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Motivation Case - Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

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Motivation is a term that refers to a process that elicits, controls, and sustains certain behaviors. For instance: An individual has not eaten, he or she feels hungry, as a response he or she eats and diminishes feelings of hunger. According to various theories, motivation may be rooted in a basic need to minimize physical pain and maximize pleasure, or it may include specific needs such as eating and resting, or a desired object, goal, state of being, ideal, or it may be attributed to less-apparent reasons such as altruism, selfishness, morality, or avoiding morality. Conceptually, motivation should not be confused with either volition or optimism. Motivation is related to, but distinct from, emotion.

There are several very important theories that describe motivation and try to explain its implementation in practice. One of the most important and most commonly used most discussed is Maslow's theory of needs where he describes how to motivate people depending of which level of hierarchy they are. For that, there is a graph that clearly explains the stages of personal development and where it aims to reach. So the motivation would be the next level achievement.

Below is the graph of Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Abraham Maslow developed the Hierarchy of Needs model in 1940-50s USA, and the Hierarchy of Needs theory remains valid today for understanding human motivation, management training, and personal development. Indeed, Maslow's ideas surrounding the Hierarchy of Needs concerning the responsibility of employers to provide a workplace environment that encourages and enables employees to fulfill their own unique potential (self-actualization) are today more relevant than ever.

Abraham Maslow was born in New York in 1908 and died in 1970, although various publications appear in Maslow's name in later years. Maslow's PhD in psychology in 1934 at the University of Wisconsin formed the basis of his motivational research, initially studying rhesus monkeys. Maslow later moved to New York's Brooklyn College.

The Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs five-stage model is clearly and directly attributable to Maslow, while there were later versions, that were somehow modified and changed from the original pyramid. These extended models have instead been inferred by others from Maslow's work. Specifically Maslow refers to the needs Cognitive, Aesthetic and Transcendence as additional aspects of motivation, but not as distinct levels in the Hierarchy of Needs.

Our most basic needs are inborn. Those are the needs that people used to have also thousand years ago, those are that people still have now. According to Maslow, he says that some upper level needs cannot be satisfied, unless the lower level needs are satisfied completely. So by giving someone friends, it will not motivate or bring happiness, if a person simply wants to eat.

So what each need means?

1. Biological and Physiological needs - air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.

2. Safety needs - protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, etc.

3. Belongingness and Love needs - work group, family, affection, relationships, etc.

4. Esteem needs - self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility, etc.

5. Self-Actualization needs - realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

This is how the pyramid was originally explained, but over the years, there were some modifications, so in 1970s, there was added cognitive needs (knowledge, meaning) and aesthetic needs (appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form). In 1990s one more was added - transcendence needs (helping others to achieve self actualization). So nowadays, the hierarchy looks like this:

1. Biological and Physiological needs - air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.

2. Safety needs - protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, etc.

3. Belongingness and Love needs - work group, family, affection, relationships, etc.

4. Esteem needs - self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility, etc.

5. Cognitive needs - knowledge, meaning, etc.

6. Aesthetic needs - appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.

7. Self-Actualization needs - realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

8. Transcendence needs - helping others to achieve self actualization.

This pyramid might be very helpful to managers in understanding how to motivate their employees. They might do some research, questionnaire, or simply just watch their employees to realize at which stage they are, when those stages change and considering all of this, they may find out what will bring happiness to their employees. It is also very important to understand, that it's not always necessary to look globally at the situation. Because during lunch, for example all that employees would want is to satisfy their very basic needs. So managers have to be flexible and understanding.

Another theory is Douglas McGregor's X and Y theory. This theory contains 2 contrary beliefs. Theory X managers believe that employees are not responsible, that they don't like the job, that they try to avoid responsibility whenever they can. On the other hand theory Y is quite opposite of theory X. It says that employees are ambitious and self motivated. That they are happy to as much work as they can, that they want to achieve maximum results and enjoy it.

Douglas McGregor is an American social psychologist, proposed his famous X-Y theory in his 1960 book 'The Human Side Of Enterprise'. Theory x and theory y are still referred to commonly in the field of management and motivation, and whilst more recent studies have questioned the rigidity of the model, McGregor's X-Y Theory remains a valid basic principle from which to develop positive management style and techniques.

Theory X (authoritarian management style)

1. The average person dislikes work and will avoid it he/she can.

2. Therefore most people must be forced with the threat of punishment to work towards organizational objectives.

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