Organizational Behavior

ERG Theory

Clayton Alderfer reworked Maslow’s need hierarchy to align it with the empirical research. His revised need hierarchy is labeled ERG Theory.

Alderfer argues that there are three groups of core needs: Existence, Relatedness and Growth.

Existence group

  • Provides our basic material existence requirements
  • They include Maslow’s physiological and safety needs.


  • The desire we have for maintaining important interpersonal relationships
  • These social and status desires require interaction with others.
  • They align with Maslow’s social need and the eternal Component.

Growth needs

  • An intrinsic desire for personal development.
  • These include the intrinsic component of Maslow’s esteem category and the characteristics included under self-actualization.

In addition to collapsing Maslow’s life into three, Alderfer’s ERG theory also differs from Maslow’s in that:

  • More than one need may be operative at the same time.
  • If the gratification of a higher-level need is stifled, the desire to satisfy a lower-level need increase.
  • ERG theory does not assume that there exists a rigid hierarchy. A person can be working on growth even though existence or relatedness needs are unsatisfied, or all three need categories could be operating at the same time.

ERG theory also contains a frustration-regression dimension

  • Maslow argued that an individual would stay at a certain need level until that need was satisfied. ERG argues that multiple needs can be operating as motivators at the same time.
  • ERG theory notes that when a higher-order need level is frustrated, the individual’s desire to increase a lower-level need takes place.

ERG theory is more consistent with our knowledge of individual differences among people.

  • Variables such as education„ family background and cultural environment can alter the importance or driving force that a group of needs holds for a particular individual.
  • The evidence demonstrating that people in other cultures rank the need categories differently would be consistent with ERG theory.