Is Maslow Wrong Today?

In 1943, Abraham Maslow created the Hierarchy of Needs (Figure I) which was built on the premise that human beings are motivated by needs, very much like animals. His theory provided a stark contrast to the beliefs of various scholars who focused on reasoning as a driving force for the “intelligent” human race.

Seventy years later, comfortable in our element, we bracket ourselves in various hierarchy levels that were, unfortunately, created for the era following the Great Depression of the 1930s.


With markets as tumultuous as restless waves breaking on the shore, and economies as fragile as an Opera singers’ wine glass moment, man’s survival today is no longer limited to the physiological base of the hierarchical stereotype. We understood Maslow’s Hierarchy and allowed it to dictate our livelihood, but the time for change is now. In the current age of cut-throat competition and barbaric ruthlessness, in the modern depression era (although the optimistic still call it a meagre recession), the physiological and safety needs have rearranged to accommodate the latest add-on to our survival kit – security.

Even though Clayton Alderfer revised Maslow’s notions to conceive the Existence – Relatedness – Growth theory (Figure II), and labelled security as an ‘existence’ requisite, my argument is this – Alderfer simply failed to drive home the fact that, like food and water, security is just as important for human existence! The need for stability and mental tranquillity is arguably the most salient of performance-related factors; and knowing each step may be your last may just prevent you from taking that whole-hearted leap.

Delving deeper into the psyche of human psychology, extrinsic rewards such as remuneration and success, and intrinsic rewards such as psychological serenity are the key ingredients to boosting employee productivity and satisfaction. A win-win situation for both, organizations and individuals, each walks away with more than they bargained for.


Catering to the intrinsic necessities of the employee would undeniably boost productivity and, subsequently, profitability. Surprisingly enough, catering to intrinsic requirement is not on the agenda!

Then again, perhaps keeping employees on the edge fuels a sadistic need for domination? Or may I call it a leash?


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