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

He proposed people have emotional needs that must be satisfied, and these needs will motivate until they are satisfied. The needs are arranged in a hierarchy from basic to higher 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” not only worked in social situations, but could be applied to the workplace.