Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Self-Actualization in the Corporate Hierarchy

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Self-Actualization in the Corporate Hierarchy

Article excerpt

It has been argued that the level of individual actualizing contributes to not only the success of the individual, but also to the success of the organization. The present study used a profile analysis to examine the relationship between corporate organizational levels and reported degree of self-actualizing as measured by the Personal Orientation Inventory for 149 managers and employees spanning four corporate hierarchical levels. It was found that the individuals in the different hierarchical levels did exhibit parallel POI profile patterns but did not exhibit different levels of actualizing. Individuals at the higher organizational levels rated their job as more important than did those at lower levels. The level of self-actualizing was correlated to job satisfaction regardless of the hierarchical level, and level of actualizing was correlated to type of work environment. Implications for the psychological and business disciplines are discussed.

The relationship between individual motivation and performance in the corporate work environment has been of interest to psychologists for decades, as evidenced by the writings of Deci and Ryan (2000), Herzberg (1966), Maslow (1971), McClelland (1984), and McGregor (1960). More recently, this relationship has been elaborated by business theorists, such as de Geus (1997, 1997a), Garfield (1986), and Senge, Kleiner, Roberts, Ross, and Smith (1994), who view individual motivation and growth as a vital factor for effective business performance. However, some of these theorists (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Garfield, 1986; Herzberg, 1966; Maslow, 1971; McGregor, 1960; Smither, 1984) have expressed concerns that many corporate environments have frustrated or even diminished individual motivation, thereby decreasing overall organizational performance. These theorists have argued that unless organizations created the opportunities for personal development, the potential for organizational growth would be limited or stifled. If employees have been operating at only a fraction of their potential, as some researchers have argued (Garfield, 1992; Ladenberger, 1970; Wilson & Wilson, 1998), businesses could have increased their productivity either by increasing the employees' individual performances, or by more fully utilizing this untapped employee potential. It has been asserted for decades that business leaders could have unleashed this potential by allowing employees to become more fully functioning individuals (McGregor, 1960; Garfield, 1992). These leaders may have achieved higher productivity and performance if they created an organizational environment that supported what Maslow (1971) described as self-actualization.

Maslow (1971) identified people who are self-actualizing as those who engage in work as something they love, so much so that, for them, the traditional dichotomy between the drudgery of work and the experience of joy disappeared. Shostrom (1987) elaborated on Maslow's original descriptions of the self-actualizing person as one who is more fully functioning, actively developing and utilizing all of his or her unique capabilities or potentialities.

Research findings have suggested that the level of individual actualization contributed not only to the success of the individual but also to the success of the organization. A number of studies in industrial settings have investigated these relationships. Ladenberger (1970) found a relationship between individual self-actualizing and the hierarchical level of the individual within an organization. Lessner and Knapp (1974) found what appeared to be a relationship between the self-actualizing characteristics of the entrepreneur and the growth of the firm. Margulies (1969) identified a relationship between an organization's culture and the level of employee self-actualizing.

It is clear that research literature provided some support for the argument that the level of individual self-actualizing is beneficial to both the individual and to the individual's organization. …

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