Maslow's hierarchy of needs

The need for rewards


I was reading a post about Engaging and Motivating Employees by Warren Tanner at  In his post Warren asked questioned rewards …

“Is it really the psychological rewards that employees gain from feeling valued and engaged in meaningful work that encourages them each day, rather than the hope of receiving a tangible reward?”

In reply:

While I am no expert on this topic and not really sure which expert from which to draw from, I am going out on a limb with my own take on rewards such as gifts and bonus’s v recognition and respect …

To better understand the greater motivator between the psychological or tangible or as I see it … intrinsic v extrinsic.  I would suggest that intrinsic needs being met will always be greater than extrinsic desires being met. The demand coming from a need should always be greater than the demand to meet a desire.


Maslow created a hierarchy of needs and not a hierarchy of desires.  He suggested that the need for esteem is a “deficiency need” and any deficiency may otherwise lead to low self-esteem and low self-worth.  I would like to suggest that gifts and bonus’s are more extrinsic than intrinsic.  I would also suggest that unlike esteem, tangible rewards are to often short term motivators because once the demand for extrinsic aspirational desires has been met, the desire is not as powerful as a continuing need. When forced to choose between satisfying a need or desire, our natural instinct and tendency is to be bias towards the greater good and to then sacrifice our lesser desire in favour of the greater need.

By way of an over simplified example which may still hold some value, consider the difference between a request such as “I need to know X” and a request such as “I wish to know X” … which should take the greatest priority? The word ‘Value’ may also be key because a gift or bonus are extrinsic material objects where as respect and recognition are intrinsic mental needs, which one has the greater long term sustainable value?  The tangible material objects in themselves may not feed the higher individual mental need.  Recognition and respect of those we admire and respect directly feeds the higher needs of self-esteem, self-worth for the individual.  Consider which maybe of greatest value upon later reflection … the gold retirement watch? Or the knowledge that legacy efforts were valued positively and formally recognised and respected by your peers, colleagues and customers?

In summary, I would suggest that rewards which feed the higher intrinsic need for ‘Esteem’ are greater motivators for sustainable positive performance than the tangible rewards that fill mere desires.

Just my two cents!

Question … anyone know what the experts have to say about it?



I have also touched on a related topic in a previous post entitled The Pyramid of Wisdom. which may add further value.  Its my own work and builds on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for wisdom which motivates and rewards with knowledge, learning and innovation.



(as at 18th May 2018)

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More About …

Brendon McLoughlin

Brendon McLoughlin is a Technical Project Manager and Lean Black Belt Innovator. Brendon has extensive design and development experience across technology based businesses, product manufacturing and service provider industries, social and not-for-profit organisations.

Brendon has over 20 years of experience within start-ups, SME’s and global enterprises. Brendon continues to build a reputation as a creative lean thinker, innovator, researcher, blogger and evangelist. Brendon’s chosen area of research focuses on 'Rural Innovation' and Capacity, Capability and Competency building and cultivating creative core cultures in small high performance teams from small organisations to realise greater commercial value and social gain.


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