Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is nonsense

450px-maslowshierarchyofneeds.svg_And it also isn’t Maslow’s; it was invented by a management consultant who’d come across a misinterpretation of Maslow’s work.

The effects of the colorful final product, they argue, have not been benign. What we know as Maslow’s pyramid has tainted our view of work and our expectation that people are concerned with “higher” or “lower” level needs depending on their income or professional status. It gives the impression that some employees need to have their hearts and souls attended to, their creativity tapped and fostered, while others are merely concerned with covering the rent every month and putting food on the table.

The whole concept that we don’t worry about the “higher” needs until we’ve satisfied the “lower” ones is not something that Maslow came up with. It’s also observably false (know anybody struggling to get by because they are an artist or creator of some kind?). The idea is, however, awfully convenient for the way American business viewed organizations and the people in them in the mid-20th century – the workers are just cogs who simply need to be fed and houses, and don’t share the sophisticated needs of those who are higher up the pyramid. (You know, like Donald Trump.)

The Quartz article linked above is quite interesting, both in the details of Maslow’s work and the story of the pyramid, and as an example how we cling to bad ideas that make us comfortable.

Which, come to think of it, is what keeps management consultants in business.

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