Historical Theories

Historical Theories

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McClelland’s Theory of Needs is one of the historical theories of motivation (Latham, 2011). According to this theory, humans are motivated by three needs. These are the need for achievement, affiliation, and power.  One of these needs dominates others in every person. At the workplace, management uses salary, bonuses, and recognition to motivate employees.

However, this approach has been ineffective as employees continue reporting a lack of motivation. McClelland’s Theory can be used to improve this condition. The theory will help identify the dominant motivators of individual employees at the workplace (LaBelle, 2008). The motivators can be identified based on an employee’s past actions or personality. Then, this information will help management structure tasks around individual employees. This will help ensure that every employee stays motivated.

There is a lot of evidence supporting performance enhancement strategies. First, studies show that performance enhancement strategies are required to enable employees to perform to the best of their abilities producing excellent work. Second, research shows that employees will at some point be demotivated and end up missing deadlines, procrastinating, blaming others for inefficiency, and wait for instructions. Such employees can only be motivated through performance enhancement strategies.

McClelland’s theory supports performance enhancement initiatives in the workplace. The theory provides a framework for enhancing employee motivation which is part of performance enhancement strategies. For example, based on the theory, people whose dominant motivator is achievement motivation can be improved through ample feedback and challenging tasks. When power is the dominant motivator, motivation can be improved through goal-oriented tasks (LaBelle, 2008). For employees motivated by affiliation, less risky tasks and private recognition can be used to improve motivation. Therefore, through theory, businesses can improve the performance of their employees.


LaBelle, D. (2008). The Influence of Social Motivations on Performance and Trust in Semi-      virtual Teams. Thesis. Drexel University, 1-154.

Latham, G. (2011). Work Motivation: History, Theory, Research, and Practice. SAGE          Publications, Inc.

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