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Jansar Akhtar

ERG Theory (Clayton Alderfer)

There were some limitations found in the Maslow’s motivation theory. So in order to remove the limitations Clayton Alderfer proposed a new theory which is called ERG theory. Like Maslow’s theory, it also describes need as hierarchy. The ERG theory allows the order of the needs to be different for different people. It 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 frustration-regression principle. The letters ERG stands for three level of need: Existence, Relatedness and Growth.


Similarities to Maslow's Needs Hierarchy

After the original formulation of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, studies had shown that the middle levels of Maslow's hierarchy overlap. Alderfer addressed this issue by reducing the number of levels to three. The letters ERG represent these three levels of needs:

  • Existence refers to our concern with basic material existence motivators.
  • Relatedness refers to the motivation we have for maintaining interpersonal relationships.
  • Growth refers to an intrinsic desire for personal development.



Differences from Maslow's Needs Hierarchy

Beyond simply reducing the distinction between overlapping needs, the ERG theory improves upon the following shortcomings of Maslow's Needs Hierarchy:

  • Alderfers ERG theory demonstrates that more than one need may motivate at the same time. A lower motivator need not be substantially satisfied before one can move onto higher motivators.
  • The ERG theory also accounts for differences in need preferences between cultures better than Maslow's Need Hierarchy; the order of needs can be different for different people. This flexibility accounts for a wider range of observed behaviors. For example, it can explain the "starving artist" who may place growth needs above those of existence.

Leadership Lessons

Unlike with Maslow's theory, managers need to understand that each employee operates with the need to satisfy several motivators simultaneously. Based upon the ERG theory, leadership which focuses on exclusively one need at a time will not motivate their people effectively.

Furthermore, the frustration-regression principle has additional impact on motivation in the workplace. As an example, if employees are not provided opportunities to grow, an employee might regress to fulfilling relatedness needs, socializing with co-workers more. Or, the inability of the environment or situation to satisfy a need for social interaction might increase the desire for more money or better working conditions. If Leadership recognizes these conditions soon enough in the process, they can take steps to satisfy those needs which are frustrated until such time that the worker can again pursue growth.

David McClelland’s Theory of Needs

In this theory, David McClelland proposed that an individual’s specific needs are acquired overtime and are shaped by one’s life experiences. Most of these needs can be classified as either achievement, affiliation, or power. A person’s motivation and effectiveness in certain job functions are influenced by these three needs. McClelland’s theory sometimes is referred to as the three need theory or as the learned needs theory.


People with a high need for achievement (nAch) seek to excel and thus tend to avoid both low-risk and high-risk situations. Achievers avoid low-risk situations because the easily attained success is not a genuine achievement. In high-risk projects, achievers see the outcome as one of chance rather than one's own effort. High nAch individuals prefer work that has a moderate probability of success, ideally a 50% chance. Achievers need regular feedback in order to monitor the progress of their achievements. They prefer either to work alone or with other high achievers.


Those with a high need for affiliation (nAff) need harmonious relationships with other people and need to feel accepted by other people. They tend to conform to the norms of their work group. High nAff individuals prefer work that provides significant personal interaction. They perform well in customer service and client interaction situations.


A person's need for power (nPow) can be one of two types - personal and institutional. Those who need personal power want to direct others, and this need often is perceived as undesirable. Persons who need institutional power (also known as social power) want to organize the efforts of others to further the goals of the organization. Managers with a high need for institutional power tend to be more effective than those with a high need for personal power.

Thematic Apperception Test

McClelland used the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) as a tool to measure the individual needs of different people. The TAT is a test of imagination that presents the subject with a series of ambiguous pictures, and the subject is asked to develop a spontaneous story for each picture. The assumption is that the subject will project his or her own needs into the story.

Psychologists have developed fairly reliable scoring techniques for the Thematic Apperception Test. The test determines the individual's score for each of the needs of achievement, affiliation, and power. This score can be used to suggest the types of jobs for which the person might be well suited.

Implications for Management

People with different needs are motivated differently.

·         High need for achievement - High achievers should be given challenging projects with reachable goals. They should be provided frequent feedback. While money is not an important motivator, it is an effective form of feedback.

·         High need for affiliation - Employees with a high affiliation need perform best in a cooperative environment.

·         High need for power - Management should provide power seekers the opportunity to manage others.

Cognitive Evaluation Theory

This theory suggests that there are actually two motivation systems: intrinsic and extrinsic that correspond to two kinds of motivators:

  • Intrinsic motivators: Achievement, responsibility and competence. Motivators that come from the actual performance of the task or job -- the intrinsic interest of the work.
  • Extrinsic: pay, promotion, feedback, working conditions -- things that come from a person's environment, controlled by others.

One or the other of these may be a more powerful motivator for a given individual.

Intrinsically motivated individuals perform for their own achievement and satisfaction. If they come to believe that they are doing some job because of the pay or the working conditions or some other extrinsic reason, they begin to lose motivation.

The belief is that the presence of powerful extrinsic motivators can actually reduce a person's intrinsic motivation, particularly if the extrinsic motivators are perceived by the person to be controlled by people. In other words, a boss who is always dangling this reward or that stick will turn off the intrinsically motivated people. \

Goal Setting Theory (Edwin Locke)

Goal setting is a powerful way of motivating people, and of motivating yourself. The value of goal setting is so well recognized that entire management systems, like Management by Objectives, have goal setting basics incorporated within them. In fact, goal setting theory is generally accepted as among the most valid and useful motivation theories in industrial and organizational psychology, human resource management, and organizational behavior.

Locke's research showed that there was a relationship between how difficult and specific a goal was and people's performance of a task. He found that specific and difficult goals led to better task performance than vague or easy goals. A few years after Locke published his article, another researcher, Dr Gary Latham, studied the effect of goal setting in the workplace. His results supported exactly what Locke had found, and the inseparable link between goal setting and workplace performance was formed.

Five Principles of Goal Setting

To motivate, goals must have:

  1. Clarity.
  2. Challenge.
  3. Commitment.
  4. Feedback.
  5. Task complexity.

Let's look at each of these in detail.

Clear goals are measurable and unambiguous. When a goal is clear and specific, with a definite time set for completion, there is less misunderstanding about what behaviors will be rewarded. You know what's expected, and you can use the specific result as a source of motivation. When a goal is vague – or when it's expressed as a general instruction, like "Take initiative" – it has limited motivational value.

One of the most important characteristics of goals is the level of challenge. People are often motivated by achievement, and they'll judge a goal based on the significance of the anticipated accomplishment. When you know that what you do will be well received, there's a natural motivation to do a good job.


Goals must be understood and agreed upon if they are to be effective. Employees are more likely to "buy into" a goal if they feel they were part of creating that goal. The notion of participative management rests on this idea of involving employees in setting goals and making decisions. natural motivation to do a good job.

In addition to selecting the right type of goal, an effective goal program must also include feedback. Feedback provides opportunities to clarify expectations, adjust goal difficulty, and gain recognition. It's important to provide benchmark opportunities or targets, so individuals can determine for themselves how they're doing.

Task complexity

The last factor in goal setting theory introduces two more requirements for success. For goals or assignments that are highly complex, take special care to ensure that the work doesn't become too overwhelming.

People who work in complicated and demanding roles probably have a high level of motivation already. However, they can often push themselves too hard if measures aren't built into the goal expectations to account for the complexity of the task. It's therefore important to do the following:

·         Give the person sufficient time to meet the goal or improve performance.

·         Provide enough time for the person to practice or learn what is expected and required for success.

The whole point of goal setting is to facilitate success. Therefore, you want to make sure that the conditions surrounding the goals don't frustrate or inhibit people from accomplishing their objectives.

Factors influencing the goals-performance relationship

Goal commitment: degree to which a person is determined in achieving a desired (or required) goal.

Self-efficacy: person’s belief about his or her ability and capacity to accomplish a task or to deal with the challenges of life

Category: My articles | Added by: Jansar (2011-02-08)
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