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Expectancy Theory of Motivation

The theories of motivation are broadly classified into various heads such as Need theories, Process theories, etc. The Expectancy theory, which is the topic of this discussion falls within the category of process theories. Process theory deals with the explanation and description of the process of how behavior comes to be energized, directed, sustained, and controlled.

Expectancy Theory of Motivation

These theories provide various ways through which work environments can be analyzed and requisite changes in the environment are made to bring about organizational and behavioral changes which will amount to motivation.

These theories primarily define the various elements involved in the process of motivation and then using that element as the premise emphasizes how the process functions within that premise.

The Expectancy Theory developed by Victor H Vroom is premised on the assumption that anticipation of rewards and punishment similar to their actual materialization can motivate people.

That is to say, the mere expectation of a favorable result compels action. An employee who expects an extra reward works with a behavior characteristic by an increase in the intensity and persistence which is directed towards that reward.

Expectancy Theory of Motivation Relies Upon 4 Assumptions :

1. Behaviour is a result of a number of forces in the work environment and in the individual.

2. Behaviour is a result of people’s conscious decisions.

3. Needs, Goals, and Desires vary from person to person.

4. Favorable outcomes lead to action and unfavorable ones lead to restraint.

The Expectancy theory is a complicated motivational theory that relies on three variables or elements.

1. Individual Behaviour

Individual Behaviour relates to the actions a person performs. These actions include working overtime, coming late every day, etc, and composes of action that is bound to have an effect on the total outcomes.

2. Performance Outcomes

Performance outcomes are the results of the individual behavior of action on the individual separately and by extension on the firm. For instance, an employee who works overtime if backed up by the requisite skill for his job will perform productively, which becomes the performance outcome.

3. Reward Outcomes

Reward outcomes refer to the implication of the employee performance outcome. Reward outcomes can be both extrinsic and intrinsic. When the reward is tied to a person’s inner needs and not for external benefits and is being done for the sake of doing it such reward outcomes become intrinsic and when the outcome comes from outside, externally, then it is known as an extrinsic outcome.

The relation between these variables lies at the heart of this theory. The relation between individual behavior and performance is known as Expectancy. It is the belief that a particular behavior will lead to the desired performance outcome.

The knowledge of an employee that the completion of a desired level of performance will lead to valued outcomes, then the completion of the performance becomes instrumental for such reward, and hence this relationship is known as an Instrumental relationship that exists between the two variables’ performance and reward.

The importance that a person assigns to a favorable outcome is known as Valence.

Vroom defines motivation as a “process governing the choices among alternative forms of voluntary activities which are controlled by the individual”. The choices made by the individuals are determined by their belief on how well the expected results of a particular behavior will match or eventually materialize the desired results.

This theory advocates that the intensity of a tendency to perform in a particular manner is governed and controlled by the degree of the expectation that definite desired results that appeal to the individual will follow. Thus at the crux of this theory lies the desirability of the outcome or valence.

This desired outcome determines how the cognitive process of the person will function and the person will cognitively choose that which he believes is the best. Thus this theory amounts to being a theory about the mental processes regarding options and choice of certain options or different variables and the motivation becomes an outcome of Expectancy, Instrumentality, and Valence.

This theory with all these concepts relies on three pertinent relationships :

  • A performance-reward relationship is about the degree to which the employee believes that getting a good appraisal for performance will lead to organizational rewards.
  • Rewards-Personal Goal Relationship – The extent of attractiveness or appeal of the potential reward to the individual.

Vroom put forth that when selecting an option the option with the greatest motivational force will be chosen by the individual. Expectancy and Instrumentality as variables represent the attitude/cognition of the employee in the decision making whereas Valence represents his value system. These three factors interact to form the decision.

The Function is: Motivation Force = E x I x V. When all factors are high there is strong motivation and when all of them are low there is a strong avoidance. Hence when there is strong valence, with a high probability of reward and a high level of expectation then the motive force for that activity will be strong and vice versa.

This theory is a very simple theory that clearly revolves around a person’s expectations, actions, and effect of such actions along with the reward for such action. It is a very simple theory to understand and put into motion.

See also  Reinforcement Theory of Motivation: Definitions and Examples

About Sonia Kukreja

I am a mother of a lovely kid, and an avid fan technology, computing and management related topics. I hold a degree in MBA from well known management college in India. After completing my post graduation I thought to start a website where I can share management related concepts with rest of the people.