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David c McClelland's Motivational needs theory

American David Clarence McClelland (1917-98) achieved his doctorate in psychology at Yale in 1941 and became professor at Wesleyan University. He then taught and lectured, including a spell at Harvard from 1956, where with colleagues for twenty years he studied particularly motivation and the achievement need. He began his McBer consultancy in 1963, helping industry assess and train staff, and later taught at Boston University, from 1987 until his death. McClelland is chiefly known for his work on achievement motivation, but his research interests extended to personality and consciousness. David McClelland pioneered workplace motivational thinking, developing achievement-based motivational theory and models, and promoted improvements in employee assessment methods, advocating competency-based assessments and tests, arguing them to be better than traditional IQ and personality-based tests. His ideas have since been widely adopted in many organisations, and relate closely to the theory of Frederick Herzberg.
David McClelland is most noted for describing three types of motivational need, which he identified in his 1961 book, The Achieving Society:
  • Achievement motivation (n-ach)
  • Authority/power motivation (n-pow)
  • Affiliation motivation (n-affil)

v McClelland needs-based motivational model

These needs are found to varying degrees in all workers and managers, and this mix of motivational needs characterises a person's or manager's style and behaviour, both in terms of being motivated, and in the management and motivation others.

1.      Need for achievement (n-ach)

The n-ach person is 'achievement motivated' and therefore seeks achievement, attainment of realistic but challenging goals, and advancement in the job. There is a strong need for feedback as to achievement and progress, and a need for a sense of accomplishment.

2.      Need for authority and power (n-pow)

The n-pow person is 'authority motivated'. This driver produces a need to be influential, effective and to make an impact. There is a strong need to lead and for their ideas to prevail. There is also motivation and need towards increasing personal status and prestige.

3.      Nneed for affiliation (n-affil)

The n-affil person is 'affiliation motivated', and has a need for friendly relationships and is motivated towards interaction with other people. The affiliation driver produces motivation and need to be liked and held in popular regard. These people are team players.
McClelland suggested other characteristics and attitudes of achievement-motivated people:
  • Achievement is more important than material or financial reward.
  • Achieving the aim or task gives greater personal satisfaction than receiving praise or recognition.
  • Financial reward is regarded as a measurement of success, not an end in itself.
  • Security is not prime motivator, nor is status.
  • Feedback is essential, because it enables measurement of success, not for reasons of praise or recognition (the implication here is that feedback must be reliable, quantifiable and factual).
  • Achievement-motivated people constantly seek improvements and ways of doing things better.
  • Achievement-motivated people will logically favour jobs and responsibilities that naturally satisfy their needs, ie offer flexibility and opportunity to set and achieve goals, eg., sales and business management, and entrepreneurial roles.

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