MOTIVATION THEORY AND PRACTICE
The equity theory was proposed initially by Adams (1963). The focus of the theory has been to understand the motivational aspect of employees. The equity theory is based on the distributive justice principles promulgated to take care of social justice by balancing the economical disadvantages that existed in that period. It focuses on the need for fairness and justice as related to several human behaviors especially used by administrators of salary and wage. Although, it is commonly referred as an equity theory, it was originally offered as a theory of inequity, which is evident from the outline made by Adam (1963) as “the purpose of the paper is to present a theory of inequity” (p. 422). It may have been referred as an equity theory as it is attuned to achieve equity and Adams (1963) would have focused on inequity as some element of inequity needs to be believed to have taken place to propose a theory of this kind. The theory is based on a give-and-take principle whereby an individual gives something and gets a return for his/her giving. Adams (1963) classified the giving made by the individual as inputs and returns received as outcomes. Since, the theory was based on a give-and-take principle, a frame of reference to judge the equity or inequity was needed and therefore, the perception of inequity was based on reference persons or groups. The reference person or group as identified by Adams (1963) could be the individual himself/herself, “co-worker or colleague, relative or neighbor, a group of co-workers, a craft group, and an industry-wide pattern” (p.424). Adams (1963) emphasized the inputs “as perceived by their contributor and not necessarily isomorphic with those of the other party to exchange” (p. 423). He was of the opinion that the inputs and outputs had two distinct characteristics of “recognition and relevance” (p. 423). The implications of these characteristics is that the inputs need to have some attributes which are recognized as important and there has to be a perception that the individual feels that this recognized attribute is relevant in the process of exchange. The same was considered important by Adams (1963) for outputs as he opined that “in a manner analogous to inputs, outcomes are as perceived, and … characterize them in terms of recognition and relevance. Table 3.1 lists the inputs and outcomes as suggested by Adams (1963). A feeling of inequity is expected to be generated when the person with the inputs perceives that outcomes are not in balance as compared to the inputs based on those reference framework discussed earlier. In other words, a perceived ratio of inputs and outputs is developed and if the ratio is different than that of the reference group, an inequity is said to be perceived. Thus, inequity could be both positive and negative in terms of being favorable or unfavorable to the concerned individual. An equity is said to be established when the ratio of inputs and outcomes is equal to that of the reference group. Another important area of equity theory is the concept of “perception”. There may not a real inequity but it could be perceived as a person may feel knowledgeable but gets paid less than his/her reference group, then an inequity will be perceived. And when inequity is perceived a feeling of dissatisfaction creeps in and the perception of inequity persists till an exit is made out of it. The exit could be because of a systematic intervention strategy or simply the person leaves the organization where he perceived inequity. Hence, a change or even modification is required at the input or output or reference level to achieve a perceptual change in the inequity level. Table 3.1
Inputs and outcomes in the Equity theory
References: American Psychological Association. (2009). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, D.C.: APA.
Adams, J.C. (1963). Towards an understanding of inequity. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67(5), 422-436.
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Disley, P., Hatton, C., & Dagnan, D. (2009). Applying equity theory to staff working with individuals with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Intellectual & Development Disability, 34(1), 55-66.
Miner, J.B. (2006). Organizational behavior 1: Essential theories of motivation and leadership. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.
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