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How to Motivate Your Team With Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

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The science of psychology is full of theories about motivation and productivity that are relevant in the workforce today. You can use this knowledge to motivate your team, to increase their productivity, and to have a happy, energetic, and dedicated workforce. Incorporating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is one great way to increase employee motivation.

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

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Abraham Maslow came up with a pyramid depicting five psychological human needs. At the bottom, the widest and largest section of the pyramid, we have physiological needs. If we don’t have water, food, and shelter, we will die. Once we get our physical needs met, however, there are other needs for a happy, healthy life.

A sense of safety comes next, then a sense of being a part of a community. In other words, we need each other. After that, we need a sense of self-esteem and, finally, self-actualization. Self-actualization is simply the achievement of a person’s full potential, his expression of creativity and sense contributing to the world.

Applications in the Workplace

Having our needs met is great motivation for loyalty and continued productivity. We all consider work a place to get our physical needs met: work for money to exchange for shelter, food, etc. But leaders may utilize the rest of the pyramid to inspire their teams.

Encourage a sense of safety and security in your team by letting them know you appreciate their efforts. If they make mistakes, consider it a learning experience and help or encourage them to correct errors and try again. By doing this, you avoid a worker feeling insecure and wondering if she may get fired, which will decrease her motivation and productivity.

Work is not a social event, but people who work together may be at best friendly and kind, and at the very least courteous and civil. If you are managing a team of workers, know that your behavior will likely be mirrored, and you may promote appropriate treatment of each other by simply being nice to people.

You can’t build workers’ self esteem by berating them, or complimenting everything they do. The key is to offer both praise and constructive criticism. If they do something poorly, explain how they may do it better. For self-actualization, consider how workers see their jobs. Chip Conley saved his hotels using Maslow’s pyramid. He wants all of his employees, from managers to housekeepers to have a voice.

In one exercise, we got groups of eight housekeepers at a table and asked an abstract question: if someone from Mars came down and saw what you were doing as a housekeeper in a hotel, what name would they call you? They came up with “The Serenity Sisters,” “The Clutter Busters,” and “The Peace of Mind Police.”

By recognizing how employees see their jobs and valuing all they have to offer, Mr. Conley helps all of his workers feel motivated to do a great job. His housekeepers feel that they are offering a valuable service to guests that goes beyond vacuuming the room; they are helpful when guests have a request and ready to smile in the hallway. They are also motivated to do their jobs well.

Tell Us What You Think

How can you apply Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in your workplace? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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Erma Hollingworht
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Erma Hollingworht

I am developing a team model I believe that Maslow theory is perfect for team development

Chris McIntosh
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Chris McIntosh

I am working on team approach using this model.

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