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Achievement motivation theory

The Achievement motivation theory relates personal characteristics and background to a need for achievement and the associated competitive drive to meet standards of excellence.

According to theoretical research by Murray (1938), McClelland, Atkinson, Clark, and Lowel (1953), and McClelland (1961), achievement motivation or need for achievement is influenced by a combination of internal factors including personal drives and external or environmental factors including pressures and expectations of relevant organizations and society. Related to an individual’s need for achievement and overall motivation is the individual’s need for power and need for affiliation.

Understanding and explaining individuals’ achievement motivation is important within organizations where such characteristics are strongly associated with ongoing organizational success, most notably in the sales function. Staffing the organization with individuals having backgrounds and personal characteristics that are suggestive of a high need for achievement becomes an important consideration. While many factors are potentially influential and interact, e.g. an individual’s values (e.g. valuing the accomplishment of tasks over personal relationships), culture and educational background, providing appropriate external support in the form of organizational systems, structures, and culture (e.g. including opportunities for promotion, recognizing and rewarding successes, ensuring performance feedback, and matching individual control with role responsibilities and role importance) becomes just as important as the organization’s assessing and nurturing an individual’s personal drives.

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