Mcclelland’s Needs Theory of Motivation

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David McClelland wrote about ‘acquired needs theory’ in his book, ‘The Achieving Society’. He believed that individuals have specific needs over a period of time and are shaped by their life experiences.

Mcclelland’s Needs Theory of Motivation

He described three types of motivational needs which affect the motivation level and effectiveness in job functions:

Need for Achievement

The achievement-motivated person seeks some form of achievement for accomplishing certain challenging goals and advancing in a career. The need for success is high and people are interested in taking feedback regarding their work and the progress of their work.

People with a higher need for achievement want to do extremely well and thus tend to avoid both low-risk and high-risk situations. Such individuals prefer jobs which require moderate or calculative risks.

Need for Affiliation

The affiliation-motivated individuals look for friendly relationships and are motivated towards interacting with other people. They look forward to having good relationships with other people and need to feel accepted by them.

The move for affiliation motivates people and they want to be appreciated and held in good regard. Individuals normally work together as a team, obey and follow the rules of their working team and prefer the work that involves important personal interaction.

Need for Power

The power-motivated individuals have a drive that makes them dominant, effective and creates an impact. They have a strong need to lead and for their ideas to prevail. There is also a motivation and need towards increasing personal status and reputation.

A person’s need for power can be of two types, personal and institutional. Those who desire to have personal power want to direct others and this need is often perceived as undesirable. Persons who want to have institutional power want to organise the efforts of others to further the goals of the organisation.

McClelland’s acquired needs theory states that most people acquire and display a combination of these characteristics. According to McClelland, some employees show a strong inclination towards certain motivational needs. The behaviour and working style of employees are affected due to motivational or integrated needs.

Needs defined by McClelland are present in all workers and managers in different degrees. The integration of the different needs directs a person’s or manager’s behaviour for managing the situations in regard to being motivated and in motivating and managing others.

People with different needs are motivated differently:

  • High achievers take calculated risks and should be given challenging projects with accessible goals.

  • For high achievers, completing the task successfully is more satisfying than even material rewards.

  • High achievers expect immediate feedback for their work to know about the progress that they have made towards their goals.

  • High achievers are dedicated workers and once the goals are planned, they involve themselves completely in their work. Employees with a high affiliation perform best in a supportive environment.

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