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Acquired-needs Theory and Equity Theory

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Management
Wordcount: 1094 words Published: 12th May 2021

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Acquired-needs theory and equity theory are theories that impact motivation. Motivation is directly linked to organizational behavior. Motivation is defined as the desire to accomplish a goal or a definite performance level, leading to goal-directed behavior. When an individual is motivated, the individual tries hard to accomplish a task. Motivation is impacted by individual needs. The significance of motivation in organizations and job satisfaction is essential for the achievement of organizational goals and objectives. Organizational behavior is defined as the study and application of knowing about how people and groups act within the organizations where they work. Therefore, the acquired-needs theory and equity theory impact organization behavior.

Acquired-Needs Theory and Equity Theory

Acquired-needs theory is a need-based theory of motivation. The theory was proposed by psychologist David McClennan. According to the theory, people acquire three types of needs as a outcome of their life skills. The three needs are need for achievement, need for affiliation, and need for power. Individuals who have high need for achievement have a strong need to be prosperous. Individuals with need for achievement are attracted to organizations that are merit-based and reward performance rather than seniority. Individuals who have high need for affiliation want to be liked and accepted by others. Individuals who have high need for power want to influence others and control their environment.

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Equity theory is a process-based theory of motivation. The theory was proposed by behavioral psychologist J. Stacy James. According to the theory, employees will evaluate their input against the output they receive from it. Inputs are the contributions people feel they are making to the organization. Outcomes are the perceived rewards someone can receive from the situation. Equity perceptions develop as a result of a subjective process. Sense of fairness is a result of the social comparisons individuals make. More specifically, individuals compare their inputs and outcomes with other people’s inputs and outcomes. Individuals perceive fairness if they believe that the input-to-outcome ratio is similar to the input-to-outcome ratio of a comparison person. Distributive justice refers to the degree to which the outcomes received from the organization are observed to be fair. Procedural justice refers to the degree to which fair managerial procedures are used to reach a decision. Interactional justice refers to the degree to which people are treated with respect, kindness, and dignity by others.

Theory Impact on Organization Behavior

Theory of acquired needs has significant effects for the motivation of employees. Managers need to understand the needs of their employees to be able to motivate them. Individuals with high need for achievement are constantly striving to improve their performance and focus on goals. If an individual with high need for achievement is not rewarded in regard to their performance, then the individual will be upset. However, individuals with need for achievement may not be well suited for management positions. Management encompasses completing work by encouraging others and those with high need for achievement might perceive managerial activities as a waste of time. Individuals with need for affiliation prefer to interact with others and be with friends. These individuals emphasize on harmonious interpersonal relationships. If the individual is not affiliated with a group or working alone, then their productivity will decline which affects the whole organization. However, individuals with need for affiliation may not be well suited for management positions. Management involves critiquing and disciplining subordinates which those with need for affiliation will not be able to complete because they are concerned about how they are perceived by others. Individuals with high need for power desire to make an impact on the organization. They thrive from influencing others which make them candidates for managerial positions. The acquired needs theory allows organizations to inspect the needs of their employees and see if their needs are being fulfilled.

Equity theory has significant effects for the motivation of employees. High levels of justice create greater levels of employee commitment to organizations. Distributive justice is relevant to perceived fairness of an outcome. Managers need to adapt their fairness according to their subordinate. Everyone’s notion of fairness different. Therefore, the manager needs to evaluate and adapt their level of fairness to the individual. Procedural justice is relevant to layoffs, employee selection, performance evaluations, and pay decisions which all affect the organization. Employees generally care about procedural justice when employees do not get the outcome, they feel they deserve. By using procedures that are fair when making decisions, employees are productive which affects the organization. Interactional justice is relevant to the treatment of employees. Employees expect to be treated with dignity by their peers, supervisors, and customers. When they are not treated with respect, employees get upset.

Significance of Theories

 Acquired-needs theory is significant because it drives motivation and behavior of employees. If their particular need is not fulfilled, then they are discouraged which meads to a decline in productivity. The acquired-need theory helps managers understand the needs of their employees which creates a better work environment. When employees’ needs are fulfilled, they are more motivated to work which benefits the organization as a whole.

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Equity theory is significant because employers benefit from observing and developing paying all three types of justice interaction. Not only is it the right thing for an organization to do, but it leads to beneficial outcomes for the organization. Justice and fairness are related to employees’ psychological health and well-bring. Furthermore, managers who are treated fairly by their bosses treat their own subordinates in a fairer manner. The equity theory creates a trickle-down affect when it is put to use in an organization.


  • Bauer, T., & Erdogan, B. (2019). Organizational Behavior. Theories of Motivation, 117-128.


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