Another criticism of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is widely taught as a way of understanding people’s motivations.

The hierarchy of needs is a useful starting point – managers often don’t get past first base when it comes to thinking about why other people do things.

Maslow’s theory isn’t beyond criticism. I’ve dealt with criticism of the way the hierarchy of needs theory misses the spiritual dimension before.

Maslow says people attend to basic needs first and progressively deal with more complex matters until they reach  a point he calls self-actualisation at the top of the hierarchy’s pyramid. Not everyone gets that far.

The theory makes crude assumptions that don’t apply to everyone.

Maslow’s idea belongs to a time and place. Maslow was American and he first suggested the hierarchy in the 1940s. The ideas are highly specific to America’s individualist culture where middle-class people worry about their personal needs more than any collective needs.

He makes no allowances for parents worrying about children or workers being concerned about colleagues.

All-in-all Maslow offers a one-dimensional view of how people behave.

As I said earlier, even if Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is wrong, it has value because it teaches managers looking into people’s motivations is important. Too often managers treat people as if there are no external forces driving them.

It is a paycheck — and it is killing us

 

After hearing old friends and colleagues whinging about workplace nastiness, which seems to have intensified since the credit crunch, Scot Herrick of Cube Rules asked them how they coped. The answer was that they now just treat their job like a paycheck. (Or as we would say in New Zealand a pay cheque.)

That is they turn up, go through the motions, go home and once a week or once a month the money turns up in their bank account. I’m guessing here that Herrick is writing about knowledge workers and not hamburger flippers sleepwalking through shifts at the local fast food joint. Continue reading

Knowledge worker: clearing out the in-tray

Here’s are three recent posts I found worth reading:

Be a good manager by being generous

Penelope Trunk hits the nail on the head when she argues a good manager should be generous at her Brazen Careerist web site. Trunk uses words like growth and caring. As a male they scare me a bit. I prefer to talk in terms of training or teaching, but she’s coming at things from the right direction.

The idea of being generous certainly squares with my experience, particularly when I’ve worked as an editor. Editors who hog the best stories and don’t share skills with co-workers often have trouble attracting and keeping the best younger journalists.

On the other hand, if as an editor, I can make my reporters look good, I win because I’ve got a first class team that’s getting results and they win because they’re developing their skills. The more you give away, the more you get back.

Trunk’s post is also worth reading for its neat description of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in terms applying directly to the modern workplace.

How to be a good manager: Be generous.

Five ways to increase your free time

Lance Wiggs suggest a recession may be a good time to step back from the daily grind and take a look at how you spend your time. I agree. For example, it’s a great time to step back from a job and start a business – even if only part-time. It’s always hard to make sales when you’re stating out, but costs will be lower, in fact all the resources required are easier to find. And the disciplines learnt starting out in a recession are golden. It’s also a good time to go back to study.

Five ways to increase your free time

Handling Employees With Difficult Personalities

Writing from a management point of view Kathleen O’Connor looks at how to handle certain types of troublesome personalities. I’m not entirely sure about her technique for dealing with ‘naysayers’; her suggested question sounds a touch manipulative to me. Nevertheless, some good ideas.

Handling Employees With Difficult Personalities

How to keep your job How to keep your job

This short How-to wiki from Wired takes two minutes to read. The advice is basic and sound. It comes in short easy to read snatches with great-looking images. I don’t entirely agree with the point about not letting others share your territory. Perhaps office politics are different in the US, but if I had an employee who was unwilling to share information with me I’d see that as a reason to get rid of the uncooperative curmudgeon.

Keep Your Job