McClelland’s Theory of Needs

McClelland identified 3 traits that are common to all individuals. One of them is need for achievement. This refers to the need of an individual to perform a certain task effectively and achieve personal standards and benchmarks set by the individual (Champoux, 2006). Need for affiliation involves the establishment and maintenance of good relations with others.

Psychologist David McClelland advocated Need theory, also popular as Three Needs Theory. This motivational theory states that the needs for achievement, power, and affiliation significantly influence the behavior of an individual, which is useful to understand from a managerial context.

This theory was developed in the 1960s an d McClelland points out that regardless of our age, sex, race or culture, all of us possess one of these needs and are driven by it. This theory is also known as the Acquired Needs as McClelland put forth that the specific needs of an individual are acquired and shaped over time through the experiences he has had in life.

Someone with the need for affiliation always wants to be liked by everyone and to get along well with everyone. In this case, they attempt to avoid situations that may cause conflicts with others (Falkenberg, 1990). The need for power is the desire to influence others.

A real example of applying McClelland’s model can be demonstrated using an organizational motivation context. In this case, a manager offers incentives for individuals with the need for achievement so that they can work hard to attain the achievement they need in order to be rewarded (Falkenberg, 1990). This improves the performance of the organization because the individual attempts to achieve high performance in his job or task.

For those people who have high need for affiliation, the management may organize or social forums and activities to allow those individuals to get on with well with others. For those who have high need for power, they are promised and rewarded with promotions for their high performances.

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