McClelland’s Theory of Needs: Achievement, Affiliation, and Power.

McClelland’s Theory of Needs can help identify the dominant motivators of people on your team, it can be used to influence how you set goals and provide feedback, how to motivate and reward team members. You can also use these motivators to design work around the limbs, ensuring a better fit.

What is McClelland’s theory of needs?

The theory of need, also known as the theory of the three needs, proposed by the psychologist David McClelland, is a motivational model that tries to explain how the needs for achievement, power and affiliation affect the actions of people from a managerial context.

This model was developed in the 1960s; Two decades earlier, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was first proposed in the early 1940s. McClelland claimed that we all have all three of these types of motivation , regardless of age, gender, race, or culture. The motivation by which each individual is driven is derived from their life experiences and the opinions of their culture. This theory of needs is often taught in classes related to management or organizational behavior.

Achievement needs

Achievement-motivated people need challenging projects, but not impossible, they thrive on overcoming problems or difficult situations, so be sure to keep them engaged in this way. Achievement-motivated people work very effectively, either alone or with other achievers.

By providing feedback, give students a fair and balanced assessment, they want to know what they are doing right, and wrong, so they can improve.

They prefer to work on moderately difficult tasks, they prefer jobs where results are based on their effort rather than anything else, and they prefer to receive feedback on their work. Achievement-based individuals tend to avoid high-risk and low-risk situations, low-risk situations are considered too easy to be valid, and high-risk situations are considered more based on luck of the situation than achievement. that the individual achieved. This personality type is motivated by achievement in the workplace and an employment hierarchy with promotional positions.


  • You have a great need to set and achieve challenging goals.
  • You take calculated risks to achieve your goals.
  • You like to receive regular feedback on your progress and accomplishments.
  • He often likes to work alone.

Membership needs

Affiliate-motivated people work best in a group setting, so try to integrate them with a team (rather than working alone) whenever possible, they also don’t like uncertainty and risk. Therefore, when assigning projects or tasks, save the risks for other people.

People who have a need for affiliation prefer to spend time creating and maintaining social relationships, enjoying being part of groups and having the desire to feel loved and accepted, they tend to adhere to the norms of the culture in that workplace and, they generally do not change workplace rules for fear of rejection.

This person favors collaboration over the competition and does not like high risk or high uncertainty situations, they work well in areas based on social interactions such as customer service or customer interaction positions.


  • He wants to belong to the group.
  • He wants to be liked and will often agree with what the rest of the group wants to do.
  • It favors collaboration over competition.
  • You don’t like high risk or uncertainty.

Power needs

Those with a high energy need perform best when in charge, as they enjoy competition, do well with goal-oriented projects or tasks, they can also be very effective in negotiations or in situations where another party must be convinced. of an idea or goal.

When providing feedback, be direct with these team members and keep them motivated by helping them advance their career goals.

People in this category enjoy work and place a high value on discipline. The downside to this type of motivation is that group goals can become zero-sum in nature, that is, for one person to win, another must lose. However, this can be applied positively to help achieve group goals and help others in the group feel competent about their work.

A person motivated by this need enjoys recognition of status, winning arguments, competition and influence over others, with this type of motivation arises a need for personal prestige and a constant need for a better personal status.


  • You want to control and influence others.
  • He likes to win arguments.
  • Enjoy the competition and win.
  • Enjoy status and recognition.

How to apply McCleclland’s theory of needs?

It can be applied to manage corporate teams by identifying and categorizing each team member among the three needs. Knowing your attributes can certainly help you manage your expectations and run the team smoothly.

The following two-step process can be used to apply McClelland’s theory:

Step 1: Identify the motivational needs of the team

Examining the team to determine which of the three needs is a motivator for each person, personality traits and past actions can help in this process.

For example, someone who always takes charge of the team when a project is assigned, the one who speaks in meetings to encourage people and delegates responsibilities to facilitate the achievement of group goals, someone who likes to control the final deliverables , this team member is probably being driven by power.

Another team member who doesn’t speak during meetings, and is happy to agree with the team’s ideas, is good at handling conflict and may seem awkward while someone talks about undertaking high-risk, high-reward tasks. This team member is likely motivated by membership.

Step 2: approach the team according to your type of need

Based on the motivational needs of team members, modify your leadership style to assign projects according to the type of need of each individual team member. Challenging projects would definitely be a part of the portfolio of someone who enjoys power, while relatively simpler projects are for the kitty of someone derived from affiliation.

This information is crucial to influence while setting relevant goals for the individual, monitoring, providing feedback, recommending the learning plan , etc. If a particular type of need does not fit the position of the individual, it can be made known to them, so that they can work in the right direction or accept their destiny.

Comparative theories to McClelland’s theory of needs

McClelland’s theory of needs is not the only theory about worker motivation, Sirota’s three-factor theory also presents three motivating factors that workers need to stay motivated and excited about what they are doing: fairness, achievement, and camaraderie.

Sirota’s theory states that we all start a new job with a lot of enthusiasm and motivation to get it right, but over time, due to bad company policies and poor working conditions, many of us lose our motivation and enthusiasm.

This is different from McClelland’s theory, which states that we all have a dominant motivator that moves us forward, and this motivator is based on our culture and life experiences.

Use your best judgment when motivating and engaging your team, understanding a variety of motivational theories will help you decide which approach is best in any given situation.

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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.