How important is the Abraham Maslow’s motivation theory in developing the project team

Importance of Abraham Maslow's Theory in Developing a Project Team
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Pradip, PMP

Published on August 2, 2012


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We manage projects with great skill and persistence, but what happens when your team is demoralized? How do you manage this?

Around six decades ago, Abraham Maslow realized that human needs that spark off an activity can be arranged in a hierarchy of pre-potency and probability of occurrence. Maslow based his theory on the belief that a need that is not satisfied dominates behavior, sparking off an activity for its satisfaction. This need, when satisfied, in its turn activates higher needs. This sequence can be briefed as follows:

Physiological needs

The fulfillment of physiological needs, such as thirst, hunger, and sleep, takes precedence over all other needs; in fact on the satisfaction of these needs, is dependent the very survival and continuance of the human race. Unlike other needs, the physiological needs have a tendency to recur. Money and incentives represent the best means to satisfy the physiological needs.

Safety needs

Once physiological needs are met, safety needs become important. While physiological needs have a reference to the present, safety needs look to the future. The needs for food, clothing, and so on are satisfied today. But what about tomorrow? But will a man be able to fend for himself when he gets old? He must have reasonable ‘safety’ in his old age too. Pension plans, the Payment of Gratuity Act, the Provident Funds Act, and other retiral benefits ensure security for old age.

Social needs

The need for belongingness has its origin in the gregarious nature of the human being. Since man is a social being, he has a need to be accepted by various groups. When social needs become dominant, a person will strive for meaningful relations with others. People interact simply because they enjoy it. Even such interactions which give no apparent tangible rewards are entered into simply because they reasonably assure one that one is a part of the society and is accepted by the society.

The informal groups in an organization are founded in a quest to fulfill the needs for belongingness. One of the many reasons for the informal groups to thrive in an organization could be the employees’ reaction to the threat posed by boredom, insignificance and insecurity that the employees feel. The least the management can do is to recognize the fact that informal groups can be an asset to them and can be instrumental in furthering the goals of the organization.

The need for the esteem

It is not only sufficient for a human being to ‘belong’. What he craves for and strives towards is that others should recognize his worth. An employee stays in an organization not merely because he gets salary and other material rewards but he is there because others recognize that he is worthy of the job and other material benefits that’s he gets. This needs manifests itself in three forms:

The need for status

The need for power

The need for recognition

A promotion is recognition of one’s capability to shoulder higher responsibilities.

Self-Actualization needs

What a man can be should be? A self-actualized person has a cause; an ideology to fight for the goal set for himself. He concentrates on feedback, which is task oriented, and is not taken in by personal criticism or praise. Mahatma Gandhi deprived himself even of the physical necessities when he underwent a fasting penance at Nowkhali at the time of the partition of the country. A highly successful scientist may fall in the category of the self-actualized persons.

So, according to Maslow, people are not always motivated to work by security or money. The highest motivation is to contribute and to use the individual’s skillset, popularly known as self actualization. And as a project manager you should apply the Maslow’s theory on your project also. It will work and with more fruitful results. Just try it smartly.

Got your two cents to add? Comment away!

About the Author

Pradip Dwevedi, PMP is currently the Lead PMP Trainer / Corporate Trainer at Reputed Global R.E.P.s, India and also the Head – Project Management at Invida Trans IT Solutions PVT LTD. Prior to this, he was Divisional Manager at Stylo Graphic Imaging and before this he was working as Facilitator/Team Leader at Aptara.


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