Why Developers Satisfy Their Needs to the Full?

A Detailed Analysis of How Developers Become Happy According to the Most Famous Theories of Needs

Once after a long working day, a thought came to my mind. Well, it was more like a question — “What am I working for?” Most of you would immediately say that it obvious — for the sake of money so you could provide a better life for yourself and your family. Yes, it’s true. But is that all? What drives us? What do we actually need? A bunch of questions came up at once. Therefore, I decided to do a research and found a lot of interesting reading. Let’s look through it!

What are you working for?

Work is money or something more than that. Why is this article not “something about motivation”? It is more about motivation and stimulating vs. the common sense of an adult who is aware of his needs.

The first answer that comes to mind is “for the sake of money.” But what is money? In modern microeconomics, it is customary to allocate at least 3 functions of money related to each specific subject (in our case, to a working person):

  • a measure of value
  • means of accumulation
  • means of payment

Money as a means of circulation and a function of so-called “world money” is fading into the background. Ultimately, the money is called upon to be exchanged for specific goods and services that meet the various needs of the individual and his family.

As for me, I once considered an acceptable point of view that the work (or rather, even say “any activity”) at any given time should bring either money or pleasure. Both is way better! But taking into account the above-mentioned calling of money, it turns out that the ultimate goal of the human activity is pleasure. Which can be defined as the state of maximum satisfaction of a wide range of needs (which we will discuss below). Thus, money is only an intermediate stage on the way to this very pleasure. So, in the end, I came to the desire to maximize the pleasure derived from any of my activities in general and work in particular.

Lyrical digression. Thinking about the needs and the role of work in their satisfaction, in the modern science of personnel management, the concepts of “stimulation and motivation” are often used as ways of external influence on the behavior of a particular employee. What will be discussed next is often classified as internal motivation (or self-motivation), but personally I believe that it is more likely to be called “common sense”, which should be inherent in every individual at that stage in the life path when he embarks on a professional activity.

What about the needs? A professional look.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Well, let’s get down to the needs. What are they like? How do they relate to each other? What do you need to satisfy them? And the first model (as well as the most common one) is the so-called “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs”. Perhaps you’ve met it in both comic

… and real versions.

Abraham Maslow (1908–1970, psychologist) believed that needs can be divided into five main categories:

  • Physiological: hunger, thirst, sexual desire, etc.
  • Security: comfort, the permanence of living conditions.
  • Social: social connections, communication, affection, caring for others and attention to oneself, joint activities.
  • Prestigious: self-esteem, respect from others, recognition, achievement of success and appreciation, career growth.
  • Spiritual: cognition, self-actualization, self-expression, self-identification.

There is also a more detailed classification where the 5th level is divided into 3 more:

  • Cognitive needs: to know, be able, explore.
  • Aesthetic needs: harmony, order, beauty.
  • The need for self-actualization: fulfilling one’s purposes, abilities, the development of one’s own personality.

Alderfer’s theory of needs

Alderfer (1940–2015) agrees with the Maslow theory. According to Alderfer, people care about three needs:

  • existence
  • relatedness
  • growth

He claimed that these three needs are similar to the needs identified by Maslow. The need to exist is identical to a physiological need. The need to communicate with others is a social need. The need for growth is the need for self-realization and respect.

Clayton Alderfer argued that the needs you have today can remain unsatisfied for many years. As the time passes, you can change them to new ones. As a young man, a person may aspire to become a company president. In adulthood, he may no longer want to become a president, because it would take away too much of his life. And this is a different view of human needs.

Alderfer tried to establish a connection between satisfaction of needs and their activation.Thus, he defined the following 7 principles:

  • The fewer existence needs are satisfied, the more they will be desired.
  • When both existence and relatedness needs are relatively dissatisfied, then the fewer relatedness needs are satisfied, the more existence needs will be desired.
  • The more existence needs are satisfied, the bigger relatedness needs will be.
  • When relatedness needs are relatively dissatisfied, then the fewer relatedness needs are satisfied, the more they will be desired; when relatedness needs are relatively satisfied, then the more relatedness needs are satisfied, the more they will be desired.
  • The fewer growth needs are satisfied; the more relatedness needs will be desired.
  • The more relatedness needs are satisfied; the more growth needs will be desired.
  • When growth needs are relatively dissatisfied, then the fewer growth needs are satisfied, the more they will be desired; when growth needs are relatively satisfied, then the more growth needs are satisfied, the more they will be desired.

Thus, Alderfer showed that the order of needs actualization may be different than indicated by Maslow. It can depend not only on its place in the hierarchy but on the degree of satisfaction of both this need and some other needs.

The theory of Alderfer has a fundamental difference from the Maslow theory — movement along the hierarchy can be carried out from the bottom up or from the top down if the higher level requirement is not met. From the need to exist you can go to the need for communication. But your career growth can slow down, and instead of striving for growth through the ranks, you will be interested in relationships with people.

From needs to happiness

The question of happiness is one of the most difficult in many sciences — philosophy, psychology, economics. In short, you can determine happiness as the state of the maximum match of the expected level of satisfaction with the actual needs (“want to eat pizza — buy and eat”, “fell in love — date — get married”, “have a task — do it — received reward and recognition”).

Speaking about the aspects of happiness, there is an amusing correlation between the often mentioned “Friends — Family — Work” model in the so-called socialist societies and the “Power — Sex — Money” model attributed to capitalist societies.

The desire to be happy with the satisfaction of the needs of different levels finds its indirect confirmation in other spheres of life. For example, in religion. It is possible to treat the definition of the so-called mortal sins differently. That’s just a way to limit excessive satisfaction of the lower levels needs at the expense of going to a higher, spiritual level. This approach is designed to influence the broad masses of people that do not require proof. Thus, the sins are:

  • pride is an excessive belief in own abilities
  • envy is a desire to have someone’s qualities, status, opportunities or situation
  • anger is a strong outrage, resentment opposed to love
  • laziness is an avoidance of physical and spiritual work
  • greed is a desire of material wealth, greed for profit, ignoring the spiritual
  • gluttony is an unrestrained desire to consume more than is required
  • lust is a passionate desire for carnal pleasures

How do the marketers use our desire to satisfy needs?

On the contrary, marketers of all colors are not interested in limiting the consumption of products and services in the process of satisfying the needs. Such slogans and techniques are the proof:

  • “You’re not you when you’re hungry” (Snickers)
  • “Obey your thirst” (Sprite)
  • “Let the whole world wait” (Danissimo)

Also, they do not shy away from trying to convince a person that buying a particular product can meet the needs of a higher level. For example, the so-called selling the status. Declaring that “the use of the needs’ hierarchy does not work in marketing,” marketing experts are cheating. Thus, they confirm that consumption at the lower levels is limited. They only need to convince the individual by information influence that some product will bring pleasure at some higher level. It’s enough to look at the typical image of an advertising family or friends in the commercials. You buy not just washing powder, thus you care about children that play football and have smeared their uniform. Not just a bottle of alcohol, but a whole party with friends! Not a sports uniform and sneakers, but a whole lifestyle of a healthy and self-confident person. Even the advertising of a well-known drug, aimed to overcome the effects of overeating, actually stimulates excessive consumption. So that later you would buy even more of this medicine.

Where would such companies as Adidas, Nike and Apple be, if they did not create these images and did not use them to full, saturating the life of a person with a whole range of products, suggesting a bidirectional connection — “choosing an advertising style of life, you choose products of certain company” and “choosing the company’s products you get a drawn lifestyle as a bonus”.

So how do developers satisfy their needs?

Okay, let’s get back to the question: “What are we working for?”

Now that we know what range of needs can and should be “closed” (I hope, no one is against this word from the lexicon of developers — by analogy with the “task closing”). The answer to this question becomes more clear and detailed. Since work is the place where at least a third or even a half of our life passes (if we drop the time of sleep, which is at the first level of needs). Then it is the place to strive to make the most of it at almost all levels of needs. Let’s look how it works in our company! Level by level.

Physiological. A kitchen with a refrigerator, microwave, kettle and coffee machine are always at our service + all kinds of features. After all, a WC. Therefore, this level is “closed”. Let’s move on to the next one!

Safety, confidence, and comfort. A clear schedule, appropriate technical and ergonomic provision of the workplace is designed to solve this issue. So you can easily stay focused and do your job! Isn’t it what we are looking for?

Communication, attention, and support. It is much easier to get this in a large team of specialists than working alone or in a company whose main activity is not development. Why? Because programming is a challenge! Very often, you need to develop a feature that you’ve never developed before. Your colleagues are always ready to help you with an advice or even a code sample. That’s how it works here!

The need for respect and recognition. Who if not other people with a relevant competence to assess the quality and results of your work, are able to “close” this need? The question is rhetorical.

Cognitive needs, creativity, creation. The search for a solution (both ready and new), the desire to tie the stack of different technologies together, the constant development of something new. Where else can you find it all on this scale? It’s all about the development!

Aesthetic needs, harmony, order. Here is the advice: write beautiful code. Both from the design point of view according to the standards (in PHP this is the so-called PSR — PHP Standards Recommendations) and architecturally. Accumulate experience in assessing the time of assignments and do not expose yourself to the Damocles sword of deadlines. In the end, don’t be lazy — be sure to create a description in the commits and stick to Git Flow. It will be pleasant to work with the result of your work for you personally. Moreover, it won’t be a shame to show it to colleagues or successors. Here’s how you can satisfy this need!

Only the last, the highest level (the need for self-actualization, the realization of your goals, abilities, and the development of your own personality) is too individual to recommend anything to achieve it. That’s why it is called an ideal! It is worth striving it making an effort each day. So it’s up to you!


I would be happy if this article, even at the slightest, helped you to understand the role of human activities in general and specific work in particular on the way of each of you to happiness. After all, so often holding all the cards to win, we do not know the rules of the game. Thank you for your attention and have a good life!

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