Assessing Alderfer's ERG Theory: Correlation vs. Causal Relationship

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Assessing Alderfer's ERG Theory: Correlation vs. Causal Relationship
Anneke Zwart, Student (University), Netherlands

In assessing the ERG theory of Alderfer, the main focus has often been primarily on the correlation between on one hand the theory’s components and on the other hand the working behavior of people.
Nevertheless a more appropriate testing method has been proposed in the article “Compensation, esteem valence and job performance”. This testing method investigates the causal linkages between working behavior and the components of ERG. So, instead of just analyzing the correlational relationship between the needs of ERG theory and working behavior, it is more appropriate to analyze what needs are determinants of certain work behaviors. Certain advantages of this way of testing are mentioned in the article:
1. It addresses the concern that the working behavior is not always consistently predicted by the theories of needs. Since personality, personal values and beliefs determine the needs of people, the potential to consistently forecast behavior exist in need satisfaction. However, this need satisfaction that brings about the wanted behavior has to be determined first. So before needs theories are able to consistently forecast working behavior, the need satisfaction that will bring about desired behavior needs to be investigated.
2. Once knowing the causes of certain behavior, motivating people are able to for example offer motivation packages that are made suitable to each individual. Motivation packages are often misdirected. For instance, without an internal desire for a certain extrinsic reward, the reward will not able to influence behavior, so that extrinsic incentives are often overemphasized. Also in this case personality, values and beliefs of people are crucial in predicting motivation of people.
Source: C.A. Arnolds and C. Boshoff: Compensation, esteem valence and job performance: an empirical assessment of Alderfer’s ERG theory. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, Vol.13, Issue 4, 2002.



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