Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

According to Abraham Maslow, every human being has five levels of basic needs. Anyone who does not regularly see each of these needs met is subject to feelings of inadequacy or depreciated self-worth.

A strong understanding of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs should be incorporated into any management training program. Understanding the hierarchy will help managers to understand the behaviours of their employees as they move through life. The five basic life needs are as follows:



Physiological, not to be confused with psychological, needs include food, water, air and anything that the physical body needs in order to be strong and comfortable.


Everyone needs and wants to feel safe. Children display their sense of insecurity by clinging to their parents, but it’s often more difficult to tell when an adult does not feel safe. Adults tend to react to safety concerns only when they feel they are in a threatening situation.

Love and Affection

We all want to feel love and affection and everyone wants to feel as though he or she belongs in at least some sort of group. Those without strong family networks or groups of friends often feel lonely or alienated.


We naturally wish to feel as though we have a high level of self-esteem and wish to be respected, not only by ourselves but by others. The average human being will NOT focus on his level of esteem if he does not feel as though his need for physiological comfort, safety, and love has been met.


Self-actualization is the realization that each person has a purpose in life – each person has a goal that he or she was born to achieve. A person who isn’t doing what he feels is right will often appear restless or edgy. This need, again, will not be relevant unless all of the needs before it are met.

The needs at the top of our list would appear at the bottom of a pyramid, moving up towards self-actualization. We often strive for self-actualization, but feel hindered by roadblocks on each step up the pyramid of need.

As a manager, it is your job to recognize that each of your employees has needs. You won’t be able to help each person work through his life issues, but you can certainly help to support his or her professional growth by paying attention to these basic human needs.

Where are you on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Are you reaching towards self-actualization or are you stuck in a different place on the pyramid?

Thanks again,


Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Training   

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Updated on: 12 December, 2008

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