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Article

Comparing the Effects of Low-level and High-level Worker Need-Satisfaction: A Synthesis of the Self-Determination and Maslow Need Theories

Motivation and Emotion. 2016. Vol. 40. No. 4. P. 541-555.

According to Maslow’s (1943) hierarchical theory of needs, people do not become sensitized to “higher” level needs until they have satisfied their “lower” level needs (a moderator hypothesis); until then, they are unprepared to benefit from higher-level satisfactions.  But according to the Self-determination theory (SDT) model, high-level psychological needs, when met, are non-contingently beneficial (a main effect-only hypothesis).  In two large-N studies of Russian energy companies, we measured low-level need-satisfaction in terms of felt security and felt financial satisfaction, and measured high-level need satisfaction in terms of SDT’s basic needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness.  In both studies, both the lower level and higher level need-satisfaction sets had strong main effects upon many positive work outcomes, including intrinsic motivation, organizational commitment, and SWB.  In Study 2, Maslow’s “prepared to benefit” hypothesis was supported, in that satisfaction of high-level needs had slightly larger effects on outcomes when combined with satisfaction of low-level needs.  However this was not found in Study 1.  Potentials for integrating the SDT and Maslow need theories are discussed.