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Unformatted text preview: e opposite environment. But the problem is much more
complex than that: There may not be a clear link between work performance and needs satisfaction (Kirton and Hammond 1980). Recent scholarship has raised serious questions
about the hierarchy of needs as a theoretical and empirical concept.
Maslow’s Critics Given the importance McGregor placed on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, any criticism of
the Maslow model must be taken quite seriously.4 Since its appearance, Maslow’s hierarchy
has been the subject of controversy, with numerous critics challenging its theoretical and
empirical foundations (Heylighen 1992; Rowan 1998; Pearson 1999). What follows is a
brief summary of the more important works challenging the hierarchy of needs model.
Theoretical Problems Maslow developed his model of needs largely through a series of lectures and writings, and
in no one place presented formal discussion of his theory (Heylighen 1992). Moreover, in
developing his theory of needs, Maslow used personal interviews and read biographies of
great individuals. Heylighen (1992) pointed out that Maslow himself was often ambiguous
about the methods used to select subjects and the criteria used to evaluate biographies.
Maslow conceded that he consciously rejected the canons of scientiﬁc study (Goble 1970),
but he justiﬁed the departure on the grounds that “it is preferable to carry out methodologically primitive research about fundamental problems . . . rather than restrict oneself to technically sophisticated observations about minor issues” (Heylighen 1992, 45).
Scholars have pointed out that Maslow failed to consider key elements of human motivation. For example, Maslow overlooked such motivators as power-seeking and group
approval (Groves, Kahalas, and Erickson 1975; Rabinow and Dreyfuss 1983; Pearson 1994,
It could be argued that Theory Y failed precisely because scholars implemented it by stressing the hierarchy of
needs rather than other possible theories in McGregor’s work. However, it can be shown that these alternative theories (social constructivism,...
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