Can Maslow’s Hierarchy be applied to the self-employed?

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The basic theory behind Maslow’s hierarchy is that there are six basic needs (See Appendix 1 for a detailed explanation) Each need builds upon it’s more basic neighbour. So needs for safety can be adequately met only after a person has met physical needs. Likewise, to achieve the belonging level the person must have fully achieved the safety level. By adequately satisfying the demands of a level, we are more fully freed to pursue issues relating to higher levels of self-expression.

Once self-acceptance has been secured a person can achieve interesting and meaningful goals. Such purposeful and consistent effort will, in time, be successful and result in self – actualisation. This leads to my question; can Maslow’s Hierarchy be applied to the self-employed? (See appendix 2 ; 2b) From looking at my questionnaire I can see that both companies were started to achieve self-actualisation. The owner from the first questionnaire (appendix 2) before becoming self-employed he was a contracts manager for a large construction company.

Having achieved many of the lower levels of the hierarchy he felt he couldn’t achieve the higher levels in that current employment. And as with most self-employed business men/women to fully achieve self-actualisation and ultimately self-transcendence they felt the need to start a business. The current UN-employment percentage is around 3% out of 58million so that leaves approx. 56. 25 million of eligible persons for employment whether its full-time, part-time or self-employed (see appendix 3), out of these 3,208,000 are self-employed which is only 5.

7% of the people that work. This may be because people are afraid to start their own company because of limited liability or due to the fact they don’t desire their own company it could also be that many people wouldn’t know how to run their own company. The owner from business 2b was working part-time on a boat, they were comfortable with their life but felt they needed a challenge. They wanted to become self-employed to realise the self-actualisation level of the hierarchy.

To do this the person felt that a full-time job wasn’t enough to reach higher levels of the hierarchy, so running a self-employed company was the next step in attaining higher levels within the hierarchy and therefore increasing this persons motivation From examining my questions we will find out why these two people became self-employed. The reason that the two people became self-employed was to achieve self-transcendence.

The owner from Business 2 (see appendix 2b) was working at a large construction company as a contracts manager, they were fairly high in the company but felt they weren’t achieving their full potential so they decided to become self employed. Having been self employed for some time now the owner has realised his self-actualisation level in the hierarchy. However they have noticed the disadvantages of becoming self-employed, the most significant being “constant paper work. ” Never being able to leave his/her work at the office and go home and relax.

But he also notices the benefits Such as, flexible working hours and tax benefits. So although they may dislike some aspects of being self-employed the overall well being from being self-employed is there. Many Jobs offer the first level of Maslow’s hierarchy Physical needs, the need for inanimate objects such as a house, a car, food and clothing. However a self-employed company does offer this but most companies have limited liability and the objects that the person requires are at risk if the company becomes bankrupt so this level is achievable for the self-employed but is at risk due to the nature of a sole trader.

The second Level of the hierarchy, Safety is achieved from a full-time job because many work places are a required by law to have a safe working environment. This is also true for a self-employed worker however there are some cases were this level is hard to achieve such a construction company. There is also job safety/security this is more attainable in a full time job because of the self – employee’s limited liability but also due to the fact that they cannot always be able to find new contracts or jobs.

So depending on the type of business your company offers safety can either be obtained or totally out of reach. The third level of the hierarchy, Belonging is easily more achieved for the self-employed as there need for belonging to the company is achieved by starting there own company. However it does not say that belonging cannot be achieved by full-time employment. Any person within that company could achieve it; it depends on the person own preference to their levels of belonging.

The fourth level of the hierarchy Self-esteem can also be more easily achieved by the self-employed as they can feel that the working for themselves is something to be proud off. But this can also be true for full or part-time workers because people get praised for there work or some people feel they are making a difference and helping others. The fifth level of the hierarchy Self-actualisation may not be easily achieved for full-time workers as they would require a high status within the company to fulfil there full potential.

But is not to say that it isn’t attainable because different people would set different goals for themselves, so a person with a high status would might not have achieved self-actualisation because they are not fulfilling there own potential. This isn’t the case for the Self-employed as they will more than likely have a high status within the company. However they could feel they should be achieving more which would move them back down the hierarchy, as they have not yet reached their goals.

The sixth and final level of this hierarchy is Self-transcendence. Can only be fully achieved by a self-employed worker, they can expand into other fields of business or expand there company to bigger levels of production. However UN-likely a person in full-time employment is to achieve self-transcendence it is not for me to say that it is completely impossible for them to obtain as they could move into different fields of work which they never thought was possible for them to do.

In conclusion to my question can Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs be applied to the self-employed? I can see that in some cases this is true but not all the levels of needs can be specifically applied to the self-employed as easily as a full-time employee. For example if you look above you can see comparisons for each level for the two types of employment. Lets look at the first level physical needs, many small business’s have limited liability, this means if there business goes bankrupt then all there possessions are at risk and in extreme cases there homes.

This shows that although this level is achievable it is at risk due to the level of risk taken on by the self-employed. There is also a level, which I think is highly more achievable by being self-employed, the sixth level self-transcendence. This is more achievable by the self-employed because they have realised self-actualisation so for self-transcendence they need to expand there company or increase there production by economies of scale.

They could also diverse into a completely different field of a market in case of a collapse in their company, which ties in with safety as this adds to the level of safety. If one company fails to provide what its market wants then they could fall back on the other company to continue trading. Although a full-time employee can achieve this they would need to be quite high in the company to fully fulfil self-transcendence. So in answer to my question Can Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs be applied to the self-employed?

I consider the answer to be yes although some levels are at risk from they are all fully attainable to the self-employed. Although there is a hierarchical structure to the hierarchy I believe that a person could achieve a level of the hierarchy and not necessarily have achieved the previous levels. For example a person who is self-employed could achieve the need for belonging in the hierarchy but not have yet achieved the previous levels because of many reasons, they business isn’t performing very well or they have achieved that level by having a family.

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