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Critically Evaluate Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs as Way of Understanding Employee Motivation in Contemporary Chinese Business

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After three decades of spectacular growth, the People's Republic of China, the world's fastest-growing primary economy, has just past Japan and became the second-largest economy in the world in 2010. However, problems associated with human resources management appear in China as the needs of employee and the ways to motivate them are not well analyzed. As one of the predominant and controversial motivation theories, Maslow's hierarchy of needs illustrates personal needs in five layers. Maslow defined these needs as ways to drive individuals' attentions (Maddi, 1997; Maslow, 1970). Although Maslow's theory can be applied in a number of countries when factors such as cultural value and political systems are considered, it appears to be defective in the Chinese business today.

Maslow (1943) suggested that the basic layer must be satisfied before achieving the secondary or higher levels of needs. That can be used in many countries as well as China. In China, workers who are in the bottom of society just requiring basic needs, such as food and shelter. Once these needs are satisfied by wages, employees will desire safety and security, such as good job conditions. The third layer is social needs which refer to the sense of belonging and group work. When employees meet these needs, they should be motivated by self-esteem, which emphasis on self-respect and respect for others. Company should show one's contributions to others. The top of the pyramid is self-fulfillment, advocating inspiration, challenge and attentiveness. For example, companies can offer personal development plans and give employees opportunities to improve themselves and express their talents. In addition, Chinese employees are gradually shifting their value system which emphasis on achievement of goals instead of spirit of equality (Cry and Frost, 1991). In contemporary China, there is a new generation called Millennium who was born from 1984 to 1995, had brilliant minds and just worked for themselves. This group of people can be explained by Maslow's theory. Firstly, they desire high salaries and job security, and then they would like to be respected by other colleagues. In addition, personal spare time is also essential, such as doing sports and watching films. Finally, they fancy an important position in their job. Millennium is the outcome of contemporary society. As a consequence, Maslow's hierarchy of needs can be used with this kind of employees in China.

However, several studies indicated that different nations have different values (House et al.2004; Hofstede, 1980). Maslow's theory can be applied to China to some extent. Considering different characteristics and values of different countries, however arguments below can be used as convincing proof, as this theory is based on a study which is conducted in a U.S subject, China has several distinct ideologies. In addition, U.S. is a country which carries forward individualism, while China has as tradition of collectivism (Nevis, 1983). For example, Hofstede (1984) reported that people who work in a collectivist environment weight their job makes inroads into their private lives. In other words, Chinese workforce value company's performance more than food and clothing. Therefore, Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which puts the physiological to be the primarily layer, may not be applied Chinese business very well.

Lastly, in term of culture fitness, in the long-term, culture value has played a primary role in differentiating work values (Hofstede, 1980b; Pelled and Xin, 1997; Schneider and Barsoux, 1997; Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, 1998; Holden, 2002). Smith and Bond (1993) claim that hierarchy and family values are the heart and soul in Chinese culture. Similar argument has



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