Expectancy Theory

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  • Topic: Motivation, Expectancy theory, Victor Vroom
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  • Published : January 5, 2013
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Expectancy Theory of Motivation: Motivating by Altering Expectations

Fred C. Lunenburg
Sam Houston State University ________________________________________________________________________ ABSTRACT Vroom’s expectancy theory differs from the content theories of Maslow, Alderfer, Herzberg, and McClelland in that Vroom’s expectancy theory does not provide specific suggestions on what motivates organization members. Instead, Vroom’s theory provides a process of cognitive variables that reflects individual differences in work motivation. From a management standpoint, the expectancy theory has some important implications for motivating employees. It identifies several important things that can be done to motivate employees by altering the person’s effort-to-performance expectancy, performance-to-reward expectancy, and reward valences. ________________________________________________________________________

Need theories of motivation (Alderfer, 1972; Herzberg, 1968; Maslow, 1970; McClelland, 1976) attempt to explain what motivates people in the workplace. Expectancy theory is more concerned with the cognitive antecedents that go into motivation and the way they relate to each other. That is, expectancy theory is a cognitive process theory of motivation that is based on the idea that people believe there are relationships between the effort they put forth at work, the performance they achieve from that effort, and the rewards they receive from their effort and performance. In other words, people will be motivated if they believe that strong effort will lead to good performance and good performance will lead to desired rewards. Victor Vroom (1964) was the first to develop an expectancy theory with direct application to work settings, which was later expanded and refined by Porter and Lawler (1968) and others (Pinder, 1987). Expectancy theory is based on four assumptions (Vroom, 1964). One assumption is that people join organizations with expectations about their needs, motivations, and past experiences. These influence how individuals react to the organization. A second assumption is that an individual’s behavior is a result of conscious choice. That is, people are free to choose those behaviors suggested by their own expectancy calculations. A third assumption is that people want different things from the organization (e.g., good


INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT, BUSINESS, AND ADMINISTRATION 2_____________________________________________________________________________________

salary, job security, advancement, and challenge). A fourth assumption is that people will choose among alternatives so as to optimize outcomes for them personally. The expectancy theory based on these assumptions has three key elements: expectancy, instrumentality, and valence. A person is motivated to the degree that he or she believes that (a) effort will lead to acceptable performance (expectancy), (b) performance will be rewarded (instrumentality), and (c) the value of the rewards is highly positive (valence). (See Figure 1.)





Rewards Valence

Figure 1. Basic expectancy model.

Expectancy Expectancy is a person’s estimate of the probability that job-related effort will result in a given level of performance. Expectancy is based on probabilities and ranges from 0 to 1. If an employee sees no chance that effort will lead to the desired performance level, the expectancy is 0. On the other hand, if the employee is completely certain that the task will be completed, the expectancy has a value of 1. Generally, employee estimates of expectancy lie somewhere between these two extremes.

Instrumentality Instrumentality is an individual’s estimate of the probability that a given level of achieved task performance will lead to various work outcomes. As with expectancy, instrumentality...
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