How to Motivate Employees According to Maslow’s Ghost 

Posted on May 06, 2016 by Ascanio Pignatelli | 0 comments

Although Abraham Maslow has been dead for almost half a century, E3 Solutions had the good fortune to meet, and interview, his ghost.

E3 Solutions: “Mr. Maslow, what an honor to speak with you- or your ghost. A lot has happened since 1970, and it’s now 2016, and according to a poling company called Gallup, only one out of three employees here in the US is engaged at work! They (Gallup) define employee engagement as ‘The cognitive involvement and emotional enthusiasm that people have for their work and workplace.’ 

Companies nowadays are doing everything possible to increase employee engagement levels because engaged employees are far more motivated and enthusiastic with their jobs, and more committed to their company’s success. These employees are the main reason why successful companies are outperforming their rivals, so organizations are doing whatever they can to motivate employees as much as possible. How would your ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ theory help them?”

Maslow: “My theory is based on the idea that people are motivated by an ascending order of different needs. Companies should look at each level in the hierarchy, then figure out a way for their employees to achieve that level’s needs.”

E3 Solutions: “So which needs should a company focus on first?”

Maslow: “I believe that our lower-level needs must be satisfied before we even look to satisfying our higher-order needs. There are five levels of human needs represented by a pyramid. You have physiological needs at the bottom and self-actualization needs at the top. Once a lower-level need is satisfied, it no longer serves as a motivator.”

E3 Solutions: “So physiological needs should be satisfied first?”

Maslow: “Of course. This is the most basic need, and employees can satisfy it by receiving a paycheck. Workers expect to be paid no matter which company they work for. Once they have met their physiological needs, they will look for ways to satisfy higher-level needs. The key is for companies to ensure that there isn’t a big gap between what employees are paid and what employees think they deserve. If there is, then it is very likely that the employees will loses the motivation to work hard for that company.”

E3 Solutions: “Safety needs are ranked just above physiological needs. What are they?”

Maslow: “Everyone needs to feel safe, especially at the work. Companies can satisfy their employees’ safety needs by providing a safe work environment and by providing job security, health insurance, and a retirement plan.”

E3 Solutions: “Yeah, Abe. We definitely need to get you caught up on a few things. But how can companies make their workers feel safe when their is so much fear of layoffs, and quotas..… 

Maslow: “Managers need to think of themselves as coaches, and see their employees as team players. Their job is to help their employees reach their full potential- just like parents do for their kids. Managers can do that by building trust, by being honest, and by maintaining integrity. They need to be authentic, and respect their direct reports, and make them feel valued. Longterm motivation only comes when you empower and inspire others- scaring people only works for a short while. Eventually it backfires.

E3 Solutions: “Sounds like good managers would be good parents.”

Maslow: “Yes. When a leader puts the concerns, safety, and goals of his team ahead of his own, people will follow them because they feel safe and valued. Otherwise, employees will waste time and energy trying to ensure their own safety. This is why some companies are so unproductive. If they can’t make their employees feel safe, they can’t motivate them properly.”

E3 Solutions: “What about the third level of needs? Social needs. How essential are they to retain employees and enhance their engagement?”

Maslow: “Imperative! Once their physiological and safety needs are met, they will want to satisfy their social needs. Employees that are able to develop positive relationships at work are generally far more motivated and satisfied. Typically, work environments that are friendly help foster creativity and collaboration between workers. Companies should do everything they can to help their employees develop strong relationships with each other.”

E3 Solutions: “A Gallup report found that one out of two employees quits their job because of a poor relationship with their boss. What can managers do to become better bosses?”

Maslow: “Managers need to stop scaring, and start caring, for their employees. The more the employees loves their boss, the harder they will find it to leave their company.”

E3 Solutions: “Can you tell us about the fourth level of needs- esteem needs, and how a company can satisfy them?”

Maslow: “Self-esteem is the approval we have of ourselves and the extent to which we see ourselves as capable, significant, successful, and worthy. Once employees have met their social needs, they will look for opportunities to increase their self-esteem.”

E3 Solutions: “There is a lot of new research that shows that workers with low self-esteem are often significantly less productive than others. Low self-esteem leads to indecisiveness, fear of making mistakes, and frustration when perfection cannot be achieved.

Maslow: “Not only that but people with low self-esteem are usually very unmotivated. They are also more irritable and more pessimistic. They will drain the energy out of their more positive, enthusiastic, self-assured colleagues.”

E3 Solutions: “So how can a manager increase an employees’ self-esteem?”

Maslow: “Well they can start by:

Recognizing and celebrating their employees successes and accomplishments whenever possible.

Expressing their gratitude and appreciation for the difference and contribution their employees are making and

Being kind, honest and respectful to everyone; especially those with lower self-esteem.”

E3 Solutions: “Great, now can you tell me about the top of the hierarchy: self-actualization?”

Maslow: “If workers feel that they are not growing personally or professionally, they will soon become disconnected and look for opportunities elsewhere. Companies need to ensure that each employee is constantly challenged so that they can grow. This can be done by offering employees development and growth opportunities, giving them interesting and challenging work, and by giving them more freedom to make decisions and give input.”

E3 Solutions: “Mr. Maslow it’s been a real pleasure.”

Ascanio Pignatelli is the founder of E3 Solutions; a leadership development group that helps executives and HR more effectively empower, energize and engage their coworkers. He is an award winning speaker, executive coach, extreme adventurer, former shark wrangler and author of the forthcoming book: Lead from Need- Employee Engagement for the 21st Century. Ascanio is a certified  Energy Leadership Master Practitioner (ELI-MP) and Certified Professional Coach (CPC).


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