Management Theory and Community Based Learning Experience
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory is a social and management theory that was developed by Abraham Maslow in the 1940s. He argues that humans are “wanting animals”, who, at every point in their lives, have a desire to satisfy specific needs. Maslow went ahead and arranged these needs “in order of importance”, with the foundation of hierarchy, containing the most basic human needs, that are also termed as psychological needs (Griffin and Moorhead 93). These are closely followed by security, belongingness, esteem and at the top of the pyramid are the self-actualization needs. All of these needs are applicable to businesses and organizations. For example, the psychological needs of a business include favorable working conditions, toilet facilities, ventilation, adequate and reliable wages and comfortable temperatures, among other factors. This paper discusses the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory and my community-based learning experience, when working with “Feed the Hungry” program at Loyola Marymount University.
This is a program that seeks to integrate social justice, business management and community services in an effort to boost lives of the less privileged in the society. The group that participated in the “Feed the Hungry” program, worked as an organization with an objective to alleviate the suffering of people in the targeted community. As a result, a proper “organization culture” and “program management style” had to be developed. Organizational culture is a system of shared values, beliefs and assumptions that govern the way people behave in an organization (Kenrick 17). The shared values have a strong influence on the people, who are working together in specific setup or organizations.
Through his “hierarchy of needs” theory, Maslow observes that “deficiency needs” must be satisfied before any form of growth can be achieved. Maslow thinks there are aberrant behaviors among humans that occur when human needs that are “legitimate” are frustrated or impeded. “Feed the Hungry” program was meant to correct some of these “frustrated” or “impeded” human needs that end up making everyone in any society uncomfortable, regardless of their social or economic status. The program has been running for over fifteen years and it is made up of faculty, staff and students who volunteer their lunch hour to make and deliver the sandwiches to the needy neighbors, mainly the homeless neighbors in Santa Monica.
Meeting the basic psychological needs, which are at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, requires the team to deepen their commitment and understanding of the communities and faith-being a faith-based organization. There has to be a plan on the way everything has to be conducted and this involves organizing the meetings every Tuesday outside the chapel at 11.30 to make and pack the sandwiches. When food preparations are completed, an agenda for the day is set before community members drive to Santa Monica. When this is done, the program runs smoothly because everyone’s role in the team is clear. The founder of the program, Theresa Thibodeaux, found out around 20 years ago when she was a pregnant teenager that even though we are living in a country that is recognized worldwide as being affluent, there are still many people who still lack guarantees on right to life, pursuit of happiness or liberty.
Maslow in his hierarchy of needs theory, notes that before a person acts “unselfishly,” there are four types of needs that must be made, with the most basic being the psychological needs. “Feed the Hungry” is, therefore, a response to the provision of some of those needs, in the effort that those who are helped can move to the next “hierarchy” of the seemingly endless demands of human life (Kenrick 13). However, it is critical that some are helped, as they move upwards in “the ladder”, they can also help others who are still struggling to meet the most basic psychological needs. Maslow intentionally referred to the four lower hierarchy needs as “deficiency” needs because the lack of those needs creates the tension among all those living in a community or in a society, regardless of their status. He further argues that we will be moving “towards growth” whenever we work towards satisfying our own cravings or those of others. Living in a society with warped individuals or repressive authorities makes people “ill” (Kenrick 19).
Although not overpowering, the impulse to fulfill the needs is compelling. It is, therefore, not easy to resist the pull of love, safety, psychological or esteem needs. Everyone may have the same set of needs, but the manner in which we meet or achieve those needs is different (Griffin and Moorhead 95). This is the reason “Feed the Hungry” project brings together different people, discusses the issues that may be affecting them and tries to find one or fewer workable solutions to the issues, instead of everyone trying to find a unique way of handling the same problem. For example, even though all of us feel the need to help, each would probably have a solution or a different suggestion on how they want it to be done. This ultimately becomes complex, more costly and confusing. Another practical example is when some people feel that they have to meet the need to belong, to love and be loved, they simply identify a place to party and they ultimately satisfy their needs-they will eventually feel refreshed, feel love or loved. Interestingly, a neighbor could be feeling the same need and decide to take a quiet walk with a friend. The common desire for love, in spite of the different means of gratification makes workmates, or members of a community live in harmony as brothers and sisters (Papa, Daniels, and Spiker 9).
Until They Are Met Lower Needs Will Always Take Priority
The Catholic Church in Loyola Marymount University and the participants of “Feed the Hungry” have had a wonderful experience stepping beyond their boundaries, culturally, linguistically and physically and try to understand the Mexican community around them. They leave behind their cellphones to give a maximum attention to those they are meant to help. This experience gives them and their hosts a unique chance to meet “the lower-hierarchy-human needs”. It is not a surprise in Maslow’s system, physical drives, such as the need for physical necessities, such as food, take priority. Therefore, there is no organization or program or business that can succeed if these needs have not been met. Apart from food, “Feed the Hungry” project undertook crucial “basic physical need” projects, such as house constructions, meeting and encouraging migrants and offering guidance and counseling to those in need, whenever necessary. The students, staff and faculty members then return back to their country with greater appreciation and understanding of the world around them. They also feel fulfilled and motivated to go for more “helpful missions”, having helped people to experience some of the worst injustices in the 21st century.
The program founder, Theresa Thibodeaux, and others, coordinate trips within the campus and, while in the field, widely borrowing some of their management and response skills from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The group’s social Justice Director, Fernando Moreno, always ensures that initial retreat services attuned to the needs of members before embarking on the needs of the communities that they help. As the student and faculty members continued to increase and relationships with the communities grew some new trips and groups were developed to cover more areas and to adequately meet the project objectives. More fundraisers were organized and spread throughout the academic year to bring on board various groups and interested participants. Some of the university students or staff or faculty members who notice that the need for love and attention is very fragile, and to illustrate it further, it is important to note that such a need is non-existent in a psychopath (Kenrick 13). Psychopaths have no desire for affection or warm feelings. The reason why many members or the university volunteer to participate and try to fit into the existing “Feed the Hungry” program is a sign that they are affectionate people. It is for that reason, therefore, that it is easy to convince them to work under anyone appointed by the management or founders to run a program and many of them come up with wonderful ideas, not only on how the program can be reorganized, but also how it can be progressively improved.
Management through Community “Normalization”
The main objective of community normalization is to integrate through establishing reliable interpersonal relationships. Social work managers should apply the Maslow’s theory in the identification of people’s needs and those of employees. This can be done through the consideration of motivators at every level. For example, while carrying out the “Feed the Hungry” project, we came across a man named Tony, who seemed to have everything working against him, yet from previous analysis, he seemed to be at the “esteem level” in Maslow’s hierarchy. Tony was brought up in a comfortable background and somehow took for granted all that he had. Endless gratification from peers, also made him loose the focus on what he truly wanted in life. To make the matters worse, Tony lost his job when he needed it most. Hardships, loneliness and danger became a part of his life. After the careful assessment of his past “Feed the Hungry” decided to help him start up a small mechanical workshop because he had some experience with automobiles. This did not work for a long time for him because he was already used to a large expenditure, and could, therefore, not manage the little he got from the business to sustain and develop himself. Currently, the project is still exploring the ways of improving his life to, at least once more; make him useful to himself and those around him. The lesson from Tony’s life is: it is possible for someone with a troubled childhood and past to easily adjust to difficulties than for a person brought up in riches and affluence to adjust to difficulties in life. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory is, therefore, useful in understanding the people we work with and identifying the specific roles they can play and helping them out of challenging situations, given their history.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has also helped the project, not only to identify the needs of the members, but also to observe and to note when those needs have been met because people no longer get motivated by “needs that have been met” (Griffin and Moorhead 97). So the project managers give on looking for anything that can serve as a motivation for some members because in the event that they no longer see the need to continue doing what they consider done, they lose the interest in the whole project. They, therefore, will have to find “higher level needs” to avoid situations, where people move haphazardly either up or down the hierarchy (Griffin and Moorhead 93). The same also applies to community members, who are not necessarily from the university, but play important roles in ensuring that the project is successful. In some months, for example, finances become a problem, for one reason or the other. Some of the group members need to be constantly reassured that their financial contribution or otherwise will still be appreciated. This is because, in most cases, “budget cutbacks” demoralize project managers, faculty staff or students who are otherwise very active in ensuring the program succeeds. When project security becomes a problem, members support staff and everyone who is vital in running the project and will have to be motivated by security needs (Papa et al. 9). This can only be done when project managers and founders know that junior staff, volunteers or members operate at different need-levels. This happens despite the fact that most of those involved in the project initially go into with a desire to help the less privileged, which technically means that they join the organization or project being on a higher need order.
In conclusion, the basic premise of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs relies on the discrepancy between a motivator and “hygiene” factors. Some of the hygiene factors include policies, relationships, security, and applicable-wages or salaries. The relationship can be of any nature, with other members, co-workers, with supervisors, or working conditions in general. In essence, work or job dissatisfaction can be brought about by poor working conditions, poor relationships and low wages, especially where the individuals came in, expecting a pay of a particular amount. In contrast, the motivator factors are related to self-actualization and personal growth; they are all tied to work satisfaction (Kenrick 13). These factors also include the recognition, appreciation, responsibility, accomplishment, and the nature of work itself. When the motivator factors are present, work satisfaction becomes more evident and management of projects, programs or organizations become more effective.