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Limitations of Maslow's Hierarchy

While Maslow's hierarchy makes sense from an intuitive standpoint, there is little
evidence to support its hierarchical aspect. In fact, there is evidence that
contradicts the order of needs specified by the model. For example, some cultures
appear to place social needs before any others. Maslow's hierarchy also has
difficulty explaining cases such as the "starving artist" in which a person neglects
lower needs in pursuit of higher ones. Finally, there is little evidence to suggest
that people are motivated to satisfy only one need level at a time, except in
situations where there is a conflict between needs.
Even though Maslow's hierarchy lacks scientific support, it is quite well-known
and is the first theory of motivation to which many people they are exposed. To
address some of the issues of Maslow's theory, Clayton Alderfer developed
the ERG theory, a needs-based model that is more consistent with empirical
Levels of needs are somewhat difficult to measure. Maslow was a psychologist and
not a scientist or mathematician. How accurate can business measure the
quantitative level of security, ego, esteem and love or belonging in the workplace?
Maslow assumed that everyone is motivated in the prescribed order of his model.
However, do freelance artists and writers or volunteer workers fit this model?
Home workers and self employed drivers do not get the social interaction of
working in an office, but this does not mean that they cannot be highly motivated
or that motivation has to follow a chronological order. Other workers may be
willing to sacrifice pay and financial benefits for better working conditions and job
security. Indeed, subsequent studies by the Minneapolis Gas Company from 1945-
1965 found that both men and women placed security needs as their Number 1
motivator. These extensive studies reveal that advancement, the type of works and
being proud of working for the company are the next three motivators (the later
two do not feature in Maslow’s model)
There is no explanation of what motivates people once they have achieved self
actualization. What drives those to have perhaps already reached self actualization,
such as the likes of Bill Gates, Richard Brandson, Laxmi Mittal and Donald
Trump? What motivates them to continue in their lines of business if they have
already achieved so much in their prolific careers? What encourages wealthy
people who are past retirement age, such as Warren Buffet, to continue working?
Furthermore, it was a weak research methodology as it was an overall small
sample size which also had lack of empirical methods and had vague terms for
peak experiences.


Maslow’s contribution was a great theory in the field of management which

motivated the workers, to give their company better results. However, The basic
idea of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is that our needs are constantly changing. As
one need is met, we desire other needs. Will the raise we received 3 years ago
motivate us for the next 10 years? Will the challenging job we began 5 years ago
have the same effect on us today? Will the performance award we received last
year completely satisfy our need for recognition for the rest of our lives? The
answers to all of these questions is clearly, no. This is the beauty of Maslow's
theory of motivation. Employee needs change with time. This means that managers
must continually adapt to employees' changing needs if they want to keep their
workforce motivated. Maslow understood these truths!