to read a bit more about how the need for security plays out in modern society, try What Do You Need to Feel Secure by Steve Pavlina (2005)
Review the Ted-Ed Lesson: The surprising truth about what motivates us. (Features the same video as above.)
Listen to The TED Radio Hour: The Money Paradox (each part is <15 minutes of brilliance)
Read additional notes from Dan Pink’s Drive: Barker, E. (2011, May). Here’s what really motivates you.
The Bottom Line
An unmet need at any of these levels interferes with our ability to focus on anything besides meeting these needs, but this is especially true at the lower levels of the pyramid. If you want to motivate someone, you need to focus on enabling them to meet their needs.
One final idea… is culture king??
Companies that put human needs at the forefront of their strategy (usually via their company culture), have been seeing their performance rise. This is described through the lens of destructive and toxic leadership in a 2015 chapter by Lunsford and Padilla 8Lunsford, L. G., & Art, P. (2015). Destructive and toxic leadership. In Leadership in Sports, Chapter: Destructive and toxic leadership (pp. 63–78). Routledge. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/280077191_Destructive_and_toxic_leadership
Thoughts on Maslow’s Hierarchy, by Lunchbreath
Other posts in this Updating Theories series: Intro. + Freud & the Unconscious + Tuckman’s Stages of Group Development | Universal Human Needs (Updating Maslow) | What are We Doing When We Measure Personality (at work)? – Focuses on the MBTI and The Big 5