McClelland's Theory of Motivation

David C. McClelland and his associates began a study of three needs that motivates human behavior that is power, affiliation and achievement in the early 1950s. McClelland believes that each person has a need for all three and other needs but that people differs in the degree to which the various needs motivate their behavior.


Applications of McClelland’s Theory
Since he stated that each person has three needs, these three needs can be abbreviated as “n Ach”, “n Pow” and “n Aff” respectively. They are defined as follows:
1. Need for Achievement (n Ach): This is the drive to excel, to achieve in relation to a set of standard, and to strive to succeed. In other words, need for achievement is a behavior directed towards competition with a standard of excellence. McClelland found that people with a high need for achievement perform better than those with a moderate or low need for achievement, and noted regional/national differences in achievement motivation. Through his research, McClelland identified the following three characteristics of high need achievers:
  • High need achievers have a strong desire to assume personal responsibility for performing a task or finding a solution to a problem. 
  • High need achievers tend to set moderately difficult goals and task calculated risks.
  • High need achievers have a strong desire for performance feedback.
2. Need for Power (n Pow): The need for power is concerned with making an impact on other, the desire to influence other, the wage to change people, and the desire to make a difference in life. People with a high need for power are people who like to be in control of people and events. This results in ultimate satisfaction to man.
People who have a high need for power are characterized by: 
  • A desire to influence and direct somebody else. 
  • A desire to exercise control over others.
  • A concern for maintaining leader-follower relations.
3. Need for Affiliation (n Aff): The need for affiliation is defined as a desire to establish and maintain friendly and warm relations with other people. The need for affiliation, in many ways, is similar to Maslow’s social needs. The people with high need for affiliation have these characteristics: 
  • They have a strong desire for acceptance and approval from others. 
  • They tend to conform to the wishes of those people whose friendship and companionship they value.
  • They give value and feeling to others.

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