Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: Does It Apply in A Collectivist Culture

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: Does It Apply in A Collectivist Culture

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs model is one of the most referenced and discussed motivation theories. Consistent with other well-known motivation theories, Maslow's model was developed based on research using U.S. subjects. While it is logical to assume that the application of his model should greatly assist in the management of U.S. companies, the question must be asked whether his motivation theory model applies in international management. Using China as a baseline, this paper examines Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and current related literature to determine whether or not it applies in a collectivist culture. Findings of the literature review suggest that a hierarchy of needs based on a collectivist culture will differ from Maslow's original model. In a collectivist culture, the basic need is belonging; self-esteem is eliminated, and self-actualization is attained in terms of meeting societal development needs.

Introduction

Li, Lam, and Fu (2000) indicate that past studies show culture as influential in managerial decision-making, leadership style, and human resource management practices. Fatehi (1996) states, "most management literature on motivation is psychologically oriented and is based on psychological models developed and tested almost exclusively in the United States" (p. 231). Therefore, it is logical that the application of these models should greatly assist in the management of U.S. companies. However, motivation is just as essential to the attainment of organizational goals in global companies as it is in U.S. companies. The question then must be asked whether or not these motivation theory models apply in international management.

Two basic types of motivation theory exist: content theories and process theories (Fatehi, 1996). Gibson (1994) states that the focus of content theories is on the factors within the person that energize, direct, sustain, and stop behavior. In addition, Gibson indicates that process theories describe and analyze how behavior is energized, directed, sustained, and stopped. The most well known content theories include Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Herzberg's two-factor theory, and McClelland's three-factor theory (Fatehi, 1996). Each of these content theories of motivation were developed by American theorists. In addition, research on each of these theories has involved only U.S. subjects.

Gibson (1994) states that Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs is one of the most referenced and discussed motivation theories. Authors that have investigated international implications of Maslow's hierarchy of needs include Geerte Hofstede (1983) and Edwin C. Nevis (1983). Hofstede's (1983) research includes the study of national cultures in terms of individualism versus collectivism, large or small power distribution, strong or weak uncertainty avoidance, and masculinity versus femininity. Hofstede's dimension of individualism-collectivism is directly related to theories of motivation. Other individualism-collectivism studies by Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars (1993), Schwartz (1990), Schwartz (1994), Schwartz and Bilsky (1987, 1990) have a direct relation to theories of motivation as well.

This paper will examine Maslow's hierarchy of needs motivation theory to determine whether or not it applies in a collectivist culture. The paper begins with a review of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. A review of the literature on individualism-collectivism by researchers such as Hofstede, Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars, Schwartz, Schwartz and Bilsky, and Triandis follows. Individualism with respect to the American culture, followed by collectivism and the Chinese culture is then explored. A Chinese hierarchy of needs developed by Nevis (1983) based on Maslow's model is then reviewed. The paper concludes with a summary of findings based on the review of the literature that determines whether Maslow's model applies in a collectivist culture.

Literature Review

A review of the literature to determine whether Maslow's model applies in a collectivist culture covers the following subject areas: Maslow's hierarchy of needs, individualismcollectivism, individualism and the American culture, collectivism and the Chinese culture, and a Chinese hierarchy of needs model. …

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