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Maslows Hierarchy of needs

I am basing my Theory and Application on both Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory and Locke’s Goal Setting Theory.

Theory and Application

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was first published by psychologist Abraham Maslow in his 1943 article, “A Theory of Human Motivation “. Abraham Maslow believed that that as humans strive to meet our most basic needs, we also seek to satisfy a higher set of needs. Maslow presented these needs in a hierarchy that consisted of the following:

  1. Physiological/bodily needs.
  2. Safety needs.
  3. Love/belonging needs.
  4. Self-esteem.
  5. Self-actualization.

I am going to describe each level in the hierarchy of needs and evaluate them in terms of evidence that shows that they work and that they are useful for managers in understanding how they might motivate their staff. The example I am using is Understanding and motivating health care employees: integrating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, training and technology by Suzanne G. Benson PhD and Stephen P.

Dundis JD, PhD. With all the challenges facing the health sector, there was a need to understand how the managers could motivate the staff. This was becoming increasingly concerning and this is where Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs proved useful. Maslow created a pyramid split into 5 levels, each containing one of the 5 needs.

Level 1 Physiological needs:

Physiological needs are the basic survival needs such as oxygen, food, water, shelter etc. Unless these basic needs are fulfilled, the individual will be unable to move to the next level, as these are these needs are needed for survival.

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In work terms, these basic needs would be wages. If an employee is being paid fairly he/she will be happy to move to the next level of the hierarchy. If not, they will be thinking about why they aren’t being paid fairly and the next levels won’t be in their mind.

Level 2 Safety Needs:

When physiological needs are fulfilled, safety needs come into consideration.
This involves not only a safe working environment but mental safety. In this case training has a big influence because workers see training as a way of being safe. Managers must make employees realise that with new technology brings change. Employees feel that they are under pressure with the new technology leading to advancements in computers. They feel they are inadequately trained and this is where managers must spend resources, time and money on training.

Level 3 Love/ Belonging Needs:

Maslow states that people seek to overcome feelings of loneliness and alienation and managers must understand this to ensure employee involvement, production and motivation, etc. With the new technology in healthcare, brings in the new ‘virtual teaming’. Some employees might feel a lack of social presence that face to face contact has. Managers must know this and that the opportunities to participate in new and different work groups can definitely expand an employee’s belongingness.

Level 4 Self-Esteem:

Self-esteem in a workplace is usually based on an employee’s successful performance appraisals, which helps employee’s feel valued and respected within an organisation. This boosts self-esteem. In the case of the healthcare problem, there was an issue with the technology because employees where not known by name anyone but by numbers. When employees are not being interacted with personally by managers and other group members they feel insulted and meaningless. Managers must take this into consideration.

Level 5 Self-Actualisation:

The need for self-actualisation is only relevant when all needs below Self-Actualisation are fulfilled. It is the need for an employee to do what he/she feels they are meant to do. In the healthcare training, an employee should be exposed to learning that affects every single part of his/her life. The new technology offers this training but a person must be shown the right path towards the correct training in order for it to become meaningful. Managers play a role in doing this.

Locke’s Goal Setting Theory

Dr Edwin Locke found from research that specific and difficult goals led to better performance than easy goals. Easy goals are not a motivating force whereas if a goal is hard, you feel more accomplished after completing it. The harder the goal, the greater the effort. This helps motivate employees because they will grow in confidence once they complete a difficult task. Goals help push employees to goal-relevant actions rather than concentrating on irrelevant matters. I believe that this is true and to motivate goals must have:

  1. Clarity.
  2. Challenge.
  3. Commitment.
  4. Feedback.
  5. Task complexity.


When goals are clear and specific there is less chance that there will be a misunderstanding. Managers should make goals measurable with a definitive time set for completion, and this will in turn leave the task/goal a lot more precise. If an employee is set a clear objective he/she is then motivated towards one thing. If the goal is unclear employees will be less motivated. The goal should be Smart, Measureable and Time-bound (SMART acronym). Challenge

Usually employees feel that if a goal is very challenging and they complete it, then the manager will be impressed. This motivates an employee because they will feel accomplished and important to the company. Rewards may also boost motivation because with greater challenges comes greater rewards, so therefore managers must give employees challenging but realistic goals in order to motivate their staff. Challenges must be realistic because employees will feel demotivated if they are unable to complete the challenge. The goal should be Achievable (SMART Acronym). Commitment

Goals can be agreed upon between managers and employees. This gives the employee a sense of involvement and they are more likely to be committed to a goal if they have been involved in creating the goal and making decisions. Goals should be consistent and credible in order for the commitment to be there. If a goal is difficult it will require a lot more commitment compared to and easy goal therefore employees will be motivated to get the goal completed. Agreed goals will lead to commitment (SMART Acronym). Feedback

Employees must get feedback about their goals from their managers in order to clarify expectations and to gain recognition. Goals can be broken down into parts when it is going to take a particularly long time to reach a goal. Feedback can then be given after each part in order to get a task done efficiently. Regular encouragement will motivate employees to reaching a goal. Task Complexity

When a goal is very difficult, employees should be given sufficient time to reach the goal. If the employee is stressed out then they will be demotivated. Employees should be given time to practice what is needed to reach the goal. Difficult tasks can frustrate employees and managers have to deal with this by giving them sufficient time and training needed to complete the task.


I believe that both Maslow’s and Locke’s theories provide a useful knowledge into how to keep an employee motivated in the workplace. Goal setting is the best theory in my opinion because it is a simple step by step way on how to reach a goal without demotivating your employees. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs shows a manager how to make the employee feel secure, needed and appreciated in the workplace whilst also keeping them motivated to strive towards self-actualisation.

Reflection and Application

The theory that best explains my motivation to perform in DCU is the Goal Setting Theory. I feel this best describes my motivation to perform because I always set out goals in life, whether they are small goals or big goals. For example one of my goals in DCU is to finish with a Masters in Engineering after 5 years. This is a big goal and it requires a lot of motivation and time. My main goal at the moment is to pass all of my modules in my course. To do this my goal must have the 5 following steps:

  1. Clarity.
  2. Challenge.
  3. Commitment.
  4. Feedback.
  5. Task complexity.

In order to reach my goal I must evaluate the goal using these 5 steps.


My goal is clear and measurable and has a specific date for completion. Moodle plays a vital part in reaching the goal as it assists me in my studies and help me keep track of my time limits for each task. I am motivated towards my goal of passing all my modules because I know what each module consists of.


I am motivated towards finishing the first year of my course and passing each module because my course is difficult. When I finish my course I will feel accomplished in what I have done. I also know that if I do well, it will be well received at home because they also know that it is a difficult course. I see this as a reward because if the course was easy I would not be as motivated to do well.


Getting involved in setting out goals also gets me motivated. It makes me feel more committed because I know I have to reach the goal because I helped set it. Although this isn’t the case in most of my modules, it is in one, that is Technical Drawing. I have to set the time for our project to be finished and this adds added pressure which helps motivate me.


Feedback plays a massive role in motivating me to reach my goals. When I am told I am doing something correctly and that my work of a high standard, it motivates me because I know I am slowly reaching my goal. Feedback gives me an insight into how to do things correctly if I am doing them wrong, which is very useful when you don’t know if you are doing something correctly. It can also help me gain recognition.

Task Complexity

If the work load is too much or difficult for me, I usually need more time at the task in order to reach a goal. If this is the case I usually give up my spare time in order to work on the more complex and difficult parts of my course. If I am under too much pressure I will be demotivated so this is why I carry out the goal setting theory in order to keep motivated and to ensure that I reach my goals.



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Maslows Hierarchy of needs. (2016, Mar 28). Retrieved from

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