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  • Writer's picturePaul DeChant MD, MBA

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Maslach & Leiter's Drivers of Burnout

Updated: May 24, 2021

I delight in finding correlations between seemingly unrelated things. It’s in those unexpected moments of discover that I feel those little pings of “happiness chemicals” that Simon Sinek refers to in his work.

When these correlations speak to deeper truths, all the better.

One such correlation is the connection between Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Maslach’s Drivers of Burnout. Neither has proven scientific basis, and yet both speak to deep human challenges.

Abraham Maslow’s theory states that humans have five ascending needs to achieve self-fulfillment, represented as a triangle with the basic needs at the bottom, and higher needs built on top of the level below.

Maslach & Leiter's model of the six drivers of burnout explains the root cause of the manifestations of burnout – exhaustion, cynicism, and sense of inefficacy – that keep us from achieving professional fulfillment.

This table demonstrates correlation between Maslow’s hierarchy and Maslach & Leiter's drivers:

While the correlations aren’t perfectly aligned, the trends are clear:

  • When we are overloaded with work, we have little time to care for ourselves

  • When we lack control over our work and environment, our safety is at risk

  • When our community breaks down, we lose our sense of belonging

  • When we are not recognized (rewarded) properly or treated fairly, our esteem suffers

  • When our values are in conflict with the organization we work within, we struggle to achieve professional fulfillment.

Understanding these connections can help us to think more carefully about the many impacts our actions have on colleagues and on those we lead.

If you would like to learn more about this, feel free to reach out to me at


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