Theories of Motivation: McClelland’s Three Need Model

Each person tends to develop certain motivational drives as a result of his cognitive pattern and the environment in which he lives. David McClelland gave a model of motivation, which is based on three types of needs, namely, achievement, power and affiliation. They are stated below:

  1. Need for achievement (n-Ach): a drive to excel, advance and grow;
  2. Need for power (n-Pow): a drive to influence others and situations; and
  3. Need for affiliation (n-Aff): a drive for friendly and close interpersonal relationships.

McClelland’s Three Need Model

Achievement motivation: some people have a compelling drive to succeed and they strive for personal achievement rather than the rewards of success that accompany it. They have a desire to do something better or more efficiently than it has been done before. This drive is the achievement need. From researches into the area of achievement need, McClelland found that high achievers differentiate themselves from others by their desire to do things better. They seek situations where they can attain personal responsibility for finding solutions to problems, where they can receive rapid feedback on their performance so they can set moderately challenging goals. High achievers are not gamblers; they dislike succeeding by chance. They prefer the challenge of working at a problem and accepting the personal responsibility for success or failure, rather than leaving the outcome to chance or the actions of others.

Power motivation: the need for power is a drive to have impact, to be influential, and to control others, individuals high in Power enjoy being “in charge”, strive for influence over others, prefer to be placed into competitive and status-oriented situations, and tend to be more concerned with gaining influence over others and prestige than with effective performance. Power-motivated people wish to create an impact on their organisations and are willing to take risks to do so.

Affiliation motivation: this need has received the least attention of researchers. Affiliation need can be viewed as the desire to be liked and accepted by others. It is the drive to relate to people on a social basis. Individuals with a high affiliation motive strive for friendship, prefer cooperative situations rather than competitive ones, and desire relationships involving a high degree of mutual understanding.

People possess the above needs in varying degrees. However, one of the needs will tend to be more characteristic of the individual rather than the other two. Individual with a high need for achievement thrive on jobs and projects that tax their skills and abilities. Such individuals are goal-oriented in their activities, seek a challenge and want task relevant feedback. Individuals with high affiliation needs value interpersonal relationships and exhibit sensitivity towards other people’s feeling. But individuals with the high power needs seek to dominate, influence or have control over others.

McClelland’s concept of achievement motivation can be related to Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory. People with high achievement motivation tend to be interested in the motivators and with low achievement tend to be interested in the motivators and with low achievement tend to be interested in the motivators and with low achievement tend to be interested in environmental or hygienie factors. McClelland’s research revealed that managers generally score high in the need for achievement. In other words, motivating forces for managers lie in the challenge and potential of the job.

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