Applying the Hierarchy of Needs to Your Work

Previously, we wrote an article for our Students about applying the hierarchy of needs to their studies. In this article, we would like to explain how those needs can be applied to your work too.

For those of you who haven’t heard of this theory before, the hierarchy of needs was developed by Abraham Maslow who was famous for his work in positive psychology. He believed that our needs form a pyramid, where basic physiological factors must be met first so we can then satisfy other needs such as safety, belonging and self-esteem. When we have our needs met at each level, we have the confidence and motivation to progress to the next. The highest level is self-actualisation.

You may ask what this has to do with your work. Well, let’s start by looking at our basic physiological needs - food, water and shelter. Whilst some of us work from home now, most modern offices provide a place where you can eat during the day, access to drinking water, and an environment which is clean and comfortable. Receiving adequate pay which is made on time also enables us to support ourselves and our family.

The next level up is safety. As well as making sure that our working environment meets health and safety regulations, employers can help us to feel safe through job security. If we have a good employment contract, we can rest assured that we have a secure role. It is also beneficial for us to feel emotionally safe and supported at work. We should have a positive relationship with our employers and feel like we are able to talk to them about any issues that arise. If we have a customer/client facing role, there should be policies in place which protect us from intimidating or aggressive behaviour.

As you can see, psychological aspects start coming into play as we progress through the hierarchy of needs. These include social needs and feeling like we belong. When a company culture is created where employees are looked after and cared for, motivation and productivity levels increase. The respectful, fair and equal treatment of all employees should be present and there should be no discrimination of any form. This can be developed further by employers having get togethers outside of work where people can relax, be themselves and relate to each other in an informal setting. A positive and friendly environment creates connection and open communication amongst staff, which leads to good relationships, willing collaboration and great results for all.

Another important part of our development as human beings is having healthy self-esteem. We tend to excel in our roles when we know that our work matters and we are given positive feedback and praise for it. To receive this, we need to be reliable, do our jobs well and have the best interest of the company we work for at heart. Whatever role we are performing, we have the opportunity to make a valuable contribution. Whether you are a receptionist at a law firm taking calls and passing on important information to others, or you are a Legal PA supporting one of the Partners in an International firm, your skills are needed and there is the opportunity to do the best job you can. Being recognised for any accomplishments we achieve creates healthy self-esteem as we are valued for our efforts and expertise.

Self-actualisation is the highest attainment in the hierarchy of needs. When we feel safe, like we belong and we are respected for what we do, we have the confidence and motivation to go beyond our usual duties and reach our potential. If we are aware of our abilities and understand the vital contribution we can make, we can step up and take on more responsibility. Employers can enable us to progress by allowing us to have more input in the company through decision making and putting forward ideas. A higher level of trust can be built which helps us to grow and gain autonomy in our work. This creates a positive impact on the company as a whole, enabling its vision to be met and goals to be achieved.