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Moral Principles in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Analytical Overview

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Maslow laid out. As someone who was trying to inspire people towards revolution, Karl Marx fought against the fact that religion made people more content with less basic needs. To him, humans who believed in religion acted ‘backward’. In fact, a preliminary evaluation of Maslow’s Hierarchy as applied to religion would lead the average observer to also think that religious people acted backward when compared to Maslow’s theory. It is only by doing the mental gymnastics in the previous paragraph that one is able to reconcile religion and Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. In the grand scheme of things, all the theories of motivation discussed are elementary and redundant at best, but misleading at worst. The theories all point to basic human motivation on a superficial level, but fail to get anywhere close to the core truth that all human beings are unique and nuanced. The theories only point to select variables and ignore everything that makes us human. They reduce the employee to his animal form. Only Maslow touched on the higher motivations, and even so, he said that they were only unlocked once the animal motivations were met. However; Karl Marx’s own admissions on religion reveal that the higher motivations can still be unlocked before fulfilling the more basic ones. This means that religion is one of the most powerful motivators and has the power to trump any basic motivator. As such, religion is a vital component of individuals that companies should fully utilize to effectively motivate their employees. When a company is able to truly unluck the whole employee, then they will enjoy an invigorated and motivated employee.

There are other ways a business can look after an individual, and in turn, look after themselves. Improving the employees’ work environment has been shown to improve productivity. Opperman (2002) categorizes the work environment into three groups: the technical environment, the human environment, and the organizational environment. The technical environment is everything physical about an employee’s workspace. The human environment encompasses all the individuals who interact and work with the employee. The organizational environment is made up of the methods and values the business uses to achieve its goals. Certain changes to either three of these environments can have surprising effects. One study showed that productivity increased when a plant was added to an individual’s workspace ( Nieuwenhuis, Knight, Postmes & Haslam, 2014). This shows employees are not machines, they are human. If you put a plant next to a machine, its productivity would not change. Only a human being, with a soul, can appreciate the immaterial beauty of a plant. Secularism cannot explain this. The beauty of the plant inspires the soul and therefore improves productivity. The soul can be inspired even more so with religion. If the same holds true as in the experiment with the plant, then it should stand to reason that the worker should be even more productive with a religious work environment. It is for this reason that religion should not just be tolerated, but nurtured and encouraged in business.

One main idea that has appeared in the attempt to secularize business is the privatization of religion. This is the concept that one’s work life and private life are separate, and should not be intertwined. It is applied most commonly within the scope of religion, in order to prevent employees from bringing their personal religious beliefs into the workplace. This concept ignores a historical reality, which only recently has changed. You work while you live and live while you work. In the past, a person’s occupation consisted of getting up and working on his farm. The farmer’s job was to make a living for himself. Who this person was, what he valued, and how he chose to do things did not change just because he decided to do a few chores around his home. With job specialization, this fact didn’t change. Instead of doing all the chores, he focused on what he was good at. He milked his many cows and gave some milk to his neighbor in exchange for the fruits and vegetables the neighbor had picked in his large garden. At some point, the idea that work became separate from living appeared. This is probably due to the assembly line work culture of the industrial revolution. The works of Taylor (1911), asserted that the average worker, when left to his own devices, would slack off unless he was motivated by money and monitored closely. To maximize productivity, the jobs of the workers should be broken down into simple tasks that could be done by anyone. Workers then should be all trained to repeat these tasks in a standard way.

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This approach completely ignored the individuality of the employee, it turned them into a machine. The dehumanization of the worker, all in the name of productivity. The privatization of religion denies the importance of work. It claims by what it does, that the purpose of working is solely to make money. By separating religion from business, it is also separating any motivations a human being might have to work other than those of a purely material origin. Its basis is incredibly wrong, and the effects of the privatization of religion will continue to put the individual at a disadvantage and unfulfilled in the business world. THE BUSINESS Religion in the workplace should be encouraged on an individual level because it benefits the individual, and therefore the business. But a business should also encourage religion in itself as well. This will not only help employees feel purposeful at work, but it will also endear the business to its consumers. To be clear, it is not necessary for a business to subscribe to a particular religion like it would be for an individual, but rather, it is important that a business adheres to an unwavering set of moral principles. These principles can be selected at random in theory, however, selecting a particular religious worldview lends itself to greater consistency, appeal, and foundation. Furthermore, businesses are not impersonal entities but are comprised of human beings that own it. It is only fitting that the religion of the owner be reflected in their own business. Businesses should not shy away from displaying their moral principles so they may receive the benefits that a purpose-driven business has. Businesses that are able to capture a strong moral principle are much more likely to succeed. In Simon Sinek’s book, “Start with Why,” he codifies how businesses and leaders attract consumers with their core values. In it, Sinek, (2009) outlines how human beings think about products in ‘What’, ‘How’, and ‘Why’ terms.

In a fashion reminiscent of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, he draws circles with ‘Why’ being the smallest circle and ‘What’ being the largest circle encompassing the other two. He says that most people tend to think and communicate by going outside in, starting with ‘What’, moving to ‘How’, and then lastly explaining ‘Why’. However, Sinek says that great businesses and leaders do the opposite and start with ‘Why’. When Sinek asks what the ‘Why’ of a business is, he clarifies that it is certainly not “to make money”. That is a result, not a purpose. Customers want to know why your organization exists. Many different companies will attempt to answer this question with a nice little story about how their founder started from nothing in order to found the first restaurant in 1908 with a grill and a dream… or something along those lines. This works to answer the question ‘Why,’ but it is a mere shadow of what typically sparks a successful business. Great businesses will inspire with a set of strong moral principles that garner public trust that a business is more than just a capitalistic soulless corporation. Chick-fil-A is a perfect example of a business that has a very clear and defined core set of moral principles. According to Business Insider, Chick-fil-A loses an estimated 1 billion dollars in sales every year by not being open on Sundays. (Taylor, 2019). However, this defining trademark of the company arguably helped launch this company forward. It generates goodwill and endears customers because they feel as though the workers get treated well by always having at least one weekend day off. Additionally, customers subconsciously humanize the business more because it actively cuts profits in order to do something very human: strictly observing a religious obligation.

Another big part of this set of moral principles is that it is consistent with itself. The company goes through extra effort in order to train their employees to always serve with a smile and with their, now signature, “my pleasure”. The real trial of this whole theory came about when the owner was asked about gay marriage during a time when public opinion was changing to be in support of it. Anyone would expect an owner that closes his restaurants on Sundays to not waver on the traditional definition. But the expected fallout from the interview actually turned into several record-breaking days in the fast food industry. Companies on the opposite side of the moral spectrum, like Starbucks and Nike, also enjoy business success by holding to steadfast moral principles. Although Nike was supposed to take a hit after their signing with a controversial figure, Colin Kaepernick, their stock rebounded and the company thrived for taking a stand as shown in Figure 2. Figure 2. Nike Inc., Sept. 4, 2018, to Sept. 11, 2018. This figure illustrates Nike Inc’s stock prices after the company released a controversial advertisement depicting C. Kaepernick (Martin, 2018) Businesses can enjoy success by adopting strong guiding moral principles, however, this strategy can severely backfire if those principles are random and do not find consistency. Take the case of the infamous Gillette ad. Gillette attempted to ride a wave of public approval by supporting the #MeToo movement with their video “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be”.

This politically and socially driven ad received the intended effect at first, but then, people scoured the internet and found an image of scantily clad women in Gillette outfits posing for the company. The hypocrisy between the ad was immediately spread and what was originally a stunt intended to achieve the same results Nike saw; had instead turned into a public relations nightmare (Smith, 2019). This originally all stemmed from the fact that Gillette never had a consistent core of moral principles guiding the company. So, when they were caught and called out for it, it became clear to the consumers, that Gillette was only trying to get an angle on more free publicity. Rather than humanize the business, it further alienated it as a brand. Business in America that ignores the societal need for moral principles can also be negatively affected by society in the form of government. If society believes a business is not acting ethically, society will lose confidence in that business’s ability to act in the best interest of others. It will use the government to regulate the business and pass laws that ensure the moral principle that they ascribe to is enforced. “The dangers to business from loss of public confidence are illustrated by the experience of certain Latin-American countries (notably Chile) in which inflation has run wild, in part because of unfavorable “welfare” programs and severe restrictions on business enterprise” (Worthy, 1958) CONCLUSION: Business and religion are both an integral part of the human experience. Religion is how the soul communes with its Creator and Business is a representation of work, where the soul glorifies the Creator by enhancing His creation. To separate these core aspects of human nature is to separate the soul. Especially in America, where Secularism was resisted, the privatization of religion in the American workplace is a crisis that harms both the employee and the business. Secularism attempted to separate man from the need for God, but all it did was a separate man from morality, purpose, and fulfilling life.


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