Home > Diversification, Success > Defining Motivation: The 3 Major Social Motives

Defining Motivation: The 3 Major Social Motives

motivation definition achievement affiliation influenceMotivation is always one of my favorite topics to discuss. In the past, I’ve written about my top motivating factors, how vacations can re-ignite your motivation, and how playing company softball can teach you a thing or two about motivation. I was recently introduced to an assessment in my leadership class in which a group of 5 people get together and talk about where they’ve come from, where they are now, and where they see themselves going from here. It can be related to school, work, relationships, or anything in between. The idea is for the rest of the group to determine what motivates you based on the things you’ve said. According to this assessment, there are three basic social motives that drive our behavior:

1. Need for Achievement

The goal of achievement motivation is the need to do better and to improve task accomplishment. This concept is typically known as “efficiency drive.” People who are achievement motivated strive to out-perform others, meet or surpass self-imposed standards of excellence, strive for innovative, unique accomplishments, and think about long-term career concerns. Achievement motivated people want personal responsibility and set challenging goals. They tend to be successful in entrepreneurial, small business, sales, technical, and engineering jobs, but are ineffective in managerial roles because they are often too pushy and/or coercive.

2. Need for Affiliation

The goal of affiliation motivation is the need for establishing, maintaining, or repairing friendly relationships. There are two types of affiliation. Affiliation Interest, which is the act of giving affiliation to others because of genuine interest, and affiliation assurance, which is the need to receive affiliation for others. People who are affiliation motivated strive to establish, restore, or maintain close relations with others, are concerned about separation or disruption of relationships, and always characterize group activities as social or friendly. They tend to be good helpers, consultants, and therapists, are effective in management roles that require relationship building, and tend to be more effective at creating participation.

3. Need for Influence

The goal of influence motivation is the concern with having an impact, with reputation and influence. This concept is often called “power motivation.” People who are influence motivated strive to exercise strong, influential actions, generate strong emotions in others, and express concern for reputation or position in the world. They are usually successful mentors, trainers, or instructors of others. They seek positions of leadership, authority, and status. They are usually effective managers and rise to the top of organizations.

My results

Before we actually started the assessment, I assigned the following weights for each of the three social motives:

Achievement – High
Affiliation – Medium
Influence – Low

I was surprised to find that my peers felt the same way about me. I’ve always said that I’m motivated the most by money (achievement) and that’s probably a true statement. But recently, I had an opportunity to apply for a different position at work that might have paid a little more then what I make now. I found myself not able to apply because I would have to leave the department I currently work for, which means I would have to leave my fellow coworkers and the culture that I’ve become a part of. The tradeoff between a slightly higher salary and relationships I’ve become a part of wasn’t worth it for me to even consider the move. This is when I realized that I’m much more affiliation motivated that I really thought I was.

Now that you know the 3 major social motives, where would you say you rank in each of them? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

NOTE: The descriptions provided in this post came from a handout passed out in my leadership class.  The author of the source is unknown.

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  1. Dessu hindeya
    March 28, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    Wow it is very intersting course!

  2. November 9, 2016 at 12:07 PM

    I just finished a leadership training today that focused on the same motives, and more. Really interesting stuff. The motives are a tool to help understand oneself but also to understand ones colleagues and how to motivate them.

  3. May 24, 2017 at 6:01 PM

    An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who has been conducting a little homework on this. And he actually ordered me dinner due to the fact that I stumbled upon it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to talk about this issue here on your site.

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