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  • Writer's pictureMike Gill

Hello, fellow seekers of workplace wisdom! Today, we embark on a journey of amusement and curiosity as we delve into the magical realm of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and its compatibility with the modern workplace. But hold on tight because we’re not stopping at just any workplace. We’re diving headfirst into the thrilling world of the UK’s domestic public service reform agenda. So, grab your tea, buckle up, and let’s uncover the comedic complexities of Maslow’s pyramid within the bureaucratic labyrinth of public service.

Level 1: Physiological Needs - A Nation Powered by Tea

In the glorious mixed-up realm that makes up the UK’s public service, the foundation of Maslow’s hierarchy manifests in the historically sacred act of tea breaks. Ah, the soothing elixir that (pre-Friends!) sustained the nation’s workforce! A warm cuppa becomes a lifeline, fuelling productivity, camaraderie, and a shared love for biscuits. Yes, dear readers, in the pursuit of reform, ensuring a constant supply of tea, milk, and the occasional hobnob is paramount. For it is through the power of tea that our public servants find the strength to conquer never-ending systems, process changes, and endure the occasional monotonous meeting.

Level 2: Safety Needs - A Dance with Health and Safety

Oh, the thrilling dance between citizens and health and safety regulations. The office becomes a playground of hazards, from errant cables to mysterious wet floor signs. But fear not, safety is a top priority. Weaving through the maze of regulations, colleagues with a special interest in all matter health and safety master the art of avoiding paper cuts and navigating treacherous stairwells. Let us celebrate this careful tango with ergonomic chairs, bright yellow hazard signs, and the occasional fire drill that leaves us all pondering the true meaning of “efficient evacuation.”

Level 3: Social Belongingness – Office Rituals

Like the rest of us, public servants find solace in the lunchtime ritual. Behold the distant memory of a bustling canteen, where various huddles gathered to share stories of office politics, the elusive mysteries of the combined photocopier/printer/scanner. And even the occasional office romance. Yes, dear readers, that sense of belongingness was paramount. But no more. Working at home video, an abundance of austerity and the rise of the fast-food emporium (for those lucky enough to have a desk) has put pay to the communal lunch. And even real and virtual coffee breaks and the occasional gossip session have gone. Lock down has gone and so has the sense of comradery. Bonds and alliances used to form alliances that once rivalled the grandeur of Game of Thrones. So, let us toast to lost unity, lost friendship, and the rejoice in our joy of finding colleagues who share our peculiar taste in meme culture.

Level 4: Esteem Needs - Badges, Praise, and the Quest for Recognition

Ah, the desire for recognition and respect, where those delivering our public services sought the elusive treasure of praise and affirmation. Let us unleash the power of the badge! Yes, deities of policy and strategy, grant our public servants appropriate emblems of achievement, for what better way to foster self-esteem than with an enamel pin? But, oh, let us not forget the power of genuine public appreciation and acknowledgment. Public servants yearn for validation that extends beyond the shiny pins and dives deep into the realm of sincere recognition for their hard work, dedication, and unwavering commitment to serving the nation.

Level 5: Self-Actualisation - The Quest for Bureaucratic Brilliance

And finally, we ascend to the pinnacle of Maslow’s pyramid: self-actualisation. Within the public service, this used to manifest as the pursuit of bureaucratic brilliance. Ah, the art of navigating complex systems, mastering intricate forms, and finding innovative solutions to bureaucratic challenges. Question do we provide our public servants with the freedom to unleash their creativity, to challenge the status quo, and to explore unconventional paths that lead to true transformation? Remember too that it is within the realm of self-actualisation that public service reform blooms, and our public service friends and family members become the unsung heroes of bureaucratic innovation.


In the whimsical world of our domestic public service reform agenda, Maslow's hierarchy of needs finds its place in today’s working environment. It is not dead. It is merely resting. Pondering how it can best do what it has always done well. So, let us celebrate the quirks and triumphs of the modern public workplace as we celebrate the genius that so long ago, created such an enduring single graphic.


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