What’s it: McClelland’s theory of needs explains how the needs for achievement, affiliation, and power influence individual actions. These three needs underscore why a person is motivated. Some predominate on the need for affiliates to explain their motivation. Others may be more dominant in other needs.
For example, top managers are usually motivated by the need for power. But, they tend to have a low need for affiliation.
Meanwhile, employees with a need for achievement usually succeed as lower-level managers. They can manage successful projects because they have competence there. However, they are usually eliminated before reaching top management positions.
What are the three categories of needs according to McClelland’s theory?
McClelland formulated needs related to motivation into three. They are:
- Need for achievement
- Need for power
- Need for affiliation
Need for achievement
Employees with a strong need for achievement are usually results-oriented. They are motivated to continually tackle challenging yet achievable tasks. They will try to complete a task or project better than expected to impress their achievements. And, they often want a promotion or a raise in recognition of their accomplishments.
The need for achievement makes employees happy if they get a task with a moderate difficulty level. Or they are realistic to work with. Or the project matches their skills and abilities. That way, they can finish it well because they are proficient.
Instead, these individuals avoid the high-risk situation. It can reduce their chances of success and, therefore, can sacrifice achievements and opportunities for promotion.
Likewise, they avoid too-easy projects to work on. Since it was too easy, completing it was not an achievement. Everyone can probably do it.
Empowering these individuals can allow the company to produce more output. They can be a valuable asset because they have high productivity. When well-motivated, they can produce high and quality output.
Then, in the organizational structure, employees motivated by achievement usually successfully occupy lower-level management positions. Their achievements make it easy for them to occupy the career ladder. And they tend to be successful in playing their position.
But, when it comes to top management, they may be difficult because it requires them to take high risks. They may also not be ready to compete with other talents. As a result, they would usually be eliminated before reaching the top.
Need for power
Employees with a strong need for power are motivated to have influence and power over others. They enjoy having authority and being respected by others, prompting them to pursue status recognition. They also strive to win over the competition for control and to the top.
As negative as it sounds, individuals with a strong need for power can help companies succeed. They are well suited to fill leadership positions because they can better direct the organization and its people toward goals than employees with two other needs. In fact, they dare to take high risks as long as it earns the recognition and respect of others.
Then, these individuals are tenacious and decisive – needed to win the competition. In addition, they are willing to make sacrifices to achieve their goals and can make and take responsibility for difficult decisions.
Need for affiliation
Employees with a strong need for affiliation enjoy building and developing interpersonal relationships. They like a friendly work environment where coworkers are close to each other. And, they are motivated to be better, accepted, and liked by others.
These individuals enjoy being part of a team because they can create and bolster social relationships. In addition, in contrast to employees with a strong need for power, they prefer collaboration over competition.
Then, high emotional needs make employees motivated by affiliation play an important role in uniting members or coworkers and building synergies together. They can be a good bridge between power-motivated employees and achievement-motivated employees.
Finally, employees who need affiliation tend to be happier even if they don’t occupy top positions. And, they work best when it involves social interactions, such as working in the customer service area.
However, they tend to place strong interpersonal relationships above progress and achievement. So, they can relate well with people, but their performance may be mediocre.
For example, they can build strong emotional relationships with customers. However, they may find it difficult to excel in related technical aspects such as developing a CRM system. And for this reason, their collaboration with achievement-motivated employees is crucial.
How can business meet needs in McClelland’s theory?
Companies need a different approach to motivating employees, considering the three different needs above. For example, companies can set challenging but realistic targets to motivate employees with a strong need for achievement. In addition, giving recognition for their achievements by their superiors can further motivate them to work better.
Meanwhile, companies may need to involve them in decision-making to motivate employees with a strong need for power. Or, you give them the opportunity to manage others, for example, by assigning them a team leader.
Finally, employees with a high need for affiliation are motivated if they can work with more people. Assigning them to join a team is one way to satisfy them. In addition, you may also assign them to develop overseas networks or manage relationships with customers and clients.
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