Need for achievement and need for affiliation are two basic social needs/motives of human beings. These needs are modified by experience, but also have biological underpinnings. They are said to be relatively stable and persistent behavioral tendencies.
These needs are type of goals that people try to attain in their day to day life, which, in turn, energize and help in channelizing behavior. Such needs become essential as they affect how an individual may relate to others and may guide social interactions, and are thus, called social needs.
Need for achievement or the achievement motivation is the drive to overcome obstacles and obtain high standards. It is a recurrent preference in thought and behavior for experiences of attaining excellence. It also refers to a desire to accomplish difficult tasks. People who have an inclination towards the achievement motivation are persistent and driven to succeed. They have a stronger than average desire for feedback on their performance. They also excel in challenging situations or when confronted with difficult goals; they generally rise to the occasion.
In contrast, need for affiliation or the affiliation motivation is the motive to seek interpersonal relationships. It is a recurrent preference in thought and behavior for experiences of establishing, maintaining, and restoring positive affective relationships. It also refers to the need to draw near to and win the affection of others. People who have an inclination towards the affiliation motivation want to come together and spend time with others. They are concerned with establishing and maintaining close interpersonal relationships and report positive emotions in the presence of others. They also enjoyably cooperate and reciprocate with an allied other.
Both need for achievement and need for affiliation are present in an individual. Despite being contrasting in nature and seemingly opposite, they may not necessarily be present, in an individual, in a manner that is inversely proportional. It is very much possible that an individual may have both the needs in equally high proportions. However, one need may always come in the way of the other (refer to: Need for Achievement and Need for Affiliation: The Extent to Which an Individual May Have Both Simultaneously).
This makes it important to, then, try to understand who may be more inclined towards the need for achievement and who may be more inclined towards the need for affiliation. A look at some of the personality traits that may be associated with these two needs would provide some basis to this understanding.
A personality trait is a distinguishing characteristic feature of an individual. It is a dimension of personality that categorizes individuals according to the degree to which they manifest a particular characteristic. Personality traits are relatively stable over a period of time and show stability across varied situations. They also tend to influence behavior.
There are innumerable personality traits. However, personality psychologists now, largely, agree on the five basic traits that define personality, known as the five factor model of personality or the Big Five theory of personality. The five factor model of personality represents five personality traits that combine together to form personality. These five traits are said to encompass most of the traits, making them the five core traits of personality.
There has been a lot of empirical support for the five factor model of personality, which strengthens the claim of the traits represented by the model to be the five core traits. Further, these five traits have been found to be universal. The five traits of the Big Five theory are – Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness to Experience.
Extraversion is about the extent of sociability of an individual. People who are high on extraversion are very sociable, energetic, optimistic, friendly, talkative, and assertive. They are warm, gregarious, seek excitement, have the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others, and involve a range of positive emotions.
These aspects of extraversion are clearly associated to the need for affiliation. People who are inclined towards the affiliation motivation are high on sociability. They seek interpersonal relationships, desire to have and maintain close relationships, like to spend time with others, and experience positivity in the presence of others – all of which are aspects of extraversion. An individual high on extraversion can be then said to be more inclined towards need for affiliation.
The trait of agreeableness is the extent of concern for social harmony in an individual. It relates to the characteristics relevant for social interaction. It is also about how much others see the individual as being likable. People high on agreeableness are friendly, warm, considerate, kind, soft-hearted, altruistic, trustworthy, cooperative, and tender-minded. They are also known to be straightforward, modest, and involve a certain level of compliance.
The aspects of agreeableness can also be seen to be related to the need for affiliation. The affiliation motivation involving being cooperative, restoring positive affect in relationships, winning the affection of others, and reciprocation, are all related to being high on agreeableness. This may also be associated with the aspects of being trustworthy, altruistic, and soft-hearted. All these aspects help in establishing and maintaining social harmony, which is an integral part of being agreeable. An individual high on the trait of agreeableness can then be said to be having more of an inclination towards need for affiliation.
Conscientiousness is the trait, which is about the degree of self-discipline and control within an individual. People high on conscientiousness act dutifully, maintain a level of self-discipline, are well organized, and behave in an orderly manner. They are cautious, responsible, and highly dependable. They are also competent, determined, and strive for achievement.
These aspects of the trait of conscientiousness are clearly related to need for achievement. Being competent and striving for achievement would obviously make an individual inclined towards need for achievement. The aspects of conscientiousness like self-discipline, responsible, organized, and determined are qualities that enable an individual to achieve excellence, confronting difficult situations, and overcome challenging situations – all that involves an inclination towards the achievement motivation. An individual being high on the trait of conscientiousness can then be said to be more inclined towards need for achievement.
The trait of neuroticism is about an individual’s emotional stability and personal adjustment. It involves experiencing a wide range of negative emotions such as anger, depression, anxiety, self-consciousness, and vulnerability. People high on neuroticism experience wide mood swings and are volatile in their emotions. On the other hand, people who are low on neuroticism are emotionally stable. They are calm, well adjusted, have a certain level of contentment, and are not prone to extreme maladaptive emotional states.
These aspects of neuroticism can be related to need for affiliation. The characteristics of being calm, content, well adjusted, and inability to experience negative emotions that are involved in low neuroticism are also involved in having an affiliation motivation. An inclination towards need for affiliation involves maintenance and restoration of relationships, seeking affection, being cooperative, positive affect, and liking the company of others, all of which are qualities associated with being low on neuroticism. An individual being low on neuroticism can then be said to have more of an inclination towards need for affiliation.
The trait of openness to experience (or simply openness) is about the extent of being open to new experiences. It involves an intellectual curiosity, divergent thinking, and a willingness to consider new ideas and an active imagination. People high on openness are imaginative, unconventional, and independent thinkers. They like unusual ideas, are curious, and like to have a wide range of experiences. They also have a sense of vision, an appreciation of art, are more creative, and have a high level of self-awareness.
The aspects of openness can be related to an inclination towards need for achievement. Need for achievement mainly involves obtaining high standards, accomplishing difficult tasks, and attaining excellence. This requires a certain level of curiosity. It also helps in being imaginative and being unconventional. Trying out tasks in a routine manner may not lead an individual to attain standards of excellence. It is only when the individual is creative, has some sort of unconventionality, and is highly imaginative that he/she may be able to accomplish such goals. Being a visionary enables the individual to have farsightedness that enables him/her to achieve a sense of excellence. It is also a high level of self-awareness that is required for an individual to actually think of such goals and have a drive to achieve it. An individual being high on openness can then be said to be more inclined towards need for achievement.
The significance of need for achievement and need for affiliation in day to day life arouses a curiosity in trying to know the kind of individuals that may be more inclined towards each of these social motives. The five factor model of personality can be seen as to providing some of these answers.
Therefore, people who are high on extraversion and agreeableness, and low on neuroticism can be said to be more inclined towards need for affiliation. On the other hand, people who are high on conscientiousness and openness to experience can be said to be more inclined towards need for achievement. 

Saif Farooqi

A PhD in Psychology (from the University of Delhi). I have been blogging about psychological issues for more than ten years. I am extremely passionate about teaching psychology. I'm a writer, podcaster, and TEDx speaker. I also conduct workshops and awareness programs in schools and colleges. Currently, I'm also working as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India


TF said...

very nicely explained. I enjoyed reading it.

Saif Farooqi said...

Thanks a lot! Really nice to know that you enjoyed reading it. :)

Ami said...

Conscientiousness is a good trait in managers. Those people usually care about the needs of people they supervise and don't let things slide through the cracks.