Pharmacy management would do well to remember Maslow’s theory

Having taught pharmacy management at University College London School of Pharmacy for some years with occasional sessions at the King’s College London and University of East Anglia schools, I was delighted to note Parastou Donyai’s mention of Abraham Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ (‘Are we self-actualising in pharmacy‘, The Pharmaceutical Journal online, 29 February 2024).

I always shared with my students the apparent simplicity of Maslow’s theory and, of course, its limitations as applied to community pharmacists as well as to their staff.

In order to achieve self-actualisation — which I interpret as enjoying a state where the individual is pretty satisfied with the position he or she has achieved professionally — community pharmacists (at least superficially) have the potential to race up to the top of the pyramid.

Their physiological needs are met with a reasonable salary.

Their safety needs are met by saving for a pension.

Their social needs are met by meeting a partner or getting involved in an organisation or taking up a hobby.

Their esteem or ego needs are met by the respect they get from their patients.

Community pharmacists can become self-actualised after quite a short time post qualification, although we can all move down again as our personal circumstances change. One example would be when two salaries reduce to one when a career break is taken: the physiological needs are temporarily not met.

It is generally thought that Maslow stops too soon, meaning that what shall we do next after attaining self-actualisation?

I used to give The Beatles as an example. They reached the top of the pyramid very quickly and sought advice from a guru in India, undertaking transcendental meditation.

Pharmacists reaching the top of their branch of the profession might easily think “what next for me?”. They may need counselling, coaching or mentoring. As a result, they may leave or move to another branch of the profession.

Maslow’s theory can also be used by community pharmacists to identify why their staff are under-performing. Perhaps their physiological needs are not being met so perhaps a rise or bonus would be appropriate? Perhaps their ego needs are not being met so perhaps a promotion with a small rise and a new name badge might do the trick.

Maslow’s usefulness is unending and the five words naming the five needs is all one needs to remember this management tool.

Barry Shooter FRPharmS, Bushey, Hertfordshire

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, March 2024, Vol 312, No 7983;312(7983)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.269562

1 comment

  • Parastou Donyai

    Dear Barry - this is a great letter. Many thanks for reading my blog post from February and taking the time to elaborate on your own experience and insightful views here. All the best, Parastou


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