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As described in the Lesson 1 Commentary, motivation is the key to understanding behavior in the workplace. Motivation can be intrinsic or extrinsic, and these describe in which way someone is motivated. They can be motivated by internal factors, or external factors. Integrating arousal, direction, intensity and persistence creates a comprehensive understanding of motivation. These align in a proceeding fashion to fully detail what encompasses motivation. Human needs that one has not yet achieved motivate a person to engage in behaviors that will meet the unfulfilled need ( Lesson 1: Introduction to Work Motivation, 2013). Many Needs theories have been presented to examine how people fulfill their unmet needs, all of which initially include being motivated to want something. In the case presented below, the subject is motivated to fulfill certain needs, and by relating a particular Needs Theory, concepts can be applied directly to this case.

Case Description:

John is a recently retired Navy pilot who flew F/A-18 jets for 20 years. He has a good paying military pension, but it is not quite enough to live in San Diego, California with wife, a family of three kids, and an expensive mortgage. He feels he is too young to fully retire at the age of 42, so he has begun to search for pilot jobs. The main question John has been thinking about is if he should work for a company with a union, like Southwest Airlines, or United Airlines, or should he try to work for a corporate company without a union. A corporate finance company called Group C Solutions that has branches in San Diego and in San Francisco has offered John a job to fly corporate jets that routinely transport the employees of the company back and forth from the two branches. This non-union company offered John $85,000 a year. United Airlines also offered John a job with similar pay, but it is a union job, and the nearest place he can fly out of is Los Angeles, so there is commute. He will also be required to fly all over the country, and overseas as well. Group C Solutions has set hours, and easier flights, but United Airlines has many union benefits. John now has to choose between joining a unionized or nonunionized company.

Applying Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

In making a decision of why one should join a union, one can examine a particular Need’s Theory, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. These needs are ordered in a hierarchal fashion also called fulfillment progression, where needs at the bottom must be met before attaining other needs. The basic-level needs include physiological, and safety needs. Physiological needs are needs like water, air, and food, and safety needs include needs for self-preservation, a safe environment, and protection from physical danger and threat (Lesson 2: Need theories, 2013). A recent study done in the field of labor relations shows that the median yearly earnings for all unionized workers in the United States is around $41,000, whereas the median yearly earnings for non-unionized employees nationwide is considerably less at $32,000. The average pay of unionized car companies General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler employees almost doubled what the average non-unionized U.S. worker got paid in 2008 (Sloane & Witney, p. 22, 2009). This factor that the average union employee earns more money, seems like an attractive part of joining a union.

In John’s case, the first step to examine is the safety need. Pilot unions are primarily dedicated to safety. Managers of a non-unionized corporate company like Group C Solutions or a unionized company like United Airlines both still focus on cost reduction and revenue generation (Boyne, 2013). Unions act as a counterbalance and represent the union employees in any issue that involves safety, providing a sense of protection for employees and provides “assurance against arbitrary management actions” (Sloane & Witney, p. 22, 2009). Union members are always able to have union representatives council them or be present in management and employee meetings. In an interview with Dr. Matthew Boyne, a pilot union member, and a professor of Leadership Management and Workplace Management, maintains that the union he belongs to, the Airline Pilot Association Union addresses the basic order need of safety by inserting regulations and rules such as pilots can only fly certain hours a week, and cannot fly when severely fatigued (Boyne, 2013). Boyne asserts that the union first and foremost looks after the pilot's safety. 

The first level of the higher-order needs is the need of esteem. Esteem involves needs for friendship, companionship, and acceptance (Lesson 2: Need theories, 2013). Unions fulfill this need in that employees can relate to each other through their union. Unions offer opportunities for adult education and continuous personal growth. Every union has a trade journal or literature that presents the news of the trade and helps the members to keep in touch with industrial and social development. The union constitutes the agency through which the American Federation of Labor seeks to provide information and educational opportunity (Green, 1926).  Unions provide a means for being promoted or taking on a new job through a bidding process. They can also be politically involved in their union and help make union decisions that directly affect them. In the Airline Pilot Association Union, the union provides monthly social gatherings where union members can bond and socialize. The union provides a common denominator where all members can relate to a profession (Boyne, 2013). Many union members, and pilots in particular share similar backgrounds and experiences and share a sense of group companionship, and every union has a union hall, which gives members a place to engage in the union.

The second level of the higher order needs is the need of esteem. This need can be described as recognition, appreciation, and respect (Lesson 2: Need theories, 2013).  Union members fulfill this need by being able to be actively involved in the policies and politics of a union. Unions have committees, leadership councils, and presidents, and many people can gain recognition through these union positions. Becoming a union officer is the first step towards working one’s way into a paid officer position where officers can “acquire prestige and status in the company and in the community” (Sloane & Witney, p. 176, 2009). Union members such as firefighters, police officers and pilots can also be recognized and appreciated for their professions, which many people feel is an honor.

The need at the top of the hierarchy is the need of self-actualization. Maslow describes this need as "the desire to become . . . everything that one is capable of becoming" (Lesson 2: Need theories, 2013). Boyne describes this has having a sense of autonomy, and being able to master skills with a sense of purpose (Boyne, 2013). Boyne went on to explain that his union stresses these values of being the best pilot they can be and to strive to become better. This need stimulates great satisfaction, and can never be fully satisfied.


There are many positive qualities about joining a union, which include statistically better pay, job security, union representation, bargaining contracts, companionship, activism in politics, recognition, and often times prestige. All of these qualities are factors that make people want to join unions, and according to recent polls, over 53% of people under the age of 35 would join a union if given the choice (Sloane & Witney, p. 22, 2009). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can be applied to this issue to directly show the correlation between a unionized job and a need fulfilled worker. 

Listen to the interview with Dr. Matthew Boyne about Maslow's Hierarchy of Need's Theory here:


Boyne, Dr. (2013, September 11). Interview by C. Boyne. Interview with dr. matthew boyne about maslow's hierarchy of needs., Retrieved from

Green, W. (1926). Why belong to the union?. Opportunity, 4(38), 61. Retrieved from

Lesson 1: Introduction to Work Motivation (2013). Psychology 484: Work Attitudes and Motivation, Pennsylvania State University, Retrieved from

Lesson 2: Need theories. (2013). Psychology 484: Work Attitudes and Motivation, Pennsylvania State University, Retrieved from

Sloane, A., & Witney, F. (2009). Labor relations. (13 ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson College Div.

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