Compare and contrast expectancy and goal setting theories of work motivation. Which do you find the more useful and why?
Two of the best known approaches to work motivation are the expectancy theory introduced by Victor Vroom (1964) and the goal-setting theory introduced by Edwin A. Locke (1968). Both of these theories have garnered support from subsequent empirical research and have proved influential in how companies motivate their workers through incentive schemes and objective-setting exercises. As their original authors admitted, however, both also have some limitations and they also have contrasting implications in some respects. In particular, expectancy theory might suggest that setting very difficult goals may de-motivate workers who do not expect to be able to achieve them, while Locke’s theory would suggest that tough goals (‘stretch targets’) can lead to greater effort and so enhanced performance, even if the goals are not fully met. In this essay I first describe in turn the key features of the two theories and then compare them in more detail. I then go on to suggest that the most useful theory is one that combines elements of both expectancy and goal-setting theory by showing how expectancy theory can help explain the level of commitment that workers have to particular goals, which is critical in determining how much effort they put in and so how they perform in practice. Expectancy theory
Expectancy theory argues that motivation depends on personal beliefs of the worker about the probability that effort will lead to good performance and That this in turn will lead to rewards that the worker value (Vroom) 1964. The theory predicts that worker will be a multiplicative combination of: •
Valence (anticipated satisfaction on receiving the reward) •
Instrumentality (Strength of belief that performance will lead to the reward. •
Expectancy (the belief that the effort will lead to the level of performance needed to achieve the reward) Expectancy theory assumes that worker make rational evaluation of these three factors based on the information available to them. It has proved to be good at predicting labour turnover and many other aspects of individuals and organizational behaviour and attitudes. The theory maybe particularly useful for a sales- oriented company where individual performance can be easily measured and linked to reward. For example, in an article by Guthrie (2007) the CFO of warehouse retailer firm Costco is quoted saying that ‘paying higher wages translates into more efficiency.’ The theory therefore suggests that companies can motivate their workers through an appropriate performance measurement system with clear links to reward in terms of pay and promotion. The Key to succeed is that the effort performance-reward system is clearly understood by the worker, who will increase their efforts accordingly based on a rational evaluation of the factors described above. Goal setting theory
Goal setting theory arose from the observation that the simple act of setting targets can lead to enhanced performance. As formulated by Locked (1968), it argues that motivation id influenced by goal difficulty, goal specificity and knowledge of results via feedbacks. As reviewed in Locke and Latham (2002), a larger number of subsequent empirical studies have broadly back up the validity of the general theory, although it has been further developed and refined over time by Locke and others. As described by Locke and Latham (2002), goals affect performance through four main mechanisms (although these may also be inter-related. First, they direct workers ‘attention towards activities that are relevant to the goals and away from less relevant activities. Second, goals tend to energise workers to make greater efforts, so long as they are realistic and credible. Third, goals can make worker more persist in their efforts to achieve these objectives. Fourth, Goals can stimulate worker to seek out new information relevant...
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