McClelland Theory of Need – Achievement, Affiliation, Power

McClelland Theory of Need also known as three needs theory or the Learned Needs Theory.. The theory proposed that an individual’s specific needs are acquired over time and are shaped by one’s life experiences. McClelland did not differentiate between any certain transition among the needs. He indicates that some people have higher levels of one need than others.

McClelland Theory of Need

McClelland Theory of Need – Three Needs

These needs are classified as:

  1. Achievement
  2. Affiliation
  3. Power

Need for Achievement

People with a high need for achievement (nAch) seek to excel and thus tend to avoid both low-risk and high-risk situations. Achievers avoid low-risk situations because the easily attained success is not a genuine achievement. In high-risk projects, achievers see the outcome as one of chance rather than one’s own effort. They seek personal responsibility for finding solutions to problems. They need rapid feedback on their performance.

Need for Affiliation

Those with a high need for affiliation (nAff) need harmonious relationships with other people and need to feel accepted by other people. They tend to conform to the norms of their work group. High nAff individuals prefer work that provides significant personal interaction. They perform well in customer service and client interaction situations. They prefer cooperation over competition. They strive to make and keep relationships with a high amount of trust and mutual understanding.

Need for Power

A person’s need for power (nPow) can be one of two types – personal and institutional. Those who need personal power want to direct others, and this need often is perceived as undesirable. Persons who need institutional power (also known as social power) want to organise the efforts of others to further the goals of the organisation. Managers with a high need for institutional power tend to be more effective than those with a high need for personal power

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