ERG theory

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The ERG Theory of Clayton Alderfer is a need theory with regard to the needs of employees in the company . It is a further development of Maslow's theory and distinguishes between need classes:

  • Vital needs ( Existence needs ) - the existence of needs that include both physiological, financial and non-financial loading and rewards, as well as the working conditions.
  • Relationship needs ( relatedness needs ) - include the relationship needs that both Maslow, social 'needs of belonging and affection as well as the needs of the respect and esteem.
  • Growth needs ( growth needs ) - the growth and self-fulfillment needs, which include the pursuit of the person for self-realization and productivity.

Dominance principles

Dominance principles in the ERG theory

In the ERG theory, the following dominance principles apply:

  • Frustration hypothesis : An unsatisfied need becomes dominant.
  • Frustration-regression hypothesis : If a need cannot be satisfied, the hierarchically lower one becomes dominant.
  • Satisfaction progression hypothesis : The satisfaction of a need activates the higher in the hierarchy.
  • Frustration-progression hypothesis : Even a need that is not satisfied in the long term can contribute to personality development over time and activate higher needs or lead to higher levels of demand.

The dominance principles result in seven basic statements about the need categories:

  • The less the existential needs are satisfied, the stronger they become.
  • The less the relationship needs are met, the stronger they become.
  • The less the relational needs are satisfied, the stronger the existential needs become.
  • The less the growth needs are met, the stronger the relationship needs become.
  • The more the existential needs are satisfied, the stronger the relational needs become.
  • The more the relationship needs are satisfied, the stronger the growth needs become.
  • The more the growth needs are satisfied, the stronger they become.

Relation to basic needs

According to Alderfer, Maslow and Reiss' representations of basic needs are correct, they just do not adequately express human motivations .

Alderfer divides needs according to natural and cultural needs or according to absolute and relative needs. Absolute or natural needs are largely independent of social conditions, of human development and thus of his will. This includes the satisfaction of hunger and thirst, protection against the weather through clothing and housing as well as the fulfillment of self-preservation and species preservation instincts, such as the sex drive and belonging to a community as well as the protection of oneself and the community (family / clan / tribe /People). The achievement of power, i.e. leadership of other people, as well as the corresponding counterpart, submission are natural functional elements of every society. All needs going beyond this are relative, i.e. dependent on culture. However, they are not only dependent on the level of development of a society, but to the same extent on the position within that society. They are also dependent on the natural environment and, in a very special way, on interpersonal relationships.


  • Clayton P. Alderfer: Existence, Relatedness, and Growth; Human Needs in Organizational Settings . Free Press, New York 1972.
  • Ruth Stock-Homburg: Personnel Management: Theories - Concepts - Instruments . 2nd Edition. Gabler, Wiesbaden 2010, ISBN 978-3-8349-1986-1 , p. 73 .
  • Hans J. Drumm: Human Resources . 6th edition. Springer, 2004, ISBN 978-3-540-77696-3 , pp. 393 ff .

Web links

  • ERG theory (Alderfer). 12MANAGE - The Executive Fast Track, accessed December 28, 2013 (Explanation of the ERG theory by Alderfer).