This article explains the ERG Theory by Clayton Alderfer in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful motivation theory.
Many academics have examined various theories with respect to satisfying needs and motivation. The American psychologist Clayton Alderfer has taken Maslow ’s Hierarchy of Needs as a basis and has expanded on this in the ERG Theory.
Contrary to Abraham Maslow ’s reasoning, Clayton Alderfer thinks that it is possible for people to regress down to a lower level even though their needs in this level have been satisfied before. From this level people can climb to a higher level again.
What is the ERG theory?
Hence, the ERG theory:
To exist, every individual needs extrinsic values such as food, drink, warmth and love. Clayton Alderfer thinks these Existence Needs are obvious and that they form the basis for human existence.
The Relatedness Needs focus on relatedness needs. Humans are social animals and need appreciation from the people directly involved in their lives such as family, friends, colleagues and employers. The Relatedness Needs relate with Abraham Maslow’s social needs and external self-esteem needs. Interpersonal relationships are important for a person’s social status and interaction with other people.
With Growth Needs, Clayton Alderfer focuses on the need of people to grown and develop themselves. The Growth Needs correspond with the fifth level of Maslow ’s Hierarchy of Needs that correspond with self-actualization needs. For the inner self-esteem it is important for people to grow as a person.
Contrary to Maslow’s theory, according to Clayton Alderfer ‘s ERG theory, different needs categories can be satisfied simultaneously. Therefore, the necessary order as proposed by Abraham Maslow no longer applies. When managers motivate their employees, they their employees’ various needs into account and they should satisfy these simultaneously.
Within de ERG theory, Clayton Alderfer describes a frustration-regression hypothesis. Except for growth (progression), people can indeed regress down (regression) to a lower needs category that has been largely satisfied. When someone’s needs in a higher category cannot be satisfied, Clayton Alderfer claims that they will focus on related needs in a lower needs category. If they cannot realize the Growth Needs by means of self-enrichment, this person will do anything to satisfy their Relatedness Needs. They will fully devote themselves to establishing their relationships with people in their environment.
It’s Your Turn
What do you think? Do you recognize the practical explanation about the ERG theory or do you have more additions? Is this motivation theory still applicable in today’s world? What tips can you give on motivation and the practical explanation about the ERG theory?
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.
- Alderfer, C. P. (1969). An empirical test of a new theory of human needs. Organizational behavior and human performance, 4(2), 142-175.
- Alderfer, C. P. (1977). A critique of Salancik and Pfeffer’s examination of need-satisfaction theories. Administrative Science Quarterly, 658-669.
- Ivancevich, J. M., Matteson, M. T., & Konopaske, R. (1990). Organizational behavior and management. Bpi/Irwin.
- Schneider, B., & Alderfer, C. P. (1973). Three studies of measures of need satisfaction in organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 489-505.
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