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     In Industrial-Organizational [I/O] psychology, motivation is referred to how people choose to behave a certain way to obtain a goal in a work related activity. Individuals spend the majority of their day performing work-related activities to fulfill needs in life. Understanding Needs-based motivation theories help psychologists to understand an individuals aspiration behind how and why unmet needs are achieved in all aspects of life. (PSU World Campus, 2016). There are several Needs-based theories. A common Needs-based theory discussed and analyzed is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, The case study: Operation Enduring Freedom, illustrates the process of the core concepts of this theory. Identifying the prepotent need, discovering the steps of fulfillment progression helps give guidance on the solution to fulfill the unmet need. In the following case study, the motivation of Sergeant Smith is observed fulfilling needs utilizing Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.  Additionally, Alderfer's ERG (existence, relatedness, growth) continuum is highly relate-able to the case study, as well.  Utilizing these two theories, this case analysis will offer insight into the questions, what happens when needs are not met, does the fulfillment of needs with focus on the self-esteem directly relate to work performance, and is motivation more greatly influenced by extrinsic environmental factors or intrinsic motivational goals?  Need-based theories have their strengths and weaknesses, however, the individual desire to voluntarily fulfill an unmet need can be seen not only in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and ERG, but in the core of all the theories.



     In 2012, US Marines located in Afghanistan were heavily involved in Operation Enduring Freedom. The United States developed Operation Enduring Freedom for Coalition Forces that had been fighting against the Taliban from October 2001 until December 2014. Marine Sergeant "Smith" was a team leader in the Helmand Province of southern Afghanistan at this time. Being a Sergeant team leader consisted of being liable for not only the efficiency of his fellow Marines' welfare, morale, and discipline, but keeping up with the gear as well. Sergeant "Smith" daily responsibilities included keeping all gear on inventory in safe and usable condition. Advising higher headquarters of daily agendas of planned and upcoming operations. He had to effectively communicate and coordinate with the commanders of the support units on the best way for his team to provide intelligence support. It was his duty to ensure his team was well nourished with food and maintain shelter requirements. In addition to maintaining his role and responsibilities as a team leader, Sergeant Smith distinguished himself by developing new techniques to provide support to the infantry. During the course of his deployment, his efforts directly contributed to one of the lowest casualty rates for the supported infantry units in 5 years of combat operations in the Helmand Province. Sergeant Smith efforts were recognized when he received a Naval and Marine Corps Commendation Medal upon return from the deployment.  

      After reintegration to the continental United States, Sergeant Smith once again was just another sergeant in the battalion. The latitude efforts and responsibility of being a team leader, that the Sergeant grew accustom to in a war like environment were suddenly no longer needed. Instead of being the one to go to all of the meetings to plan training and operations, he was required to follow orders of how and what to do by his Staff Sergeant. In this position he felt he no longer possessed the ability to affect change for his Marines. Consequently, he became disenfranchised with the Marines and began to regress from being the dependable Marine he once was. His behaviors and ethics started to change, he began to come to work intoxicated, from late nights at concerts and hanging out with his new found work friends. Sergeant Smith went from being an example of an extraordinarily decorated Marine leader in the battalion to a cautionary tale for the command, when describing on how not to be a model Marine.

     Sergeant Smith felt as if the Marines left him in Afghanistan and decided to get out after 8 years of service and pursue a career in the field of education.  Now that he has been out for 4 years, he has quickly risen to be one of the educational team leaders in his company.  His job now is to provide training to the battalion that once left him behind.  He is in charge of a team of former Marines and Soldiers that provides intelligence training across the Marine Corps and Army and is highly sought after, particularly for training during the pre-deployment cycle of many intelligence units.  



 The aforementioned case is a classic example of how various unmet needs can take hinder on a person's ability to live up to certain abilities and characteristics that they possess. Sergeant Smith was clearly an exemplary Marine and someone that others could rely and count on. This was evident during his deployment, as Sergeant Smith excelled in various areas of leadership, high morale, work quality, and effectiveness were not only noticed of him, but also his team.  While each of his needs were being met, he was able to focus on being great at everything that he did. When Sergeant Smith returned, his assignment no longer offered the opportunities that allowed him to find satisfaction in goal achievement or needs satisfaction.  The result of unmet needs for Sergeant Smith effected not only his progression to growth satisfaction, or self actualization, but also affected the his relatedness, or social and esteem needs.  In, turn this had a negative affect on how others perceived him, and how he viewed himself.   

 Let's take into account Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs; according to this theory, unmet needs are defined as the "prepotent needs." The Needs Hierarchy consists of five "needs" categories. The five categories in order from the very basic need, physiological, then safety, then social/love, then esteem, then self actualization. They form a triangle, lower-order(basic) must be met before achieving the higher-order needs (PSU World Campus, 2016). Starting with the very basic need physiological, this must be met before  safety,love In Sergeant Smith's case, when he returned from his deployment, he lost the esteem (a high-order need) that he had earned while being a major presence and source of improvement as a team leader. He no longer experienced that same sense of worth and that one single loss of a need created a downward spiral on the hierarchy.  Soon, he struggled to fulfill his safety needs and was putting himself into harmful situations. This is where fulfillment progression, as Maslow believed, goes into play. This suggests that when low-order needs are not met, high-order needs cannot be met either and inevitably his career as a Marine had come to a close.

Smith began to find himself again and was able recognize his effective leadership attributes by pursuing a career in the education field. This journey also supports Maslow's idea of prepotent need and fulfillment progression. Smith had find his place in the world again after his career with the Marines. Once his basic psychological prepotent needs were met. Through self-preservation he was able to establish a basic stable environment, which fulfilled the preptent need of safety. After meeting the basic needs, Smith was able to excel in the next two categories of social needs and esteem needs. After feeling he did not have a place in the Marines any longer, he decided to become a student, which gave him a sense of belonging and acceptance. Once he surpassed his duties as a student, he established his place as an educational leader working with the Marines. This is helping him fulfill his last prepotent need of self-actualization. Now Smith can use his experience with self improvement to recognize it in his followers and help them excel in their individual fulfillment progression.     

In regards to the ERG theory, Sergeant Smith's growth needs were being blocked so he was regressing back to existence needs by drinking and being in dangerous situations. He was suffering from the frustration-regression idea of fulfillment. These needs do not operate on a strict or concrete line so it does mean that one need has to be met before the next one can be.  This case is also a clear example of how one can work their way back up the hierarchy in ERG and once again, reap the same success that stems from meeting and conquering the levels of needs. Sergeant Smith understood what he was missing and he went out and worked for it. He got out of the career that made him reckless and found a career that gives him the satisfaction that he thrives on. 

The ERG theory proposes that needs can be met in a back and forth movement, from one category to another.  If growth needs are lacking, one might regress back to relatedness, or with no satisfaction in relatedness needs, one might revert back to existence, for satisfaction.  This was evident in Sergeant Smith's behavior.  The need for a new environment, for Sergeant Smith to seek satisfaction in relatedness, as well as growth needs, became apparent, and motivated by desire to satisfy unmet goals, Sergeant Smith decided to change his surroundings and direction of focus.  Now, after what seems to be a lifetime in the military, Sergeant Smith affiliates himself with a new identity, and set of proposed goals.  The environment Sergeant Smith found satisfaction in during his time of deployment, although not similar in observable surroundings, is similar to his new environment, in relation to intrinsic motivational factors, and the opportunity for relatedness and growth, as once again, he prospered.  The notion that needs or the satisfaction of those needs are not forever changing is not compatible with the ERG theory, growth yields a greater desire for more growth.  Sergeant Smith provides a great example of noted regression-frustration, leading to satisfaction-progression, when environment is adjusted. 



The case study Operation Enduring Freedom, is a perfect example for Maslows' Theory. Not only does it provide an exceptional picture of Smith being at the top of the triangle meeting all the prepotent needs, and with a change in circumstances falling and struggling to meet the very basic need in the Hierarchy.. It also provides a clear picture of struggling with the basic need and climbing his was back to the top of Maslow's Needs Hierarchy. When Smith began to meet the basic needs again, he was a  Sergeant Smith, upon leaving the Marines, lost his relatedness needs and his professional and personal growth needs were no longer being met. His existence needs were being met but he teetered on crossing dangerous lines by placing himself in harmful situations. By initiating change, Sergeant Smith was able to improve motivational drive once again, opening opportunities for needs satisfaction, and determining direction towards achievement.  He was able to move into a career where he could fulfill the growth and relatedness needs which were unmet during his period of reintegration at Garrison environment.  Self-esteem is highly relatable to performance.  This premise, is evident throughout the case study.  When viewed as a leader, Sergeant Smith excelled in performance.  Once the opportunities for goal satisfaction were removed, especially by decreasing levels of autonomy and worth, Sergeant Smith's performance noted dissatisfaction. In regards to the ERG theory, Sergeant Smith's growth needs were being blocked so he was regressing back to existence needs by drinking and being in dangerous situations. He was suffering from the frustration-regression idea of fulfillment. These needs do not operate on a strict or concrete line so it does mean that one need has to be met before the next one can be.  With respect to Sergeant Smith, as focus was determined and his goals established, he was able to utilize his previous knowledge base of military intelligence training, and incorporate his ability to engage others while providing life saving information.  When contemplating the extent of effect in relation to environment, one could ponder the question similar to that of nurture verses nature. Sergeant Smith both supports the finding that, given a new environment a stagnant individual can thrive, as well as supporting that with opportunity Sergeant Smiths intrinsic motivators allowed for prosperity.   Although one might see Sergeant Smith as a consultant, not an actual active member of the armed forces, his history allows for gained satisfaction in relatedness needs, as well as a new direction in determining growth goals, allowing for prolonged satisfaction by meeting and reestablishing new growth goals.  As apparent in this case study, change is often the catalysts to new beginnings and the opportunity for satisfaction and success. 



Adie, Duda, and Ntoumanis (2008) Autonomy support, basic need satisfaction and the optimal functioning of adult male and female sport participants: A test of basic needs theory. Motivation & Emotion,32, 189-199.

PSU World Campus (2016). Psychology Work Attitude and Motivation 484. Lesson 1. Introduction to Work Motivation and Job Attitudes. Pg. 1-8.

PSU World Campus (2016). PSYCH 484, Online lesson 2: Need Theories: What do I want When I Work? Retrieved August 29, 2016 from: 

Need Theories. (n.d.) PSYCH 484. Course Wiki Page, Penn State World Campus, The Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved September 1, 2016 from

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  2. I also found the page. Thank you Andrea for setting this up. Hope to collaborate this weekend. 

  3. Okay I found it as well. Can we decide on a topic ASAP? I am leaving for vacation Monday morning so I would like to get started on my parts so I can contribute my work. Thanks!

  4. So Guys it looks like there are 2 parts to this assignment this week.  Part 1 edit, add, take out information, organization and proof reading. Part 2: Create a case that illustrates application of the main theory under our subpage Needs Theory Case Study. Please be sure to read under Wiki project in Canvas. This is the biggest part of this project. Since we are a little late finding each other, this need to be a priority, to get something together by tomorrow night. I am available after 8pm tonight and tomorrow and most of the day Sunday. Let get a concrete outline of what we are doing..

    Let do the first part share a real life experience that illustrates the ideas under this theory. Please refer to the steps 1-5 under part 2 to help you organized and detail your experiences. 

  5. I have exported the Main theory to Word, to do some editing if needed. I will look for things in part 1 of this assignment, I will upload it. if anyone can be another pair of eyes that would be great. I will post one of my experiences tonight, if everyone else can we can pick one to build our case study on. Then assign people different parts to work on. 

  6. I can look at the first page edits.  I have been looking at it all week also.  It's pretty comprehensive since its been edited 10+ times already. Does Anyone have their ideas for the Case we are looking at?  We need to have a central place to communicate.  I dont think this page is the place for our communication, but rather to submit the assignment.  I will take the introduction to the theories part of the assignment and get my part done by tonight, but we need to know what the case is so we can tailor it to the intro.  According to the assignment though we need this to be collaborative.  So once we post the sections we each begin on, we need to ensure we read and edit each others sections.    

  7. I added a case and 2 different choices for the group to analyze the case from.  It should be pretty easy to use either for purposes of this assignment.  Its from the Marines because it's what i know, but the application is equal to the civilian world.

  8. I made several small edits in the case study and began the conclusion. I hope that it's okay and this is the right direction that we were headed in. 

  9. If you want to mention the ERG theory in the conclusion, it needs to be address by someone in the Analysis also. I added a few edits also.  and we need to make sure we CITE in the body of the analysis and add references on the back end

  10. Hi Nathan, 

    I agree with a central place to collaborate. I thought our central place of communication was group 1 in Canvas, but I didn't see anyone there. So I replied here.

    Do you want to edit the sections of Abraham Maslow Theory, since you started the first couple of pages?

    I can edit Alderfer's ERG theory section.

    Hopefully everyone can pick a section after that, I think this would make it so much easier for each one of us to do a section.

    Where did you post your case studies I don't see them to review?



  11. I will edit McClelland's theory and BNT on the main wiki page.  I apologize to not noticing the communication occurring on this page, as I thought our Group 1 page was the forum we were using for discussion. I also developed a case study utilizing McClelland's theory, hypothesizing improved outcomes in both customer/employee satisfaction, and profit, when management teams were developed to include individuals from all three dominant motivator groups, nPow, nArch, and nAff, with specific roles and responsibilities assigned.  I do think Nathan's is well written and shows direct relation to both Maslow's and ERG theory.  I have also spent the week reading, reading, and rereading the various materials, and feel as though I have a good understanding of the theories, I did not quite understand the previous case studies, as many related their case and analysis to each of the Needs Theories of Motivation discussed in the material.  When reading the wiki assignment it seems to be a case study presented similar to the BNT article. I do agree in the case of Maslow and ERG, both can be used to analyze the above posted case because of their similarities but the assignment seems to refer to one theory, repeatidly stating "the theory".    So I will update the main page and return to the case study.

    1. Tracey I know you worked hard on your contributions and they are really great on the ERG Theory. As the group had already decided on a theory and case study a few days ago. As you stated the assignment calls for one theory. The problem is that introducing another theory is throwing the flow of the piece off. There are now two theories, two topic sentences and repeated information (see below conversation) Is it possible for you to contribute some insight of Maslows theory instead of the ERG theory, to this case study to be cohesive with the rest of the groups' contributions?  

  12. Nathan I was wondering if you thought editing the introduction to include what is hypothesized, from my understanding, this case study shows that Sergeant Smith, in relation to met and unmet needs, originally achieved met existence, relatedness, and growth.  When environment was changed, satisfaction of needs was reevaluated, and with an observed decrease in motivation, Sergeant Smith, experienced frustration-regression.  As environment changes, as does Sergeant Smith's ability to once again achieve all goals of ERG, existence, relatedness, especially because of his expertise, and growth, do to his success. I understand that Maslow is the pioneer of needs theories, his hierarchy of basic needs is extremely helpful and the basis for further developed approaches such as ERG.  In this case, I feel we should hypothesize that needs satisfaction in ERG are changing and can have eviromental influences relating to the fulfillment of such needs, therefor, when environment is changed frustration regression can cease, and existence, relatedness, and growth needs can once again be satisfied.   

  13. I added a bit to the introduction, also elaborated on the analysis utilizing the ERG theory.  I am going to finish building the conclusion noting relation to Maslow briefly, the ERG theory, and following up on the results of the questions I introduced in the introduction. 

  14. I am currently editing the conclusion portion of the study, if anyone would like to proof read the introduction, case description, and analysis, I think they meet the objectives outlined in the wiki project description.  I also do not see where the References are noted, could someone follow up with that, as far as documentation in the study, the references used were the same as the references for lesson 2. 

  15. I will check in at 9pm this evening if anyone would like to participate in further collaboration of this project.  I would like to thank Nathan, as he initiated this assignment and provided excellent direction.  In the future I am interested in understanding the best means for group participation and the sharing of ideas.  I spent a large portion of my time developing ideas to which were not needed because a collaborative plan was never established. I did record the 4 references in which I utilized throughout the case study, feel free to include any others. 

  16. Just checking in to see if anyone had any last minute thoughts

  17. I am here editing. I am confused as you can see why are we doing two theories? I thought the assignment called for one theory and one case study. We have 2 topic sentences in the introduction.


  18. I agree communication was a little disjointed this time around as it was going on in both places at the same time.  We will clean it up for the next group project.  Your edits added a lot to the final piece.  Thank you for them.

    1. So do we leave the intro with the two topic sentences? My other question is the impact on the organization of the remaining paper. Nathan great case study by the way.

  19. The portion I am concerned about is creating a document with a nice flow, taking multiple perspectives on the theory.

  20. the intro should only have one, but which 2 lines are you refering to.  Highlight them so we can see? 

    1. The information on the ERG theory. I understand it relates to this case study, but we decided on Maslows. Prepotent need means unmet need. Fulfillment progression means what happens when means are not met. and the existence of related growth means the solution.

  21. it does seem a little out of place, but doesnt really take away from the flow much.  

  22. I understand it is a groupies controbution and I am all for that. However we have two topic sentences in the intro now and we restated what we already stated earlier in the intro. I am working my way through the piece editing things as I go, so I can put in my portion of maslows theory

  23. Either or works for me.  

    1. Since other members already contributed to Maslows theory, I am going to ask Tracey for a possible revision on her contribution, to try to correct the problem. 

  24. do we want to un bold it just in case she doesnt get to it by 9 am?

  25. I dont see a big deal to analyzing 2 theories as some groups in the past had done it, just need to say were covering both in the intro.

  26. I am leaving it like it is I finished editing the parts to Maslow theory. I did ask her, it is up to her at this point if she wants to change it or not. If she leaves it My only suggestion would be to edit the intro so both theories are incorporated cohesively and elimate the problems of having 2 topic sentences and the repeated verbiage. Great story this sounds very similar to my dad who was also a sergeant in the Marines. I don't he ever got over what happened. I'm putting in my contributions. I will check around 5 am when I get up if it was submitted. Do you want to submit the final Nathan?