by Kathy Cooperman
In Psych 101 class, you may have learned a classic theory of motivation called “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.”
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs describes a process by which you attempt to satisfy unmet needs. According to Maslow (1954), you behave in ways that will ensure that your needs are met.
Our most basic needs include the need for water, food, air, clothing, etc. Rarely will you be motivated by other needs until these are satisfied.
In the workplace, earning a paycheck allows you to satisfy these basic needs. When you are comfortable that these needs are being met, you will be motivated by needs at the next level of Maslow’s hierarchy.
At this level of the hierarchy, you feel the need for safety, shelter, and physical and emotional health and well-being.
At work you meet these needs through a safe workplace and access to healthcare insurance to ensure you and your family’s physical safety.
Love and Belongingness Needs
Next, you will be motivated to satisfy love and belongingness needs.
In the workplace, you address these needs by participating actively in teams or work groups. Likewise having friends, colleagues, and peers at work largely satisfies this need. In your personal life, you meet these needs through support networks of family and friends that provide companionship.
Once you have satisfied needs at the first three levels of the hierarchy, you will be motivated to feel respected and valued. You want to feel important and recognized.
At work, you meet these needs by receiving recognition and reward. Even simple verbal affirmation helps.
At the apex of the pyramid is the need to become the best that you can be. This goal state could exist in any important area(s) of your life (e.g., parenting, writing, music, spirituality, etc.)
In the workplace, growing and developing satisfy this need. The feeling of learning and improving is one of the greatest motivators for many workers.
Motivation During the Pandemic
How does COVID-19 impact the application of Maslow’s theory?
Working with leaders in executive coaching sessions, I have observed that people are now operating at lower levels of the hierarchy. Stressors include:
•Potential or actual job loss
•Loss of income
•Threat of illness or death
•Reduced access to social networks (working remotely)
•Fear of the unknown; feelings of helplessness
When you combine social isolation with the potential for contracting or spreading the deadly COVID-19 virus, you find a stressed-out workforce.
Tips for Leaders and their Teams
In addition to enforcing the well-known recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (e.g., social distancing, wearing masks, etc.), consider implementing the following actions:
o Such “face-to-face” meetings help satisfy the need for belongingness and counteract social isolation.
•Listen to employees’ concerns
o Ask how team members are doing. Allow people to share stories, concerns and humorous incidents.
•Demonstrate that you care
o Let everyone know that his or her well-being is a top concern. Offer resources provided by your organization (e.g., Employee Assistance Programs), and recommend community programs that may be available.
Remember the wise words of Theodore Roosevelt:
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”
Kathy Cooperman, an executive coach and leadership expert, is the president and founder of KC Leadership Consulting LLC. For more information, contact her at email@example.com, www.kathycooperman.com or 720.542.3324.