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McClelland's Theory of Needs

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Autor:   •  May 16, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,479 Words (6 Pages)  •  2,846 Views

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McClelland's Theory of Needs

David McClelland, an American psychological theorist from Mont Vernon, NY, was famous for his work on achievement motivation and also for taking part in creating the scoring system for the Thematic Apperception Test. His work was highly influenced by the work of Henry Murray. McClelland proposed that an individual's specific needs are acquired over time and are shaped by one's life experiences. These needs can be placed into three categories: Need for Achievement, Need for Power, and Need for Affiliation. These needs affect how we are motivated and also how we attempt to motivate others.

The first need is the Need for Achievement (nAch). Those with a high need for achievement have a drive to excel. They tend to avoid low-risk and high-risk situations and prefer work that has a moderate probability of success.1 They look for situations where they can attain personal responsibility for finding solutions to problems in which they can determine easily whether they are improving or not and in which they can set moderately challenging goals. High achievers do not like succeeding by chance. They like to accept their own responsibility for whether they succeed or failure instead of leaving it to others. If a task seems too easy or too hard for them than they avoid it. They also need regular feedback so that they can monitor their progress. They have a preference to either work with other high achievers or to work alone. They need to be given challenging projects with goals that are in their reach. Instead of monetary rewards (which aren't motivators for these individuals), they need constant feedback.

Need for Power (nPow), can be measured in 2 ways -personal and institutional. Individuals who want personal power want to be in charge of others and are often looked at as undesirable. Institutional power, also known as social power, is for those who want their organization to succeed by organizing others' efforts. Managers with a high need for institutional power tend to be more effective than those with a high need for personal power. Those who have a need for power have the need to lead and also to increase their personal status and prestige. They like to control and have a high influence on others. They enjoy being in charge and are also competitive. These people also like status oriented situations. In the workforce, these "power seekers" need to have the opportunity to manage others.

Those who have a need for friendships, interactions and to be liked, have a Need for Affiliation (nAff). These individuals do not like competition and prefer to be placed in groups and/or co-operative situations. They need to feel accepted by others. In the workforce, they excel in customer service and client interactions.

During his research, McClelland found that some people have a very strong need to achieve, whilst the majority of people are not motivated in this way. Most of his research focuses on the need to achieve due to his high interest on this.

A famous experiment that was used to measure ones need was where people were asked to throw rings over a peg. There wasn't a specific distance where they should throw the rings. The individuals with a high need for achievement planned out where they would stand to throw their ring from. They chose to stand at a realistic location; somewhere not too easy but where they knew they could get the ring around the peg. They had set an achievable goal.

An achievement-motivated person sees the achievement of a goal as the reward; it is more satisfying than praise or a monetary reward.4 There is always competition and they enjoy being able to compare their achievements to others. The difference between nAch and the others is that the individuals that are motivated this way spend their time thinking how things could be improved.

McClelland used the Thematic Apperception Test to measure the needs of different individuals. Basically, the test measures ones imagination by asking the individual to tell a story about a series of ambiguous pictures. It is assumed that the needs of the person will come out in the story.

In conclusion, McClelland found that everyone has all three of these needs but one need always tends to stick out over the others.

The Transtheoretical Model of Change

In 1977, James O. Prochaska of the University of Rhode Island came up with a theory based on an analysis of different theories of psychotherapy. This model focuses on the decision making of an individual


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