The need for achievement and recognition is not only a fundamental human need, it is also a personality trait. We vary in the degree to which we need achievement and recognition and the degree to which we are driven to achieve this end.
Our high, medium or low level of desire for achievement and recognition may sometimes be evident in our work behaviour.
According to Wlliam Glasser, there are five human needs that must be met in order to achieve happiness and contentment.
They are survival, love, belonging, achievement and recognition, freedom, autonomy, fun and learning.
In previous newsletters we explored the need for survival, love and belonging. In this edition we will explore achievement and recognition.
A person high in this personality trait is characterized as having a consistent concern with setting and meeting high standards of achievement.
They set difficult tasks for themselves, enjoying the challenge and having high confidence in their ability to succeed.
While we often admire the high achiever, this person can be challenging to work or live with because they not only set exceptionally high standards for themselves, they set high standards for everyone around them.
Those who are lower in this trait will choose easier tasks in order to minimise the risk of failure and the embarrassment that accompanies it.
They will take on tasks only if they know they have a high degree of being successful and will drop out if the task becomes difficult.
There are many factors that determine whether or not we develop a high or a low achievement personality. Those with high achievement needs often had parents who encouraged independence in childhood, and who praised and rewarded success.
In other words, high achievers tend to encourage and support high achievement in their children. As children they learned to associate achievement with positive feelings, being accepted, and winning approval.
They develop a belief that their own competence and effort, not luck, determines their success. They may also develop a belief that their worth is tied to their accomplishments.
The reverse is also true.
Parents who believe they lack the competency, skills, and ability to set goals and make things happen, often pass this belief onto their children. Even with supportive adults, if a child has difficulty mastering skills, he or she may develop shame and embarrassment about lagging behind peers.
They may develop the belief that taking on challenges only sets them up for failure and embarrassment. Low competency people tend to believe that luck is the major factor in success and discount the importance of working towards developing competency.
Just as individuals differ in their need for achievement, they vary in their need for recognition.
Someone low in competency may need a great deal of recognition to bolster their confidence. Others may be embarrassed by recognition, feeling their efforts aren’t great enough to warrant praise.
A high achievement oriented person may thrive on the recognition of others for gratification, while others find their own satisfaction motivation enough. Therefore, being a high achiever or low achiever does not determine your need for recognition.
Employees highly motivated for achievement and recognition want to be constantly challenged to learn new things. If they lack the opportunity for growth and challenges, or if they do not receive recognition for their hard work, they will often grow disgruntled and morale will be low. They may seek employment elsewhere.
Some people compensate for lack of achievement possibilities at work through outside interests, achieving a great deal through hobbies or interests.
Low achievement employees may flounder in the workplace, rarely taking initiative, and secretly living with a fear of making mistakes.
They may want to take risks but need a great deal of encouragement and support to do so.
Whether you are an employee or employer, it might be helpful to take a moment to reflect on your own personal need for achievement and recognition.
If you fear failure and avoid taking risks, you may fail to recognize the need for achievement and recognition in yourself and those around you.
You may not recognize that your fear of failure, your lack of competency and confidence, stands in your way of being happy and contented with your life.
You will benefit from learning how to take risks, set goals, and achieve accomplishments. Self-esteem is built, in part, by showing ourselves what we are capable of, by taking risks, and having pride in our accomplishments.
If you are a high achiever, you may fail to recognize that those around you still need your encouragement and support, even if they are not accomplishing anything that truly impresses you.
What may be easy for you may be difficult for them. It’s also important to reflect on whether your need for recognition and achievement is enhancing your life, giving you joy and pleasure, or whether it is a never ending well that can never be filled.
Being achievement oriented is no guarantee of happiness. Many workaholics do not work such long hours because they enjoy working, they work long hours because they are constantly pursuing a feeling of achievement and recognition that eludes them.
Their self-esteem is too closely linked to what they accomplish. They may feel that what they do is never good enough.
In all things in life, we need balance to find happiness and contentment.
If you feel out of balance with your need for recognition and achievement, either because you are held back by fear of failure, or because you can never receive enough recognition or achievement, you may benefit from exploring this topic further.
Please feel free to contact a counsellor through your Employee and Family Assistance Program to discuss this or other issues related to your happiness and wellbeing.
Jenny DeReis, MC Psych. CCC