Hierarchy of Needs to be Happy at Work

happy at work

Most surveys about happiness at work will tell you the same few things.

Money isn’t everything – a good boss is important – and people want work with purpose and meaning. And all of this is spot on! But is one of these factors more important than another? If we apply Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to happiness at work – then the answer is clear.

happiness at workQuick refresher – the hierarchy sets tiers to needs, in order for one to achieve self-actualization and motivation. Without satisfying the previous tiers (but with some exceptions), you can’t advance to the next one.

The bottom includes basic requirements for survival. The further up you go, the needs turn to personal safety, comfort and compassion, followed by respect. Once the previous tiers are satisfied, you are able to act without hesitancy to reach your peak in terms of motivation and desire to achieve your goals.

These needs apply to your personal life, and at work as well. So let’s examine how you can apply the hierarchy of needs to be happy at work.

  • Physiological Needs

Your physical well being and ability to do work is at the foundation. Most white collar occupations won’t encounter problems here, as occupational hazards are probably slim to none. That being said – if there are elements to your job that stress you out to the point of physical sickness or exhaustion, then you need to address those issues before you can hope to move on. Since Maslow also reserves this section for the most basic needs (food, water, and air), you should also make sure you have all the tools you need at your disposal to get the job done – anything from a healthy office space, to the right technology, to analytical software, to coffee!

  • Safety Needs

As much as we say that a nice paycheck is not the most important priority when identifying your next job, your financial security is a big deal. You need assurance that your pay check will take care of the bills, that your health benefits will be there in times of need, and that you don’t feel at any point threatened that you might lose the job! In terms of compensation – examine your finances to determine what you need at a minimum (use the 50-20-30 rule for personal finance). Beyond that, a higher pay check is icing on the cake, but won’t truly help you advance to the next tier.

If you aren’t ready to start looking for a new job that has your salary requirements, or you aren’t able to make lifestyle changes to match your salary, use these tips to negotiate your compensation.

  • Belonging

Without a sense of belonging amongst you and your colleagues, you will probably dread coming in every day. This is also why interviewers place great emphasis on establishing cultural fit. If you don’t gel with the team, your performance will suffer, and drag down the rest of the team. Perhaps those corny, company trust-building retreats aren’t such a bad thing after all! Once you are welcome in your team and feel that they have your back, you will have the security and motivation to keep reaching for the next level.

  • Esteem

After you have been ‘accepted’ by your colleagues, the next step is to go beyond and gain their respect, as well as build your own self-esteem. Take on projects, or assist your colleagues – both peers and supervisors – to build their faith in you. By accomplishing this, they will now (hopefully!) vocally support you and recognize you as not only a team player, but even a leader.

One of the biggest roadblocks people face from being truly happy at work – is their relationship with senior management. By overcoming the obstacle of winning their respect, you knock off the number one driver for peoples’ desire to leave a company.

  • Self-Actualization

The pinnacle of the pyramid, as Maslow states, is: “the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially.” By this point, you have satisfied all other needs to be happy at work, and can focus entirely on achieving anything you set out to do. You have the full support of your personal health, financial security, your surroundings and team, as well as their respect. The only thing left for you to do is realize your goals without obstructions!

About the Author

Greg Olsten is Ivy Exec's Sr. Content Manager, producing Online Classes, and Executive Intelligence articles.