Change Psychology: ERG Theory

recently wrote about building up a resource for Change knowledge here within this very Blog. Finally I got the time to deal with some basic psychological questions of Change. I am looking forward to be able to share those insights on “Change Psychology” with you, here.

Clayton Alderfer extended and simplified Maslow’s Hierarchy into a shorter set of three needs: Existence, Relatedness and Growth (hence ‘ERG’). Unlike Maslow, he did not see these as being a hierarchy, but being more of a continuum.

At the lowest level is the need to stay alive and safe, now and in the foreseeable future. When we have satisfied existence needs, we feel safe and physically comfortable. This includes Maslow’s Physiological and Safety needs.

At the next level, once we are safe and secure, we consider our social needs. We are now interested in relationships with other people and what they think of us. When we are related, we feel a sense of identity and position within our immediate society. This encompasses Maslow’s Love/belonging and Esteem needs.

At the highest level, we seek to grow, be creative for ourselves and for our environment. When we are successfully growing, we feel a sense of wholeness, achievement and fulfilment. This covers Maslow’s Self-actualization and Transcendence.

So what?
Find the relative state of the other person’s needs for each of existence, relatedness and growth. Find ways of either threatening or helping to satisfy the needs.

Know how well your own needs in this model are met, and what would threaten or improve them. Be careful when other people do things that threaten or promise to improve them.

Psychology of Change (Picture source: Original article taken from
Psychology of Change (Picture source:
Original article taken from

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