Maslow’s Hierarchy

To be an effective project manager requires an understanding and a proficiency in people skills (also known as “soft skills”).  The PMP® exam will test your understanding of people skills and associated management theories.  Maslow’s hierarchy is one of them.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in 1943.  It proposes a model for understanding human motivation.  In summary, basic needs (those in the lower part of the pyramid) must be met before higher level needs can be effectively met.

Physiological needs

These are basic human needs – shelter, warmth, water, food, sleep, etc.  If these needs are not met or are temporarily lost, a humans will focus their efforts on resolving these deficiencies.  Once met, other higher level needs can then be prioritized.

Safety needs

Once the physiological needs have been met, safety needs then take priority.  Safety needs include security from danger or crime, financial security, and safety against accidents or illness.

Social needs

After physiological and safety needs are addressed, social needs begin to take priority.  Social needs, also referred to as belonging needs, addresses the needs for humans to socialize, the need for belonging, the need for friendship and love. 

Esteem needs

Esteem needs include the need to be respected, the need to be recognized and to recognize and respect others.  People at this level need to be engaged in meaningful work that provides a sense of contribution.


The need for self-actualization is at the top of the hierarchy and becomes the driving need when all other lower needs have been met.  Creativity, problem solving, enjoyment of the work, a sense of higher mission and purpose are indicators of self-actualization.

Eddie Merla, PMI-ACP, PMP

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