In 1943, Abraham Maslow formulated his “hierarchy of needs theory” establishing the groundwork for current motivational techniques in the workplace. Maslow is considered the father of humanistic psychology.

He proposed people have fundamental needs that must be satisfied, and these needs continue to motivate until essentially satisfied. The needs are arranged in a hierarchy from basic to higher-order needs with an individual needing to satisfy a lower need before a higher need can motivate. The five needs of the hierarchy are:

  1. Physiological (hunger, thirst, shelter, sex)
  2. Safety (security, protection from physical and emotional harm)
  3. Social (affection, belonging, acceptance, friendship)
  4. Esteem (also called ego)
  5. Self-actualization (being the best one can be)

Maslow proposed the “hierarchy of needs theory” applied not only to life in general but also specifically to the workplace.