Maslow’s satisfiers and hygiene factors – a primer for general counsel

Years ago, a sociologist, Abraham Maslow, constructed a taxonomy of human needs. Maslow labeled some of those needs – such as for status, security, work conditions, and supervision – as “hygiene factors.” Hygiene factors are necessary for people’s contentment, but once met, they don’t add additional units of satisfaction. Having washed your hands, doing so again right away doesn’t make your day.

Higher up the scale of human needs are Maslow’s “satisfiers.” Satisfiers include advancement, responsibility, the work itself, recognition and achievement. Satisfiers are the higher-level gratifiers of a person’s life. Unlike hygiene factors, satisfier needs are never satiated; they always motivate people, especially professionals.

In-house counsel, as professionals with extensive training and an inculcated creed, want to become better at their craft. They like the pat on the back from their colleagues and flourish in autonomy and task accomplishment. For managers of corporate lawyers, Maslow’s hierarchy gives useful insights in several areas of talent management.

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