More than Maslow’s Need Hierarchy at Work

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More than Maslow’s Need Hierarchy at Work

Russel Lolacher . Episode 4 . 00:00

In episode four of Relationships at Work, host Russel Lolacher revisits Maslow’s Need Hierarchy. You remember that one, right? Well it actually gets a lot more interesting. One of the inspirations for Maslow’s theory was in the time he spent with the Blackfoot First Nations for six weeks, and writer Teju Ravilochan has done an amazing job summarizing that research. In his article The Blackfoot Origins of Maslow’s Need Hierarchy, we find  another side to understanding needs and how it could apply to our relationship at work.

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  • the difference in deficiency needs and growth need in the workplace
  • how the Blackfoot version of the hierarchy expands Maslow’s theory and is as important if not more so.
  • ways in the two hierarchies can relate to relationships at work with employees and culture.
  • ways in which you can understand the needs of your organization so you can do something about it.

“We need to meet the needs of our organization as a community, and the people that work within that community.  ”

Russel Lolacher



Needs, motivations. These are really important things. In all your relationships at work, especially when it comes with your relationships with your staff. How do you motivate them? How do you understand what their needs are? Well, you remember Maslow’s need hierarchy? Well, we’re gonna dig into that. But then we’re gonna flip it around and I’m going to blow your mind. Hold on

It’s Relationships at Work, the Employee Experience and Workplace Culture podcast, I’m Russel Lolacher. Welcome. How was that was that welcoming of a voice? Was it creepy was it didn’t feel natural, didn’t feel natural. But I am very happy to have you here. We are a new podcast. But we’re an excited podcast, and really happy to have you here. Unbelievably humbled by the support we’ve already gotten right out of the gate. So thank you for being a part of that. i This has been a passion project I’ve wanted to get going for years. So for it finally to touch ground and for it to be received so highly. Oh, my heart grows three times bigger. I’m not even the Grinch, and I’m making jokes like that. Okay, if you do like what you’re hearing, maybe leave a review, maybe a recommendation. One of those things that lets other people know this is worth listening to. It would really, really help us grow. And that’s what I’m really hoping we get to do. So you heard me off the top talking about needs. Do you remember Maslow’s need hierarchy? I was trying to remember where I remember. I was trying to remember where I remembered this from there we go. Good start? Well, I think it was high school. Maybe first something University, I couldn’t quite remember. But I know it stuck with me. And anytime I bring it up with anybody else. They’re like, Oh, yeah, that’s a self actualization, psychology safety. Yeah, we remember it, maybe not where we got it from. But it certainly made sense to us at the time. And it’s, it’s certainly worth revisiting. And I’m gonna do that a bit today. But I’m also going to dig into the research around it, where it actually came from, and it will actually make you look at it quite a bit differently, and possibly how you approach your relationships at work. So first out of the gate, let’s talk about Maslow’s Need Hierarchy. It was started in 1943 is actually when Abraham Maslow full name, reported first in his paper, a theory of human motivation. And then he had a book called Motivation and personality. And that’s where it’s certainly got legs. So you can envision it right the pyramid that was what we were. Funny thing, actually, during the research is, it never was actually a pyramid. Initially, it was just things you levels you had to get through to go higher up in this hierarchy. It wasn’t actually a pyramid, but that’s how it was taught to us. So that’s what I’m sticking with. So it starts off with this grouping, this first four, which is actually called the deficiency need, I’d never heard that before, till I look this up. And what it is, is those first four are all about the they show up because they’re due to depriving ourselves of something. So for instance, if we don’t have these things, it could result in death, or loneliness, or depression. Okay. And then the last one, the one at the very top is about growth. But the thing that is hierarchy is you have to achieve one before you move on to the next before, it’s like a video game, you have to finish one level before you hit the next one. So remember, those needs we started with psychological, that’s the base one we can remember right? Food, water, sleep, second safety, we need to be safe, we have that need to feel like we are free from injury that we have a you know, mental physical health, financial health, that’s the second level, love and social belonging is the third and that’s where friendship comes in community acceptance. And last but not least of that first grouping of deficiency is esteem, feeling of accomplishment, feeling like you’re valued. And then the one that we’re supposed to all attain or aim to get to is self actualization. This is the Okay, I’ve gotten all the other things now I can grow and reach my full potential that is the idea of self actualization. So let’s look at it from a work standpoint. Now psychologically, the food water,

I could see that probably needing to be accomplished before most jobs are had. So those are psychological needs that maybe aren’t going to get disrupted by taking this job. However, when I read sleep, I’m like, Ooh, there’s a few jobs probably that impede on that sleep, whether it’s through stress or phone calls in the middle of the night. Right off the bat, there are probably some jobs that are already impacting just even the first level of your need hierarchy. Second, injury, or sorry, safety, so we want to be safe at work. We want to make sure We know we’re not going to come home with a limp. But the one that really stuck out was also financial, are you being adequately paid for what you do? Because if you’re not, that could maybe prevent you from moving up this particular ladder, belonging, we want to community we want to be embraced for being ourselves. This is where the culture part I think fits, esteem, encouragement, support recognition, all employees need that. So it started to make a lot of sense this need hierarchy as we grow, and we get through these things. And if if a culture in an organization doesn’t fulfill these things, then maybe by the time we get to self actualization, we’re not ready. When people are saying you know what you need to grow, you need to do better, you need to take this course you need to push yourself to achieve. But if you don’t have those four other things to get you to that level, you’re probably not going to be in a position to really advance yourself. The need hierarchy really kind of resonated with me, and I hope it does with you as a base level place to sort of think about the individual and what they might need in order for them to grow within an organization.

Now, here’s where I’m going to just mess it all up. Maslow actually was inspired to do this hierarchy thing. By living with the Blackfoot First Nations for six weeks. And there’s been a lot of research done actually about his time there. I’ll let others dig into you know, that research, but I can’t identify it was done in an article that really sort of caught my eye. My friend Mike Vardy actually recognizes when I was digging into doing the need hierarchy for this podcast, my friend Mike Vardy, he’s like, “Oh, you’ve got to read this article.” And he flipped it to me and I’m like, oh, that’s literally the noises I made as I went through the article by Teju Rivolchan. I’ll put the link in the show notes. You can you can take a peruse there yourself. So there’s a few researchers – Ryan Heavy Head, Narcisse Blood, they were members of the Blackfoot nation themselves. And they received a grant from the Canadian government to do a whole research about Maslow and his time with the Blackfoot. Also Dr. Cindy Blackstock, she’s a member of the Gitxsan First Nation tribe, professor at McGill, as well, lots of Canadian connections. She’s executive director of the First Nations child and family caring society, she also conducted some similar research. So if you’re hankerin’, and you got some nerdiness, and you to dig deeper, I feel free to do the googling. But for the purposes of this podcast, I wanted to take a look at the need hierarchy and then look at it from where it was originally inspired from, which is actually completely different.

Because from the Blackfoot side of things, their community actually starts with self actualization. It’s the goal in the individual Maslow’s one. But in the Blackfoot one, it is the baseline, it is believed that you start advanced and grown, and you’ve already achieved everything you’ll ever be, or at least attained to be in those first few moments. So you start your journey as being trusted and given the space to express yourself, rather than having to build to it and making yourself the best you can be you already are. So imagine that from a person going into an organization for the first time. They already bring things to the table, they already are interesting and knowledgeable and have tools that can better the organization rather than immediately going, you don’t know anything, and we’re gonna mold you into the kind of person we want you to be. I like the Blackfoot method here where the baseline the first step of their particular pyramid. Again, it’s not really a pyramid, but go with me because that’s based on all Maslow’s thing is this self actualization. Next, community actualization. So when it comes to those needs that we talked about earlier, like food, shelter, all those things, they’re provided by the community, it’s not up to an individual to find their needs of self esteem and, and feeling like they’re a member of the community, the community itself, feeds that. I loved that. I

Absolutely love that. And also, there’s a part of this community actualization called place, which Maslow’s theory was all about the individual but as this is more about a community, where you work and live, the environment is a huge part of your motivation and your needs. I totally can see this. And they say this, that that basically, it’s about your connection to the place you work and that you don’t want to ever have a problem with other people because you have to live and work around them all the time. It’s about not being in conflict with your environment. With the land, air quotes, I guess, because we’re talking about organizations in this context. So I love the idea that community is about giving of each other think about an organization and how you can fill in the gaps with a team to fill weak spots with members who are stronger and other areas or, you know, understanding what the community needs when it needs it and filling those gaps. That’s just the second level of the Blackfoot need hierarchy. And their top one yeah, they only got three. Well, Maslow’s digging into his five. The Blackfoot one is culture, perpetuity, if you have that baseline of self actualization, and then you have the next one, which is community actualization. Cultural perpetuity means, how are you going to keep this going? You’ve got a great community, you are respected as an individual. So what do you do keep it going? It’s about a transfer of knowledge or wisdom, I guess we’d be in this place. Because knowledge is just knowing something. Wisdom is perspective. So it’s how do you pass down information and culture from one person to the next? Do you have a process in place, and that’s what motivates people to keep moving further, because of this place they want to be and this environment they want to be a part of, for as long as they can be a part of it. Interesting, a. So I guess the Blackfoot one is less pyramid more circular, right? It’s about community with individuals within that community. Because they’re already okay as they are the self actualization. And the community provides what they need, and then the community perpetuates, because it feeds into itself. Oh, I like that.

So stepping back from this, I know, I’m talking fast, there’s a lot of information there, check the link of the article if you’re really interested. But I just, I was I was always digging into that need hierarchy back when I was a kid. And it was brought up to me recently, again, and I was like, you know, this really matters in a work environment to understand individuals and what motivates them and their needs. But then understanding how the community has an impact in that in the Blackfoot idea of that is worth noting. So from that, how can we take this in relationships at work to better the work? Well, from the Maslow’s perspective, I think it’s understanding each of us as individuals, personalization, motivations, what works for people, what doesn’t work for people? Sure, there are some, you know, basic needs in there. But there are also things as leaders we can do to help move people forward. Help them get to that place where they feel like they’re ready to grow as individuals. How about the Blackfoot approach? Well, I think that’s about understanding the environment, the community and the culture that you’re providing as an organization and perpetuating maybe as an individual, the whole organization, as well as the silos, the business areas, they all have their own cultures, environments, and, and community. How do those interrelate with one another? Do we treat people with value right away? Or do we try to mold them into something else? I’m asking questions here. And last but not least, it’s about I think, the coexistence of both of them. How are teams structured to support themselves and complement each other? Are the individuals in the community healthy, that they’re within? And how do you know? So we can’t just look at this as individuals. And as the culture and community, I think you really need to combine the two. Oh, I took a long pause, because I want you to think about, I’ve either lost you incredibly, or your thought. It’s really interesting. And I’m really aiming for that second part. I’m hoping this is really hitting me a little bit more. So what can we do about this? What can we do to be more individualistic to help with community?

Well, I was thinking of this. And I thought we could do more one-on-one experiences with our teams.

Understand them better as people and ask them the questions once you build that trust about what’s working for them, what isn’t working for them? What kind of ideas do they have to help them motivate them? What some deficiencies like those first four deficiencies and Maslow’s need hierarchy need to be filled, so they can get to that growth level? And also, what about taking internal surveys a little more seriously? Taking candor seriously. Please do not just talk to management and supervisors talk to employees privately so they can be open and honest. I think understanding surveys and doing temperature checks, I think or internal surveys are ways of hearing from people so you can get a sense of how the culture and community is going. And when I say taking it seriously. I’m mean listening, collecting the information and doing something about the information, making it actionable. Because then you can determine what’s working in your culture and ensure that it’s passed along across the organization, you can figure out what isn’t working, fix it, and then perpetuate that through your organization. We need to meet the needs of our organization as a community, and the people that work within that community, because that sounds like a healthy and productive culture to me.

So what do you think about the need hierarchy? Both of them Maslow’s or the Blackfoot. These theories have been kicked around a little bit and challenged quite a bit, but I think there’s a lot of value here to just understand that things are interrelated. Things aren’t simple. Things are connected. Things aren’t all a checkbox, and if anything makes you think a little deeper, it’s not such a bad thing. So I think that’ll do it for my solo episode. Hope you enjoyed it. My name is Russel Lolacher I always enjoy spending time with you and hope you have a great day. Take care



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