Alderfer’s ERG theory is based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Jewel 190) and oftentimes in literature described as one of the most popular extensions of Maslow’s theory (Steers et al. 16). As opposed to Maslow who claimed that there are five basic needs, Alderfer argued that all needs can be classified into three classes (Jewel 191). In addition, Alderfer suggested that these needs are arranged on a continuum ranging from the most to the least concrete (Jewel 191) while Malsow arranged the needs in a hierarchical fashion as it was shown in Figure 2.3.1 and Figure 2.3.2 (Spector 195).
More specifically, Alderfer identified three groups of needs: Existence needs - the existence needs are concerned with psychological existence of individuals and are comparable to Maslow’s physiological and safety needs. Relatedness needs – the relatedness needs are concerned with interpersonal and social relationships and therefore are related to Maslow’s social needs and external esteem needs. Growth – the growth needs are concerned with individual’s willingness to achieve personal development. These needs correspond to Maslow’s internal esteem and self actualization needs (Steers et al. 16).
The most important contribution of Alderfer’s ERG theory is frustration-regression hypothesis, which holds that when individuals are frustrated in meeting higher level needs, the next lower level needs reemerge. According to Alderfer’s ERG theory all needs flow back and forth through the continuum. If individual efforts to satisfy one set of needs are not met and individual feels frustrated in these attempts, it is possible to return to needs that are less concrete as illustrated in Figure 2.3.3 (Spector 196):
Figure 2.3.3Alderfer’s Need Continumum of Existence, Relatedness, and Growth
Source: Spector, Paul E. “Theories of Employee Motivation. ”Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Research and Practice....