The concept of Motivation is a popular concept in Management. Explain this concept and express the difference between ERG Theory and Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory.


Concept of Motivation

This concept can be defined as the inner drive that coerces and sustains an individual to action (Eggert, 1999). It depends on the individual expectations of an organization, individual needs, and organization attitudes to work, employee support and contributions (Davidson et al. 2009).

Thus, it is important in business because employees who are not properly incentivized often do not put in their best efforts for the organization.

Hence, it is important for managers or organizational heads to investigate the needs and expectations of employees and respond accordingly.

Most importantly, attention should be given to the organizational approaches to satisfy these needs, the extent of support structures provided by organization to employees to fulfill each given task and appropriate feedback to ensure proper integration of employees to the organization.

Furthermore, theories have been developed to explain relevant approaches to inducing an individual to support the organization with the best efforts. Examples of such theories include the ERG and Maslow Hierarchy of Needs theory.

Differences between ERG Theory and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory

ERG and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theories are different in two main ways namely – number of needs and approach to needs satisfaction.

Maslow Hierarchy of Needs theory specifies five needs (physiological, security, social, esteem and self-actualization) that when satisfied ensure employees are properly induced to support the organization wholeheartedly (Adair, 2006), whereas ERG proposes three needs represented as “Existence, Relatedness and Growth” (Warilow, 2011).

Eggert (1999) explains that physiological needs includes water, food, air, security needs include shelter and clothing, social needs include family and colleagues, esteem needs include recognition and personal status and self-actualization needs that include employing ones abilities to attain the best in any endeavor.

Maslow’s Physiological and Security needs equate the ERG Existence needs while the esteem and social needs equates Relatedness needs and the Growth needs equate Maslow’s self-actualisation.

Subsequently, Williams (2003) cited in Learning Southwest (n.d.) explains Maslow’s suggestion that needs are met starting from lower level (physiological) in increasing manner until the topmost level (self-actualization) is attained. The lower level builds the inducement to attain the higher level stimulus of self actualization.

However, ERG suggest that its three needs (Existence, Relatedness and Growth) can be satisfied in whatever order not necessarily from bottom to top order and in some cases when a higher need (such as growth need) cannot be attained an already satisfied lower need can re-emerge to provide the needed stimulation that an employee needs.

ERG theory offers a more flexible explanation within the content theory perspective.


Adair, J 2006, Leadership and Motivation, Kogan Page Ltd., London, GBR.

Davidson, P, Simon, A, Woods, P& Griffin, R 2009, Management, 4th edn, John Wiley & Sons Australian Ltd, Australia.

Eggert, MA, 1999, The Motivation Pocketbook, Management Pocketbooks Ltd, Alresford, UK.

Learning Southwest n.d., Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Alderfer’s ERG theory, Greater Expectations, Smart Business Coaching Course, Session 4 Optional Tutor Notes.

Warilow, S 2011, ERG Theory, Bristol, UK.

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