Critically Evaluate Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as Way of Understanding Employee Motivation in Contemporary Chinese Business
The Chinese economy has changed significantly since the reform in 1978. Chinese economy has experienced a rapid development and trends to an open and market-driven system in recent years (Klein and Ozmucur, 2002). A lot of foreign companies want to invest in Chinese companies or start business in China but most of them fail in the end. One of the reasons why they can be successful in the western countries but lose in China can be the way they used to comprehend employee motivation in modern-day Chinese business is wrong.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is an extremely famous theory used to analyse employee motivation by many aboard companies. In this theory, individuals’ needs are generally divided into five parts and arranged in this order: physiological, security, belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization. However, the direction of China’s development is completely different from other countries’ in the world since China was established. The differences between the U. S. and China in the social system, stratum and employees’ values indicate that Maslow’s theory cannot be used as a way to understand employee motivation in contemporary Chinese business.
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This essay will firstly introduce the disparity of the social system between the U. S. and China. Then pay attention to the attitudes of employees in different stratum in America and China. Finally look at the effects of Maslow’s theory in Chinese business and education. To start with, Maslow’s theory is not appropriate to Chinese business employee motivation largely because of the culture differences between America and China. The two countries differs in work-related attitudes are affected by several societies’ historical heritage as well as in different institutional development.
Fatehi (1996) states that most motivation theories are directed and based on psychological patterns developed and tested mainly in the U. S. It means that Maslow’s theory evidently applies to the context in America but the conditions in the U. S. and in China are totally different. The American culture has developed beyond the expectation that emphasize the individual and a decentralized government (Nevis, 1983). This indicates that America is an individualistic society. However, the ygone culture studies discover that the family-oriented collectivism is a key Chinese cultural characteristic (Li et al, 2000). Hofstede (1984) points that in the individualistic society, employees always consider accomplishing their work at first and then building a relationship with their colleagues. This case will be completely divergent in a collectivistic society like China. People in this context give prior thinking about in-group goals which includes undertaking in-group doubtless, keeping interdependence with staff and focusing on the peace environment in-group.
In Nevis’ Chinese hierarchy model, the most different pattern from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is that the belonging is the most basic problem which Chinese employee needs first (Nevis, 1983). Another aspect that indexes that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is not suitable to understand Chinese employee motivation is that the employees’ attitudes and expectation of work change due to different stratums and countries. Nowadays Chinese managers are facing a challenge which is to concentrate on organizational efficiency (Wang, 2007).
The employees’ attitudes tremendously influence their behaviour in organizational jobs. Some researchers have found relationships between institutional development, attitudes and values. A comparative study in 15 countries shows high job satisfaction and commitment to the enterprise in established capitalist countries contrasted to former socialist countries (Alas and Rees, 2006). The results in former socialist countries indicate that the way people develop their attitudes may differ according to the institutional developments when people build their careers (Alas and Vadi, 2006).
However, most employees feel unsatisfied, though, they get higher payment then before. This phenomenon proves the opposite that high wages can motivate employees most. The lowest stratum employees; such as, building workers and cleaners, consider only the basic needs of living. Their motivation may be affected by money, therefore, physiological and security could be the most meaningful ones. Howeverin the middle or high stratums, the employees do not worry about physiological and security at all. Maslow’s theory has not considered the needs on all possible aspects.
Company uses Maslow’s hierarchy of needs should pay attention that in varied conditions the shape and content of the need hierarchy will change a lot. However, though Maslow’s theory does not suit theChinese company management, for some extent it still has some positive effects on Chinese business and the training for the managers in company. For example, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs still can be used to seek and producemethods to stimulate employees by carefully considering the condition, stratum and what work organization, compensation and management style do employees really need.
Executives can harness the power of physiological needs by affording sufficient salaries to employees to feed their basic needs. Offering job security, retirement benefits and a safe working environment can satisfy the major employees’ safety needs. Managers should also learn to develop a team atmosphere, which makes employees know that they are a part of the team. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can also be used to fulfil consumers’ particular needs by guiding companies in product development, sales and marketing.
For instance, a garment manufacturer can produce clothes by focus on varied needs of different consumption levels. Lower income population pay more attention to the physiological needs such as be protected from the environment while higher income population want to pursue their self-actualization needs by wearing luxuriant and expensive clothes. The manufacturers can produce attractive goods and break new markets through the help of Maslow’s theory (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs & Business Strategy, 2003).
To sum up, using Maslow’s theory as way of understanding employee motivation in contemporary Chinese business is unsuitable. Maslow’s hierarchy is set up in the period when the essence of the American culture focuses on individual achievement. Obviously it stresses on the growth throughout lifestyle and emphasis on the career opportunities in the U. S. society. Nevertheless, the U. S. is an individualism society as well as China is a collectivistic society. The course China develops influences the attitude and motivation of Chinese business employees.
Moreover, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is also out of time. In terms of understanding employee motivation in contemporary Chinese business, the companies should choose a tool which is built and developed based on the researches of the up-to-date Chinese society. In addition, the breadth and profundity of the researches is linchpin, too. Especially, the employers should also pay attention that the money is not what the employees most desire things; environment and giving enough emphasis to the employees are more effective than only giving them money.