Absenteeism and low morale are apparent in the accounting department of XYZ Limited, in which you are employed. Your superior knows that you are a student and have heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory. However, your superior is also aware that, although the theory has some relevance to motivational techniques, it has substantial limitations.
a) Using appropriate examples, explain Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory.
b) List the shortcomings of using this theory as a motivational tool
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory
Maslow’s Theory of Motivation suggests that individuals have a hierarchy of personal needs which are identifiable, universally applicable and which can be satisfied in a set order of priority in the workplace. Understanding this idea provides guidance to management as to the appropriateness of motivational techniques. The hierarchy of needs is usually depicted in the form of a pyramid, shown in the diagram below.
NB: Needs 1& 2 constitute primary needs while needs 3, 4 & 5 constitute secondary needs.
The hierarchy is based on four assumptions:
I. A satisfied need does not motivation. When a need has been satisfied, another need emerges to take its place, so people are always striving to satisfy some need
II. The need interactions of most people are complex, with a number of needs, affecting the behaviour of each person at any one time.
III. In general, primary needs must be satisfied before secondary needs are activated sufficiently to provoke motivated behaviour
IV. There are more varied ways of satisfying secondary needs than there are of satisfying primary needs.
Maslow’s Theory may be summarised and simplified by saying that everyone wants certain things throughout life, and these can be ranked in order of ascending importance:
i. Basic/Physiological Needs: The things needed to stay alive (food, shelter and clothing).Such needs require satisfaction before all other needs and can be satisfied by money.
ii. Safety/Security Needs: Protection against unemployment and consequences of sickness and retirement as well as safeguards against unfair treatment. These needs can be satisfied by the contract of employment (pension scheme, sick fund, employment legislation).
iii. Social Needs: People need to belong and it is only through group activity that this need can be satisfied. How work is organised, enabling people to feel part of a group is fundamental to satisfaction of this need.
iv. Ego/Esteem Needs: People want the esteem of other people as well as feeling good about themselves. While status and promotion can offer short-term satisfaction, to build up the job itself and to give people a greater say in organising their work(participation) is to give satisfaction of a more permanent nature.
v. Self-Actualization Needs: This is quite simply the need to achieve something worthwhile in life. It is a need that is satisfied only by continuing success.
The significance of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is that;
i. It underlines the relative importance of money. Status has no satisfaction for the man desperate for food and shelter
ii. It demonstrates that money alone is not enough because, when basic and safety needs become satisfied, people are likely to concentrate their attentions on social and ego needs. Motivation of staff depends not only on money but also on the whole employment package embracing:
• pension, sick fund, canteen arrangements
• nature of the work done
• interest and challenge in the work
• scope in the job for self-expression and self-determination
• style of management used
b) The shortcomings of using Maslow’s Theory as a motivational tool.
It is very easy to become confused in distinguishing what a person wants and what a person needs. The very simplicity of need theories of motivation, which makes them initially attractive, may also be their greatest weakness. Motivation is a complex process and needs are only one component of that process. Apart from being simplistic in its approach, there are other weaknesses associated with the theory. These include:
i. A major criticism of the idea is that not all these needs are, or can be, satisfied through work.
ii. The theory cannot accommodate an individual seeking to satisfy several needs t the same time.
iii. The theory does not recognise the demands of the organisational situation. As a consequence of their product, service, structure, technology or environment, some organisations do not provide a suitable environment for self-actualisation.
iv. The same need can cause different reactions in different people.
v. Many people settle for less than reaching the ultimate.
vi. People have different needs that may not be in the same order.
vii. If the theory is accepted wholly, it can mislead management in its desire to motivate staff.
viii. Job satisfaction does not lead to or equal improved work performance.
ix. The theory ignores the role of others in the work place and therefore the modern concepts of teams.