Maslow Vs Herzberg Essay

The three major theories: Maslow, McClelland and Herzberg all share distinct similarities. Maslow proposed that all people desire to satisfy five basic kinds of needs; Psychological, Safety, Love, Self-esteem, and Self-Actualization, the hierarchy of each need in the stated order, with the most basic being - physiological and safety needs - at the bottom. Maslow believes that the lowest-level needs must be met before a person will strive to satisfy needs higher up in the hierarchy, such as self-esteem. Maslow described needs that people seem to be born with, whereas McClelland suggested refining some of Maslow's higher-order needs to make them relevant to life in organizations.

McClelland theorized that individuals have three basic motivational needs: affiliation, power, and achievement. The affiliation motive can be explained as a strong desire for individual and/or group approval, and it reflects the desire for social acceptance and friendship. The power motive can be satisfied by being in control, and it can be expressed as a strong desire to change events and to exercise influences over others. The achievement motive is based on the need to achieve and win; it is characterized by working hard, and succeeding. For management, all three motives - affiliation, power, and achievement are import when it comes to motivating employees.

Adopting an approach different from Maslow's and McClelland's, Herzberg theory people have two sets of needs: motivator needs and hygiene needs. Motivator needs are related to the nature of the work itself and the outcomes such as responsibility, being able to grow and develop on the job, and a sense of accomplishment and achievement help to satisfy motivator needs. Herzberg believes that in order to have a highly motivated and satisfied employee, managers should take steps to ensure that employee's motivator needs are being met. Hygiene needs are related to the physical or psychological, it is satisfied by outcomes such as pleasant working conditions, pay, and job security. Herzberg believes, when hygiene needs are not met, employees will be dissatisfied, on the flip side when hygiene needs are met, employees will be satisfied. For motivation to be high, motivator needs must be met.

In conclusion all three theories are similar in nature in they suggest specific things that management can do to help their employees become self-actualized. See diagram below and note that 'Self-Actualization is in the center and joins all three theories. Maslow provides a hierarchical needs explaining motivation. McClelland uses a three-factor approach, whereas, Herzberg presents a two-factor model, both parallel Maslow's theory. Each one approached motivation from a different perspective yet arrived at the similar conclusions.



To every individual who exerts his/her energy towards accomplishing a particular task, we often say “This individual is Motivated”. Sometimes people use the term unconsciously to express how serious they are in accomplishing a task. But the real question still emerge, what is Motivation? Motivation according to Jaja(2003) is the result of the interaction of the individual and the situation. A motive (or drive) is a need that is sufficiently pressing to drive a person to act in a goal directed manner.

Motivation can also be seen as a driving force that initiates and directs behavior. We can also say that it is a temporal or dynamic state within a person which is not concerned with his or her personality. However, we would be comparing in this work, motivational theories of Maslow, Herzberg and McClelland with a quest to understanding their own view as well as see the similarities criticisms as well as differences between these theories.

ABRAHAM MASLOW- Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow portrayed the needs of individuals in the form of a pyramid with several stages of needs. At the least was the physiological needs and the highest was the self-actualization. According to Baridam(2002), Maslow based his theory of human motivation on the following assumptions:

  1. Individuals have certain needs that influence their behavior, only unsatisfied needs can influence behavior, satisfied needs do not act as motivators.
  2. Needs are arranged in an order of importance or hierarchy from the basic physiological to the complex self-actualization needs,
  3. An individual’s need at any level on the hierarchy emerges only when the lower needs are reasonably satisfied.

It is probably safe to say that the most well known theory of motivation is Abraham Maslow’s theory of Needs. Maslow hypothesized that within every human being, there exists a hierarchy of five needs which are:

  1. Physiological needs: hunger, thirst, shelter, sex and other bodily needs.
  2. Safety needs: security and protection from physical and emotional harm.
  3. Social needs: affection, belongingness, acceptance and friendship.
  4. Esteem needs: internal factors such as self-respect, autonomy, achievement and external factors such as status, recognition and attention.
  5. Self-actualization: drive to become what one is capable of becoming. It includes growth, achieving ones potential and self-fulfillment.

As each of the needs becomes substantially satisfied, the next stage becomes dominant(Robbins et al 2009: 194)

However, a need must not be 100 percent satisfied before the next level becomes potent. A more realistic description of the hierarchy would be in terms of decreasing percentages of satisfaction as potency increases. That is 85% in physiological needs, 70% in security needs, 50% in social needs, 40% in in self-esteem and 10% in self-actualization needs. Jaja(2003)


Lawyer and Suttle(1972) in their study of managers in two companies found little support that a hierarchy of needs existed.

Also, the assumption that only one level of need is operational at any point in time is challenged.

Maslow viewed human needs as being static whereas in reality these needs are dynamic.

Finally, the theory indicates that a satisfied need is not a motivator. But it is true that individual needs are never fully or permanently satisfied(Baridam 2002:49)


Herzberg’s TWO-factor theory, also called motivation-hygiene theory believes that an individual’s relation to work is basic and that one’s attitude towards work can very well determine success or failure.

This research undertaken by Herzberg in the 1950s where he interviewed 203 engineers, accountants and managers at Pittsburgh, United states of America because of their growing importance in the business world. This research has broadened the understanding of motivating factors and job satisfaction in the work place. From his research, he concluded that employees have two set of needs in the work place. He described them as Hygiene factors and Motivator factors. Hygiene factors (satisfiers) include salary, working condition and fringe benefits. He also stated that these factors on their own do not lead to job satisfaction but their absence can create dissatisfaction.

Motivators: these are factors such as recognition, responsibility, achievement, and opportunity for progression. Herzberg found that a combination of these factors increased motivation and improved individual performance.


His research methodology is being questioned by scholars. The critical incident technique he used by asking people to look at themselves retrospectively does not substantially provide a vehicle for expression of other factors to be mentioned. This methodology may cause people to recall only the most recent experiences.

Herzberg’s theory was conducted on knowledge workers(managers, accountants and engineers) thus scholars criticize its ability to be generalized.

Herzberg’s theory focused too much attention on “satisfaction”-“dissatisfaction” rather than individual performance. Satisfaction may not be directly related to job performance.

Herzberg’s theory fails to account for differences in individuals. While some are motivated by job context variables, others find favor in job content factors depending on his particular circumstance. Baridam(2002)



Gaurav Akrani(2011) enumerated several dinstictions between Maslow and Herzberg’s theories as follows:

  1. IN TERMS OF MEANING: Maslow’S theory is based on the concept of human needs and their satisfaction while Herzberg’s theory is based on the use of motivators which includes achievement, recognition and opportunity for growth.
  2. BASIS OF THEORY: Maslow’s theory is based on the hierarchy of human needs. He identified five sets of human needs(on priority basis) and their satisfaction in motivating employees while Herzberg refers to hygiene factors and motivating factors in his theory. Hygiene factors are dissatisfiers while motivating factors motivate subordinate. Hierarchical arrangement of need is not given.
  3. NATURE OF THEORY: Maslow’s theory is rather simple and descriptive, the theory is based long experience about human needs. While Herzberg’s theory is more prescriptive. It suggests the motivating factors which can be used effectively. The theory is based on actual information collected by Herzberg after interviewing 203 engineers and accountants.
  4. APPLICABILITY OF THEORY: Maslow’s theory is the most popular and widely cited theory of motivation and has wide applicability. It is mostly applicable to poor and developing countries where money is still a big motivating factor. While Herzberg’s theory is an extension of Maslow’s theory of motivation. It is on the other hand applicable to rich and developed countries where money is less important motivating factor.
  5. DESCRIPTIVE OR PRESCRIPTIVE: Maslow’s theory is descriptive in nature while Herzberg’s theory is Prescriptive in nature.
  6. MOTIVATORS: According to Maslow’s model, any need can act as a motivator provided it is not satisfied while Herzberg in his dual factor model, hygiene factors(lower levels) do not act as motivators, only higher order needs(achievement, recognition, challenging work) act as motivators.


McClelland’s theory of needs is based on three types of needs namely:

  1. Need for power: the need to make others behave in a way that they would not have behaved.
  2. Need for Achievement: the drive to excel, to achieve in relation to a set of standards, to strive to succeed.
  3. Need for Affiliation: the desire for friendly and interpersonal relationship. Jaja(2003)

McClelland stated that we all have these three types of motivation regardless of age, sex, race or culture. The type of motivation that each individual is driven by is changed by life experiences and the opinion of their culture. He also opined that those in top level management positions should have a high need for power and a low need for affiliation. People with a high need for achievement will succeed best when given projects with attainable goals and although individuals with a need for achievement can make good managers, they are not suited to being in top management positions.

He also believes that people with high need for affiliation may not be good top managers but will be team players and are best suited for cooperative work environment. Mcclelland went further to expand characteristics of those with need for power as; those with strong power needs(most successful) and those with lower power needs. He also identified two types of mangers; those who seek institutional power and those seek personal power. However, he also stated that those who seek for institutional power are more successful as they can create favorable condition at work. McClelland believes human needs differed with the passage of time.


Robbins et al(2009) has criticized mcClelland’s theory stating that it has less practical effect than other theories, because McClelland argued that the three needs are subconscious, meaning that we may be high on these needs without knowing. Measuring them is not very easy.


  1. They are all motivational theories
  2. They all believe that workers have needs and when these needs are not met, they cause demotivation.
  3. They suggest specific things that management can do to help their employees become self-actualized.
  4. They believe that there is a reason for human specific behavior.
  5. They also suggest differences in humans in terms of need. Different things motivate different people.


With the knowledge we have acquired from the various perspectives of these authors, one can unequivocally say that they have contributed immensely to knowledge in the area of motivation. However, having criticized and compared each of them to the other, we must say that the theory of David McClelland looks so real that it perfectly fits into real life situation. The fact that he believes human needs changes by life experiences and the opinion of their culture makes it more natural than the others. Maslow only believed in his hierarchy of needs, Hezberg only believed in Hygiene factors and motivational factors yet they never considered variablessuch as cultural factors that are outside the organization which also account for individual behavior. Therefore, McClelland’s theory is a very suitable motivational tool for today’s world in the sense that it fits into any organization and it also considers the situational factors that Maslow and Herzberg never mentioned.



  1. Don M. Baridam(2002) Management and Organization Theory, Sherbrooke Associates, PH
  2. Robbins, Judge and Sanghi(2009) Organizational Behavior,Dorling Kindersly (India) Pvt. Ltd
  3. Seth Accra Jaja(2003) Praxis of Work Behavior, Pinnacle publishers, Lagos



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