McClelland’s Motivation Theory

Management Essay on McClelland’s Motivation Theory

McClelland’s Motivation Theory

McClelland’s theory is a motivation theory which is very important to any practicing manager. Employees’ motivation plays a very important role of ensuring greater productivity of the human resource. This must be ensured in order to realize improved productivity all the time. Successful managers know that there are different types of motivation among employees. There is a different motivation for every employee. A study of the achievement theory by McClelland shows that individual motivation is caused by different factors. These differ among individuals. According to McClelland, these factors can be defined as the special desire for association, security, status, authority and achievement. This theory postulates that recruitment, training and appointment of personnel ought to be based on individual and job characteristics.

According to this theory, people who desire to accomplish difficult tasks have imminent achievement desire and they prefer jobs that give them immediate feedback. Most achievers prefer involving themselves in tasks that have moderate risks. Affiliates desire interactions and social linkages. They get satisfaction from the realization that they are loved. Such individuals have a tendency of favoring peaceful situations. They also tend to assist troubled individuals so that they can realize unity. To satisfy their power desires, individuals try to control and sway their peers.

These people are forceful and outspoken in their attempt to influence others. Similarly, the need for security in terms of jobs as well as from physical injuries also motivates some individuals. The desire to work within an environment that is protected properly motivates some individuals as well as the job that is protected from unexpected termination.

Some people are motivated by the status that they possess. Such a status can be the one that provides the best privileges and facilities such as working in a good company as well as being a member of a privileged club. Within the setting of an organization, these company privileges motivate these individuals. Such privileges include a company car and nice offices.

According to the McClelland’s concept, the needs of a person are acquired because of life experiences. This theory offers managers in organization vital information on the way employees should be assigned jobs as well as how employees should be handled. His argument is that although individuals can have all motivators, a single motivator dominates all the others. The main motivator is determined by culture and life experiences of a person.

This theory can be used by the management in improving the performance of the employees in their work. Individual’s personality can be assessed by the management through the observation of their actions. While performing a group assignment for instance, one person can persuade others constantly. The desire for power can motivate such a person. Contrary to this, an individual who is always quiet and trying to minimize conflict any time it occurs may be motivated by the desire for affiliation (Lussier & Christopher, 2012). Leadership styles should be aligned by the management and tasks should be allocated to individuals on the basis of these characteristics. Individuals who are motivated by the desire for power can be assigned responsibilities that are goal oriented and ones that involve negotiations. People who are motivated by affiliation should be assigned tasks that involve interaction. Such tasks include public relations activities.

Additionally, when dealing with such people, the management ought to provide personal feedback. Individuals who desire achievement should be assigned challenging tasks in which immediate feedback can be obtained. Such tasks can be sales responsibilities where immediate response is obtained for purposes of evaluation. Additionally, these individuals should not be involved in group tasks because they prefer working alone or with fellow achievers.

There are organizational situations where McClelland’s theory might not be effective in employees’ management. This theory does not consider cultural factors while determining what motivates employees. For example, the desire to achieve can motivate employees but culture can inhibit them. There are cultures in which failure means part of the learning curve as well as enhancing skills. In other cultures, failure is seen as a serious setback which hinders a person from achieving their expectations (Lussier & Christopher, 2012). Effort by the management to promote achievements can motivate such individuals. There are situations where affiliation desire cannot hold. There are different opinions that different people attach to varying situations.

In situations where there is a great desire for confidentiality, this need for motivation might not hold. Additionally, individuals might be motivated by the desire for more power while they do not have leadership skills. As such, they do not deliver according to the management’s expectations. There are situations where these people might be motivated by personal desires instead of institutional powers. The motives of every person differ on the basis of their experiences, educational status and risks. The responsibility of the management is to determine the reasons why the individuals do not adhere to the standards after which the necessary action should be taken.

The management can take different actions in case the McClelland’s theory does not enhance the organizational performance. Such actions include examining the extent to which this theory can be applied as well as its acceptance among the employees. Although some people can have particular needs that include achievement needs, differences can exist among individuals. As such, managers ought to assess the abilities of individuals while assigning tasks because motivation and effort alone may not influence success (Jean, Mills, Bratton & Carolyn, 2006).

The management ought to evaluate the working environment of the employees. Affiliation desire can motivate an employee but they can be de-motivated by unfriendly workgroups. There are situations where managers ought to review the policies of the company. For instance, the standards of organizational performance can be unattainable. This can cause dissatisfaction among employees. The management ought to ensure that employees understand and follow the company’s standards.

In a nut shell, McClelland’s concept is a great theory to managers. Through this theory, managers are able to understand employees on the basis of what motivates them and this is very important when it comes to assigning employees different tasks. It also enables managers to align leadership styles in ways that suit the needs of different employees. However, there are situations where this theory may not hold. Attainment of the company goals can be hindered by organizational policies especially if standards cannot be attained. Culture can also hinder its application. Nevertheless, there are actions that the management can take when this theory proves inapplicable. Individual characteristics should be reviewed by the management to enhance understanding among the employees.



Jean, C., Mills, H., Bratton, J., & Carolyn, F. (2006). Organizational behavior in a global context. New York: University of Toronto Press

Lussier, R., & Christopher, A. (2012). Leadership theory, application, and skills development.

New York: Cengage Learning.

Scott, S., John, W. (2008). The handbook of technology and innovation management.

leadership theory, application, and skill development. London:  Routledge publishers.



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