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Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology that interprets human motivation based on physiological and psychological needs. In his theory, Maslow describes how human motivation begins with physiological needs and moves onward to include safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization once lower-level needs are met.

By studying Canada’s Blackfoot Native Americans, Abraham Maslow began to believe that we could learn a lot by looking at different cultures, and that our similarities as humans are greater than our differences. He also realized our basic needs were the same, including our desire for emotional security. With this assumption, Maslow took to studying the writings of past philosophical thinkers to develop his hierarchy of needs in the early 1940s.

After a brief stint in the mid-40s as a plant manager in his brothers’ family business, Maslow applied his earlier principles with this new management experience in the book Motivation and Personality (1954), which achieved national exposure. Many of his theories were applied to management theory, and helped contribute to Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y.

Using McGregor’s Theory Y (people are innately productive and cooperative) and his own theory, Maslow coined the term “enlightened management.” In his book Eupsychian Management (1965), Maslow suggested that employees were motivated when management communicated synergies, that is, when both the organization and employee’s interests were the same.

Maslow is credited with identifying and participating in the movement towards humanizing the workplace. While Maslow recognized that not all employees sought self-actualization at work, he believed “the more psychologically healthy [people get], the more will enlightened management be necessary in order to survive in competition, and the more handicapped will be an enterprise with an authoritarian policy.” Abraham Maslow is the Father of Enlightened Management.



Hoffman, E. (1988). The Right to Be Human: A Biography of Abraham Maslow. LP Tarcher: Los Angeles.

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