Need for Effectance

Literature on White’s Need for Effectance

Robert White (1959) hypothesized the Need for Effectance as a powerful motivator that influences individuals. He believed Need for Effectance is a concept that relates to our inborn drive to explore and gain mastery over our immediate environment and beyond. Need for Effectance is sometimes identified as “N Effectance”.

N Effectance is evident in babies when they try to constantly explore their own small little world. They reach out for things, crawl and take their first steps, feeling happy with each success that they experience in their endeavors. Such explorations of the environment is bound to continue throughout our lives as we venture into and explore the different spheres and traverse the various paths.

In the course of interacting with the environment, we meet with both successes and failures and attain varying degrees of mastery over whatever we attempt to do. The successes instill a sense of confidence in our own ability or competence. White considers this confidence as a powerful motivator to interact further with the environment so as to add to our experiences of success and feel confident about our competence. White terms this as a sense of competence.

Jay Lorsch and John Morse (1975) at the Harvard Business School used the concept of Sense of Competence to study the motivation and performance of organizational members. They defined sense of competence as confidence in one’s own competence.

Their findings show that sense of competence accounted for higher levels of motivation and performance of managers in service organizations. This author’s own pioneering work (1977; 1986b) in this area, in the Indian Banking industry, indicates that sense of competence is highly correlated to the motivation,Opens in new window job involvement and job satisfactionOpens in new window of employees at all levels. The study also showed that several job related factors lead to a sense of competence, especially for those high in N Ach.

The need for effectance is a powerful motivator and can be creatively tapped by managers by creating, through appropriate job assignments, avenues for employees to channel their energies to feel a sense of competence and stepping up successive increment in the degree of challenge the tasks offer.

With adequate guidance and appropriate encouragement, employees will explore the environment, achievement success and develop confidence in their own competence. Motivation and sense of competence mutually influence each other, since sense of competence will motivate people to explore further successes, and such experiences of success will further motivate employees to engage in work behavior. The intrapsychic or intrinsic rewards experienced through a sense of competence will be self-perpetuating and all that the manager has to do is to tap this need for effectance.