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 growth.
The ERG Theory categories human needs are:
Existence Needs: physiological and safety needs (such as hunger, thirst and sex). The first two levels of Maslow.
Relatedness Needs: social and external esteem (involvement with family, friends, co-workers and employers). The third and fourth levels of Maslow.
Growth Needs: internal esteem and self actualization (the desire to be creative, productive and to complete meaningful tasks). Maslow's fourth and fifth levels.
ERG Theory and Maslow
Contrarily to the idea by Maslow that access to the higher levels of his pyramid required satisfaction in the lower level needs, the ERG areas of Alderfer are simultaneous needs.
ERG Theory recognizes that the importance of the three categories may vary for each individual. Managers must recognize that an employee has multiple needs, which must be satisfied simultaneously. According to the ERG theory, if you focus exclusively on one need at a time, this will not effectively motivate.
The ERG theory acknowledges that if a higher level need remains unfulfilled, the person may regress towards lower level needs, which appear easier to satisfy. This is known as: the frustration-regression principle. This principle impacts workplace motivation. For example, if growth opportunities are not offered to the employees, they may regress towards 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
Source: HR Concepts
Compiled and Edited by
Mr. S. Murugesan - Lecturer
Dr. P. N. Narayana Raja - Principal
Madurai Institute of Social Sciences
(Run by: DVR Foundation for HRD)
Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India