Acquired Needs Theory: Need for Achievement, Power & Affiliation Video

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  • 0:04 Acquired Needs Theory
  • 0:53 Need for Achievement
  • 2:30 Need for Power
  • 3:57 Need for Affiliation
  • 5:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sherri Hartzell

Sherri has taught college business and communication courses. She also holds three degrees including communications, business, educational leadership/technology.

Do you act out of a need for achievement, power or affiliation? This lesson describes the acquired needs theory and how one of the three types of needs affect us more than the others.

Acquired Needs Theory

David McClelland developed the acquired needs theory.
David McClelland

David McClelland proposed that one's needs are acquired over time as a result of their experiences - a notion that soon turned into what is now known as the acquired needs theory. As McClelland studied the needs of various individuals, he was able to classify them as either being achievement-, power- or affiliation-based. That is, every person holds an aspiration for achievement, power or affiliation. Interestingly, each person has a tendency to be motivated by one of these needs more so than by the other two. Consequently, a person's behavior and performance at work are strongly influenced by the most meaningful of the three needs.

Need for Achievement

The need for achievement is greatest for those individuals who have a strong desire to excel. Achievers seek neither power nor approval; rather, their only focus is on success. Achievers prefer work that has a moderate chance for success (about 50/50) and tend to avoid situations that are low-risk and those that are high-risk. Low-risk situations are avoided because of the presumed ease of accomplishment related to low-risk activities and the belief that things which come easy are not a true measure of success. High-risk situations are avoided by achievers because of the fear that success might be more related to luck than actual effort. Achievers need to be able to see the correlation between the level of effort they exert and the success that results.

The achiever prefers to work alone or with other achievers. Managers of achievers should work to provide them with challenging projects filled with attainable goals. For example, because Maria has a high need for achievement, her manager Sam might ask her to work independently on projects that allow for her to use her knowledge and skills in a way that challenges her, but at the same time provide her with a clear path for how she can successfully accomplish her task. Additionally, achievers appreciate managers who provide frequent recognition of how well they are doing so that they can monitor their progress, making feedback extremely important to achievers.

Need for Power

The achiever prefers to work alone or with other achievers.

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