Relationship between need hierarchy and ERG Theory

  1. Three categories form a hierarchy only in the sense of decreasing concreteness. As people move from a focus on existence to relatedness and to growth needs, the ways in which they can satisfy those needs become increasingly abstract.
  1. The rise in the level of satisfaction of any lower-order need may result into decrease in its importance. Its place is taken by another need. Thus, the individual is able to move to become productive and creative, and as he moves to this level, he sets a higher goal for himself.
  1. People are likely to try to satisfy their most concrete needs first and then, they move on to the abstracts needs. In this way, progression of need satisfaction of ERG theory is similar to Maslow’s need hierarchy, that is, people first satisfy their lower needs and gradually progress to the satisfaction of higher needs in that order. However, Alderfer goes one step further. He argues that along with satisfaction-progression, people can experience frustration-progression, that is, if people cannot satisfy their needs at a given level of abstraction, they ‘drop back’ and again focus on more concrete needs.

The relationship between Maslow’s need hierarchy theory and Alderfer’s ERG theory presented in following Figure:

Implications OF ERG theory:

Alderfer has conceived ERG needs along a continuum, which avoids the implication that the higher up an individual is in the need hierarchy, better it is. According to this theory, different types of needs operate simultaneously. If the individual’s particular path towards satisfaction is blocked, he may persist along that path but at the same time, he regresses towards more easily satisfiable needs. In this way, Alderfer distinguishes between chronic needs which persist over a period of time (like most of the lower-order needs) and the episode needs which are situational and can change according to the environment. From this point of view, ERG theory provides us categories of needs, their relationship, and the progression and regression of their satisfaction.

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