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

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Critically evaluate Maslow's hierarchy of needs as a way of understanding employee motivation in contemporary Chinese business.

As a result of the economic and social reforms, China has experienced incredible economic growth since 1978 (Alas, 2008). But western companies meet with difficulties when managing in China. It is well-know that China is developing in its own special socialism way. Therefore, people are wondering whether Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is helpful in China. In light of China is a country which embraces collectivism, China seems not totally fit into Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in contemporary business.

There are some people supporting Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which was quoted by Hersey states "human needs arrange themselves into a hierarchy" (Gambrel&Cianci, 2003). Joseph put physiological needs, safety needs and belonging needs together as survival needs, besides he said human must satisfy all these needs to survive (Cangemiļ¼Œ2009). According to Joseph, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs has its validity in some levels. Chinese businessmen are certainly without exception. Before they get their targets, they also need to guarantee their basic needs. Therefore, it cannot be denied that Chinese businessmen also follow the basic needs that is put forward in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. And that is which part of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs applied in some areas. As long as you are humans, if you want to work normally, you must meet your basic physiological needs. In this aspect, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs may explain what motivates Chinese businessmen.

Although most Chinese businessmen put their physiological needs at the basic level like that in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, they seek to realize their value in collective level, which is different from self-actualization mentioned in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. In other words, self-actualization, which is placed at the top of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, is not accepted in China. Therefore, Maslow's hierarchy of Needs' validity is questioned in China. For example, Chinese culture stresses the great importance of hierarchy and family values. Confucianism has an important significant influence on family cohesiveness and collectivism in Chinese culture, which emphasis on the importance of face to maintain family harmony and regulate social behaviour. So, it is against the highest level in Maslow's hierarchy of needs (Gambrel&Cianci, 2003). In Chinese's eyes, they must let their families be proud of them and make it as their targets. In Chinese business, there is a phenomenon that many private companies are controlled under families. It is easy to explain that once one of the family members becomes one of the executives, he will look for many ways to help his family members get benefit from his company within his power. Therefore, many companies are established on the family interest. All in all, family interest maximization is what people chase in Chinese business.

Although Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is acceptable in numerous areas, some researchers have found that this theory does not work across different cultures and question its practicality and reality. Some researchers claim that Western society stresses individual behavior, whereas China stresses the collective one, and therefore, one cannot apply the same model to both cultures (Geren, 2011). For example, workers in countries such as China that typify collective behavior, tend to focus on social



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