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Culture Through the Lens of Maslow

MaslowCultureAs we’ve discussed before, culture is the background operating system that determines the way people work and interact. It directs how information flows, the degree to which the organization is efficient, and how well employees and leaders collaborate to accomplish its goals. But what does this mean in terms of culture’s ability to create a thriving and dynamic environment where engaged employees can contribute and innovate? One way we can answer this question is by looking at culture through the lens of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Cultural Foundation: Physiological, Safety, and Love

Maslow tells us that the first thing we need is water, food, and shelter. Until we get these things, not much else matters. Once we finally get these things, we then want to keep them safe and secure. Only when we feel like our ability to keep our water, food, and shelter secure are we then willing to reach outside ourselves and form meaningful relationships.

The same principles apply to the workplace. First we look for a position that provides what we need to meet our needs. Once we have that, we then want to feel safe and secure in our position. This means not constantly looking over our shoulders, wondering if we’ll survive the next layoff, gossip from our coworkers, or performance review from our boss. Once we feel safe in our position, we can then engage with our coworkers on a meaningful level and form relationships.

These are the bare minimum requirements for a thriving business culture. Until your employees can meet their monetary obligations, feel safe in their positions, and have nurturing collaborative relationships with others, you’ll never gain the benefits of a thriving culture.

Effect on the Individual: Esteem

With a firm cultural foundation in place, an employee can spend less time and effort worrying about surviving each day and instead turn his or her attention to performing and winning the respect of others through his or her accomplishments. It’s at this stage that your employee begins to be an asset to your organization.

Innovation and Engagement: Self-Actualization

With a firm culture in place and an employee’s sense of value and self-worth secure, now the organization is poised to realize the full benefit of a thriving culture. At this stage employees are performing together, fully engaged in the mission of the organization and bringing about marvelous innovation, both individually and as a whole. This is that state that most organizations can only dream of, a state that is a formidable distinctive competency that your competitors will envy.

It’s Worth It

A thriving organizational culture doesn’t happen by accident. It’s the result of considered, deliberate, and constant effort on the part of leadership and the employees. The results, however, are extraordinary.

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