Expectancy Theory - Motivation Theory

1. Expectancy theory is one of the most widely accepted explanations of motivation. Victor Vroom’s expectancy theory has its critics but most of the research is supportive.


2. Expectancy theory argues that the strength of a tendency to act in a certain way depends on the strength of an expectation that the act will be followed by a given outcome and on the attractiveness of that outcome to the individual.


3. It says that an employee will be motivated to exert a high level of effort when he/she believes that:

• Effort will lead to a good performance appraisal.

• That a good appraisal will lead to organizational rewards.

• That the rewards will satisfy his/her personal goals.


4. Three key relationships.


  • Effort-performance relationship: the probability perceived by the individual that exerting a given amount of effort will lead to performance

  • Performance-reward relationship: the degree to which the individual believes that performing at a particular level will lead to the attainment of a desired outcome

  • Rewards-personal goals relationship: the degree to which organizational rewards satisfy an individual’s personal goals or needs and the attractiveness of those potential rewards for the individual

5. Expectancy theory helps explain why a lot of workers merely do the minimum necessary to get by. For example:

  • If I give a maximum effort, will it be recognized in my performance appraisal? No, if the organization’s performance appraisal assesses nonperformance factors. The employee, rightly or wrongly, perceives that his/her boss does not like him/her.

  • If I get a good performance appraisal, will it lead to organizational rewards? Typically many employees see the performance-reward relationship in their job as weak.

  • If I am rewarded, are the rewards ones that I find personally attractive?

It is important the rewards being tailored to individual employee needs


6. The key to expectancy theory is the understanding of an individual’s goals and the linkage between effort and performance, between performance and rewards, and finally, between the rewards and individual goal satisfaction.


7. As a contingency model, expectancy theory recognizes that there is no universal principle for explaining everyone’s motivations.


8. Attempts to validate the theory have been complicated by methodological criterion and measurement problems.

  • Published studies that purport to support or negate the theory must be viewed with caution.

  • Importantly, most studies have failed to replicate the methodology as it was originally proposed.

  • Some critics suggest that the theory has only limited use, arguing that it tends to be more valid for predicting in situations where effort-performance and performance-reward linkages are clearly perceived by the individual.


K. Don’t Forget Ability and Opportunity

1. Success on a job is facilitated or hindered by the existence or absence of support resources.


2. A popular although arguably simplistic way of thinking about employee performance is as a function of the interaction of ability and motivation; that is, performance = f(A  M).


3. If either is inadequate, performance will be negatively affected. We need to add opportunity to perform to our equation—performance = f(A  M  O)..



4. When you attempt to assess why an employee may not be performing to the level that you believe he or she is capable of, look to the environment to see if it is supportive.

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