Student Question

Give an example of how the ERG theory could be used to explain someone's motivation to work in a job. 

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Alderfer's ERG theory can be used to explain someone's motivation to work in a job because the theory is applicable to many different narratives of employees.   An effective manager has to understand where a particular individual might exist in the ERG schematic.  In doing so, a worker's motivation can be maximized by applying the particular set of needs to an applicable situation.  For example, if someone has started in a job and needs the financial security of a position in order to alleviate other costs and expenses, they might be in the "Existence" needs of the model.  Perhaps, their motivation can be increased with incentives and financial bonuses.  Since their needs are driven by the need for basic material necessities, incentivizing their work in this domain could increase their motivation to work at a particular job.

For a worker who thrives on interpersonal connection and the acknowledgement from others, their needs are in the "Relatedness" sector.  If these individuals could find greater motivation if they were placed in a position where their interpersonal needs or strengths could be validated, then there could be greater motivation for these individuals to perform better and maximize output at their jobs.  Finally, the needs for reflective "Growth" indicate that an individual has reached a point where they wish to advance personally and move into a realm of professional development and enhancement.  For these individuals, their motivation might exist in looking at their job as a vocation and seeking to advance within it. Constructing avenues of professional growth and development could enhance the work motivation for these individuals as it fits their needs.

The ERG model is fluid, in that simultaneous needs could be seen in one employee.  Someone who is struggling to meet the "Existence" needs could also seek a sense of "Relatedness" with others.  Managers have to understand the fluid nature of the ERG theory and be able to apply to model in different circumstances by knowing their employees.  In knowing their employees, managers can use the ERG model to increase individual motivation for the model speaks to where that particular person is at a moment in time.

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What is a specific example of how the ERG (existence, relatedness, growth) theory could be used to explain motivation to work in a job someone has previously had. 

The ERG (existence, relatedness, growth) theory (Clayton Alderfer put forth this ERG theory) can be used to explain someone's motivation to work in a prior job they have had. Using myself as an example, ERG theory pertains to my earlier experience as a baker in the supermarket industry in the 1980's and early 1990's.

Concerning the existence factor, this job satisfied my physiological and safety needs. In the baking business, the job satisfied my need for basic human survival in that it provided me a safe, professional, monitored, stable working environment that provided me a good income to meet my needs for food, clothing, accommodations, and such.

Pertaining to the relatedness factor, the job as a baker satisfied my social and external esteem needs. The job allowed me to grow in a career and further my skill set, which I could apply to future jobs. It also furthered my income-earning objectives. Baking in a supermarket environment with other bakers, cake decorators, and such fulfilled my social needs as I interacted with different people on different baking projects.

As relates to the growth factor of the ERG theory, my job and responsibilities as a baker helped me achieve my self-actualization needs. I prospered in a job that allowed me to use my talents to create food products that consumers could enjoy.

I took pride in creating tasty baked goods each working day. I contributed to the success of the supermarket and met the needs of my customers. This, in turn satisfied my internal esteem needs; I felt good about what I accomplished and looked forward to new challenges in the industry to better myself.

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