Taking Maslow To Work

21 Jul

At first glance, Maslow’s model of needs seems more applicable to cavemen or someone lost in the woods than someone in a modern office setting.  But then, the business analogies of being “a jungle out there” and being a “dog eat dog” environment start to bring renewed interest in what this Maslow fellow may have been onto!


Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist from the 1940s, is famous for much of the foundational work of modern day psychology, and perhaps one of his most famous contributions is now known as ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’ model. Maslow’s model identifies a hierarchy of human needs, starting with the most basic and rising to the most enlightened.  Maslow further observed that the lower need must be satisfied before the next need can be realized.  And at any time, should a lower need become in want again, all attention reverts to satisfying the lower need.

Maslow's Needs Model (19 July 2016)

Maslow’s Needs Model (1943)

As it turn out, Maslow’s model has much to teach us about leading in the workplace.  Ultimately, meeting the needs of our team members is our greatest contribution as leaders and managers.  With little more than contextualizing the model, Maslow’s work is directly applicable to the workplace.

Workplace Version of Maslow's Needs Model (19 July 2016)

Maslow at Work (2016) !

Here then is a model that defines the needs of your team members.  What could be better than knowing the needs of those that report to you?  The model also provides a hierarchical structure of those needs.  It’s a step-by-step, ordered list of your leadership ‘to do’s’ for the development of productive, engaged and creative team members.  This is not to suggest that providing for the individual needs of your team members is easy, but the model certainly helps to provide guidance and perspective.  So, go ahead, take Maslow to work and give him a try.  Identify an existing challenge with one of your team members.  Can you find the associated need within the model?  Does it help you identify a solution?

Robert Ferguson

2 thoughts on “Taking Maslow To Work

  1. Thanks for sharing , Bob. I like the comparison to the workplace, it is a match. For me, I see the sense of worth and purpose to be at the same level, and do regard a sense of accomplishment at the top. An actual delivery of benefit to others, as oppose to a feeling of self-worth. My two cents, anyway.

    I hope more managers take time to look at your blog and realize the varying needs of employees at different times.

  2. Very good article. Nice to see the components of both models laid out in comparison this way.
    I liked it, thanks for sharing.

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