THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN McCLELLAND'S THEORY OF NEEDS, FEELING INDIVIDUALLY ACCOUNTABLE, AND INFORMAL ACCOUNTABILITY FOR OTHERS

By Royle, M. Todd; Hall, Angela T. | International Journal of Management and Marketing Research, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN McCLELLAND'S THEORY OF NEEDS, FEELING INDIVIDUALLY ACCOUNTABLE, AND INFORMAL ACCOUNTABILITY FOR OTHERS


Royle, M. Todd, Hall, Angela T., International Journal of Management and Marketing Research


ABSTRACT

This research examines the relationship between the dimensions of McClelland's Theory of needs (i.e., needs for power, achievement, and affiliation), felt accountability, and informal accountability for others (IAFO). This study's aim is to enhance organizational research by demonstrating the mediating effects of informal accountability, on the needs and IAFO relationship. The research tests hypotheses using data collected from 187 working adults. Findings indicate that felt accountability partially mediates the relationship between achievement and affiliation needs and IAFO. The paper concludes with a discussion of managerial implications, the study's relevant strengths, limitations and directions for future research.

JEL:M12,M14

KEYWORDS: Theory of needs, felt accountability, informal accountability for others

In an era of rapidly globalizing economies and increasingly available information, it is apparent that high profile lapses of accountability occur frequently (e.g., the global crisis in real estate markets and the massive frauds perpetrated by former NASDAQ chief Bernard Madoff). There are growing concerns in both the academic literature and popular press about a perceived lack of accountability. Accountability is a fundamental aspect of both personal and organizational life (Tetlock, 1985, 1992), and is, thus, instrumental in allowing societies to sustain themselves. In the organizational context, a lack of accountability may undermine firms' internal, legitimate, systems of checks and balances, and adversely affect performance (Yarnold, Muesur, & Lyons, 1988; Enzele & Anderson, 1993). So fundamental is accountability that social interactions might be impossible without it (Lerner & Tetlock, 1999).

Unfortunately, accountability may not always be an easily observable formal system or reporting, and often individuals feel simultaneously pulled in different directions by various constituencies (Cummings & Anton, 1990). This suggests that both the individual and others are important in determining subjective levels of accountability. At present, a growing body of research (e.g., Royle, Fox, & Hochwarter, 2009; Royle & Fox, 2011) deals with the notion that individuals feel accountable for others at work, even if those others are not formal subordinates. It is important for the field to examine further, what contributes to those sentiments and how individuals come to feel accountable for themselves and informally for others. In order to augment the literature, the field needs a model that helps shed light upon antecedent conditions, consequences, and possible mediating circumstances. The hypothesized model of informal accountability for others in this work addresses these concerns.

The model proposed here includes McClelland's (1961) socially learned needs variables (i.e., needs for power, achievement, and affiliation), feelings that individuals have about their own levels of accountability, and the degree to which they think they will be required to answer for others. This paper examines the potential that individuals' learned needs predict the degree to which they feel accountable for their own actions, then how much they feel they answer for the behaviors of others in their organizations. This paper will proceed as follows: first, we will give a review of the literature relevant to our study variables, then present our model and explain the sample, measures, and data analysis technique used. We then discuss the theoretical contributions of our research, its practitioner implications, its strengths, limitations, and directions for future inquiry. We conclude with a short summary of the study's major findings.

LITERATURE REVIEW

The Phenomenological View of Accountability

Lerner and Tetlock (1999) called accountability the implicit or explicit expectation that one might have to justify one's beliefs, feelings, and actions to others. With respect to accountability in organizations, Frink and Klimoski (1998) defined accountability as"the perceived need to justify or defend a decision or action to some audience which has potential reward and sanction power, and where such rewards and sanctions are perceived as contingent on accountability conditions" (p. …

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