Most Popular Theories of Motivation

Theories of Motivation

by Shamsul
Theories of Motivation
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The Acquired Needs Theory by David McClelland (1961)


According to McClelland (1961), an individual holds a natural tendency the satisfaction three needs including achievement, power, and affiliation. As a result, when he strongly feels one of these needs, the impact will be to push that person for adopting behaviors in order to satisfy such a need. Nevertheless, the founder of this theory emphasizes the need for accomplishment that he considers (along with that of power) as a higher need and recommends measuring it in the individual using a thematic apperception test (TAT) (McClelland and Boyatzis, 1982).

McClelland has established that an individual’s motivation is proportional to the power of the individual’s desire to either achieve something as per the model of excellence or to overcome other competitors. Importantly, the needs analysis of McClelland indicates that his higher needs match Herzberg’s motivators, and the former’s (so-called lower) need for affiliation is identified with the second’s hygiene factors. On the other side, the theory of motivation by accomplishment has the merit of having tried to originate the individuals’ needs. Indeed, for McClelland, needs are stored in the preconscious, in the so-called daydreaming region.

The Three Dominant Needs Identified by McClelland are:

·         The need for achievement. Those whose overpowering motivator is the need for success tends to both set as well as achieve challenging goals. These people are great in calculating risks and achieving set goals. Additionally, they prefer receiving continuous feedback over their development and success. Working alone is their another preference. This refers to having a glance over the performance and challenging goals of the employees. There are two types of employees, one having higher achievement level who prefer avoiding low risk situation. These employees are willing to work on a project which has moderate probability of being successful in comparison to those with low levels of achievement. The employee having higher motivational needs will improve from the feedback obtained from managers and supervisors (Mc Clelland, 1975).
·         The need for affiliation. Those individual’s dominant motivator in the need for affiliation are regarded as the willingness of a person to be associated with a group. For such people, the aspect of collaboration is a lot more important than that of competition. They are not very much towards taking challenges that comes out with higher level risks and are encircled with uncertainty. Additionally, these people are willing to get appreciated and most of the times agree with what other people are willing to do. Those employees, who prefer to be associated groups, are comfortable with many people around them. They have a high need of affiliation. Since they feel that they are accepted by the society, they perform better in their jobs which involve high interaction with clients as is the case of banks (Mc Clelland, 1975).
·         The need for power. People whose need for power is the dominant motivator want to control or influence others. They love competition and wins. In addition, they appreciate having a status and being recognized. In a bank, this relates with the extent of controlling and influencing other people and is mostly exercised by supervisors or top level managers (Mc Clelland, 1975).
Source: David McClelland (1961)
Robbins et al., (2009) criticized Mc Clelland’s theory by stating that it imposes a less practical impact in comparison to other theories as the author argued that the three needs are subconscious which means that an individual may be high on these needs without being aware. Hence, measuring this may not be very easy.

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