Difference between Maslow Hierarchy of Needs theory & ERG theory

Abraham Maslow postulated that within every human being there exist a hierarchy of five needs but Clayton Alderfer proposed three needs. Maslow hierarchy of needs says except one need is satisfied, the next need may not be needed. In contrast to the hierarchy of needs theory, the ERG theory demonstrates that more than one need may be operative at the same time.

Besides in ERG, if the gratification of a high level need is stifled, the desire to satisfy a lower level need increases. Maslow needs hierarchy follow a rigid, step like progression. ERG theory doesn’t assume that there exist rigid hierarchies in which a lower need must be substantially gratified before one can move on.

For instance, a person can be working on growth even though existence or relatedness needs are unsatisfied.

In fact, in ERG all three needs categories could be operating at the same time. It will be recalled that Maslow argued that an individual would stay at a certain need level until that need is satisfied.

ERG theory counters that by noting that when a higher order need level is frustrated, the individual desire to increase a lower level need takes place. ERG theory contains a frustration regression dimension.

For example, inability to satisfy a need for social interaction might increase the desire for more money or better working conditions. Frustration can lead to a regression to a lower need.

In Maslow needs, satisfied lower order needs lead to the desire to satisfy higher order needs, but multiple need in ERG theory can be operating as motivator at the same time and frustration in attempting to satisfy a higher level need can result in regression to a lower level need.

ERG theory is more consistent with our knowledge of individual differences among people. Variables such as education, family background and cultural environment can alter the importance or driving force that a group of need holds for particular individual.

The evidence demonstrating that people in other culture rank the need categories differently, for instance people from Spain and Japan place social needs for their physiological requirement, social studies have supported ERG theory, however, there is also evidence that the ERG theory does not work in some organizations.

In summary, the distinction between Maslow and Alderfer is more than the classification of needs. Alderfer does not agree with Maslow arrangement in hierarchy, according to him, a class of needs may remain strong irrespective of the level of satisfaction of other needs.

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