Is Greed Harmful?

Is Greed Harmful?

Is Greed Harmful?

On one hand, greed is linked to wanting more and more no matter how much you already have, on the other hand, it’s also what pushes people to perform better and run their own businesses, which benefits organisations and often allows us to progress as a society.  

What Is Greed?

Greed refers to an intense desire for material goods, power, and status and its main aim is to maximise your own interest.

Two Sides of Greed

The word itself has a negative connotation – it’s associated with harmful behaviours such as cheating or manipulation and neglecting other aspects of one’s life. For example, a rich person who wants to become even wealthier and pursues that goal might have no time to spend with their family. Greed is also harmful because it prevents us from focussing on other essential needs that we have to meet.

According to Abraham Maslow, all people have the same needs that are hierarchised. On the top of the pyramid, there’s the need for development and creativity that allows people to feel fulfilled. Below there’s ego, which is the need for self-esteem, power, recognition, and prestige. The third most important need is the need for being loved, included, and belong.

The fourth one is the need for safety and security. At the bottom, there are physical needs: the need for food, water, rest, and health. The top level of the pyramid is called self-actualization because it allows us to reach our full potential, while the other four levels are known as deficiency needs because meeting them doesn’t bring fulfillment and is just a step towards a higher level. The problem with greed is that it traps us in these lower categories and we can’t advance to the final level of the pyramid.

Greed is also seen as a type of addiction. According to a psychologist, Leon F. Seltzer, who wrote an article for Psychology Today,  many people pursue wealth in an attempt to receive gratification, and the more they have, the more they want. [1] Since the mechanism behind it is similar to how addiction works, such people will need to make more money over time to enjoy the same dopamine high.

According to the author, greedy individuals tend to have low self-esteem and believe that getting rich will make them feel good enough.  

On the other hand, greed is also associated with wanting to acquire high social status and those with a stronger need for social status have been found to display better job performance and be more likely to help others. In some cases, greed could serve as a motivation to work harder. [2]

To sum up, greed might harm the individual but can be beneficial for organisations as long as they know how to channel their employees’ energy in the right way. 

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