The ERG Theory of Clayton P. Alderfer
is a model that appeared in 1969 in a Psychological Review article
entitled "An Empirical Test of a New Theory of Human Need". In a
reaction to Maslow's famous
Hierarchy of Needs, Alderfer distinguishes three categories of human
needs that influence worker’s behavior; existence, relatedness and
These ERG Theory categories
- Existence Needs:
physiological and safety needs (such as hunger, thirst and sex)(Maslow's first two levels)
- Relatedness Needs:
social and external esteem (involvement
with family, friends, co-workers and employers)(Maslow's
third and fourth levels)
- Growth Needs: internal esteem
and self actualization (desires
to be creative, productive and to complete meaningful tasks)(Maslow's fourth and fifth levels)
Contrarily to Maslow's idea that access
to the higher levels of his pyramid required satisfaction in the lower
level needs, according to Alderfer the three ERG areas are not
stepped in any way.
ERG Theory recognizes that the order
of importance of the three Categories may vary for each individual.
Managers must recognize that an employee has multiple needs to satisfy
simultaneously. According to the ERG theory, focusing exclusively on one
need at a time will not effectively motivate.
In addition, the ERG theory
acknowledges that if a higher level need remains unfulfilled, the person
may regress to lower level needs that appear easier to satisfy. This is
known as the frustration-regression principle. This
frustration-regression principle impacts workplace motivation. For
example, if growth opportunities are not provided to employees, they may
regress to relatedness needs, and socialize more with co-workers.
If management can recognize these
conditions early, steps can be taken to satisfy the frustrated needs
until the subordinate is able to pursue growth again.
Book: Clayton P. Alderfer - Existence, Relatedness, and Growth; Human
Needs in Organizational Settings -
Compare: Hierarchy of Needs |
Herzberg Two Factor
of Relational Work |
| Path-Goal Theory
| Theory X Theory Y
| Hofstede |
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