The ERG Theory is a motivational theory derived from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This theory was established in order to better serve employees of different organizations. Maslow’s Hierarchy was seen as not sufficient enough because of the idea that individuals could not go back and forth through the different needs. Different people are motivated differently and that is why the ERG theory was developed (Huitt, 2001). Motivation can be different for everyone, and in order to understand motivation theories in general, one must understand what motivation exactly is.
Many definitions of motivation reflect “the general consensus that motivation is an internal state or condition (sometimes described as a need, desire, or want) that serves to activate or energize behavior and give it direction” (Huitt, 2001). Some definitions of motivation from different psychology textbooks are: •Internal state or condition that activates behavior and gives it direction; •Desires or want that energizes and directs goal-oriented behavior; •Influence of needs and desired on the intensity and direction or behavior (Huitt, 2001). Now that there is an understanding of what motivation is, there is the fact of why is it important?
Most motivation theorists assume that motivation is involved in the performance of all learned responses; that is, a learned behavior will not occur unless it is energized. The major question among psychologists, in general, is whether motivation is a primary or secondary influence on behavior. That is, are changes in behavior better explained by principles of environmental/ecological influences, perception, memory, cognitive development, emotion, explanatory style, or personality or are concepts unique to motivation more pertinent(Huitt, 2001).
The area of motivation, in regards to the ERG theory falls under the humanistic theories because it is dealing with humans and their beliefs and values. Abraham Maslow was one of the most influential writers in the area of motivation. Maslow is widely known for his Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow took what researchers generally focused on such as biology, achievement, or power to explain what energizes, directs, and sustains human behavior and posited the hierarchy of needs into two groups: deficiency needs and growth needs (Huitt, 2001).
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has been broken down into five stages, and has been expanded into right stages. These stages are: •Stage One- Physiological: hunger, thirst, bodily comforts, etc. ; •Stage Two- Safety/security: out of danger; •Stage Three- Belongingness and Love: affiliate with others, be accepted; and •Stage Four-Esteem: to achieve, be competent, gain approval and recognition •Stage Five-Cognitive: to know, to understand, and explore; •Stage Six- Aesthetic: symmetry, order, and beauty; Stage Seven- Self-actualization: to find self-fulfillment and realize one’s potential; and •Stage Eight- Self- transcendence: to connect to something beyond the ego or to help others find self-fulfillment and realize their potential. (Chapman, 2001). These eight stages have been expanded on from Maslow’s original five stage model (Chapman, 2001). Human beings are motivated by needs. One may have the feeling of hunger, so in order to satisfy that hunger, they would go in search of food.
The simplest of needs, food, which is needed to survive, motivates us. These simple needs are inborn, and have evolved over the years (Chapman, 2001). Maslow believed that one had to satisfy the lower order needs before moving on to the higher needs. One cannot expect someone to be working towards a higher level of need if a lower level need is troubling them. For example, “You can’t motivate someone to achieve their sales target (level 4) when they’re having problems with their marriage (level 3).
You can’t expect someone to work as a team member (level 3) when they’re having their house re-possessed (level 2)” (Chapman, 2001). Individuals strive for self-actualization, but it can be difficult to reach because many people are focused on the other needs in their life. Maslow’s hierarchy not only applied to life, but to the challenges faced by employers and organizations. “Maslow saw these issues fifty years ago: the fact that employees have a basic human need and a right to strive for self-actualization, just as much as the corporate directors and owners do” (Chapman, 2001).
When people are able to grow as people, they can become more valuable and effective as employees. Increasingly, the successful organization and employers will be those who genuinely care about, understand, encourage and enable their people’s personal growth towards self-actualization-way beyond traditional work-related training and development, and way beyond the old-style X-Theory management autocracy, which still forms the basis of much organized employment today (Chapman, 2001).
When individuals are able to grow in their personal lives, whether it is in their passion for a certain hobby, a special talent or interest, something that produces a new skill, they grow as an employee. When people are happy and fulfilled in their outside life, they tend to be happier people in the workplace. While Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is still very relevant, Clayton Alderfer, an American psychologist, redesigned the hierarchy because something seemed to be missing. The ERG theory is what Alderfer developed.
The ERG theory has three stages; and at any given point of time, more than one need may be operational (“ERG Theory,” 1998). The three stages of Alderfer’s ERG Theory were: •Existence- these include need for basic material necessities (Physiological and safety) •Relatedness- these include the aspiration individuals have for maintaining significant interpersonal relationships (be it with family, peers or superiors), getting public fame and recognition. Maslow’s social needs and external component of esteem needs fall under this class of need. Growth – these include need for self-development and personal growth and advancement. Maslow’s self-actualization needs and intrinsic component of esteem needs fall under this category of need. (“ERG Theory”, 1998).
Aldefer chose to expand on Maslow’s hierarchy because there were limitations to it. The two theories have much in common, but also differ in some important aspects (“ERG,” n. d. ). For example, the ERG theory, like Maslow’s model, it is hierarchical- existence needs have priority over relatedness needs, which have priority over growth (“ERG,” n. . ). The two models also differ in some aspects, such as: •Unlike Maslow’s hierarchy, the ERG theory allows for different levels of needs to be pursued simultaneously. •The ERG theory allows the order of the needs to be different for different people. •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 (“ERG”, n. d. ).
While the ERG theory is a model that has progressive needs, the hierarchical aspect is not rigid. The flexibility llows the theory to account for a much wider range of observed behaviors, such as a “starving artist” who might place growth needs above existence needs (“ERG”, n. d. ). When someone leaves a higher need unfulfilled, that person may regress to lower level needs that appear easier to satisfy. This is known as frustration-regression. For example, when someone has met the needs in their existence and relatedness areas, but are blocked when attempting to fulfill their growth needs, they might become frustrated and regress to relatedness needs because they start to re-emerge as the dominate source of motivation (“ERG Theory: Refinement,” n. . ).
The ERG theory acknowledges that different needs are important to different people, so the order of the three categories may be different for each individual, depending on their experiences. Focusing on one area at a time will not optimize effective motivation. When people have the chance to fulfill needs from different categories, they are able to achieve more. Staying focused on one area could possibly cause them to miss out on something they were not looking for because they were so focused.
If the ERG theory holds, then unlike with Maslow’s theory, managers must recognize that an employee has multiple needs to satisfy simultaneously. Furthermore, if growth opportunities are not provided to employees, they may regress to relatedness needs. If the manager is able to recognize this situation, then steps can be taken to concentrate on relatedness needs until the subordinate is able to pursue growth again (“ERG”, n. d. ). When looking at an organization, one thing that could make it operate better is the quality of the employees.
When employees are happy, they tend to have better production rates and overall better job performance. When something is bothering an employee and the bosses are willing to do anything to help the employee, that employee will most likely drop in their performance, which is not good for the organization or the employee. If managers of an organization used some positive motivation techniques, then both the organization and employees would benefit.