Expectancy Theory of Motivation

The Expectancy Theory of Motivation emphasizes the needs for organization to relate rewards directly to performance and to ensure that the rewards provided are those rewards deserved and wanted by the recipients. 

The Expectancy Theory of Motivation was developed by Victor Harold Vroom, a Canadian-born business school professor. Vroom developed the theory in 1964 after his empirical study on motivating factors behind certain courses of action, particularly leadership and decision making.

To be more precise, this theory explains in process why individual values one behavioral option over another. The theory also explains how an individual’s attitudes can be changed by helping them to recognize the positive relationship between effort, performance and outcomes.

Components of Expectancy Theory of Motivation

As mentioned earlier, the Expectancy Theory of Motivation has been developed by focusing on three major factors – effort, performance and outcomes. In the theory, three major components - expectancy, instrumentality and valence have been discussed, explaining the relationship between the given factors.

expectancy instrumentality valence

Explanation of the Components

Effort-to-Performance­ (E→P) “Expectancy

Expectancy is the state of thinking or hoping for something to happen. In other words, expectancy can be defined as the probability ranging from 0.0 to 1.0.

Defining expectancy in words of an employee, it is the probability of his efforts to lead to successful performance. If he believes that his effort will lead to achieving higher performance, his expectancy is very high, thus making the probability more or less equal to 1.0. On the other hand, when a person is uncertain about his desired performance level, his expectancy is very low, making the probability lesser than 1.0.

According to the theory, it is essential for expectancy of an individual to be high for his motivation to be high.

Performance-to-Outcome (P→O) “Instrumentality

Instrumentality can be defined as an individual’s perception regarding the connection between performance and outcomes.

Individuals believe that good performance results in desired outcome. Any person, before making any choices, evaluates what outcomes are probable to be achieved through his favorable performance. If he perceives that his good performance will be appreciated and he will be rewarded for it, he becomes motivated to do the task. However, sometimes, tasks may result more in frustration and fatigue, rather than recognition and rewards. If such are the outcomes, individuals become demotivated.

An individual’s motivation is also influenced by the possibility of actualization of the rewards promised by the managers. If one feels that the rewards promised by the managers are unreal or illusory, his motivation will be negatively influenced.

Outcomes-to-Goals (O→G) “Valence

Valence is the anticipated satisfaction or dissatisfaction that an individual feels towards the outcomes (rewards and recognition). Although rewards are known for the amazing influence it has on people, it has to be satisfactory for it to truly motivate any person.

While expectancy and instrumentality are cognition, valence is based on an individual’s ethic or principle, thus making it a challenging task for the managers to set rewards. For valence to be positive, the outcomes must be able to address an individual’s needs, desires, values, preferences, goals, etc.

A reward, no matter how attractive it is, it won’t be able to influence an individual unless the person realizes the benefits from it. Therefore, the management team should consider factors like life style, marital status, age and goal of individual employee before setting any rewards.

Summary of Expectancy Theory of Motivation

The Expectancy theory of Motivation explains the correlation between an individual enthusiasm and motivation to perform a task with his perception regarding effort, performance and outcomes.

According to the theory, an individual, at first, analyzes what level of performance he can make. Then he evaluates what kind of rewards or outcomes he can achieve through his performance. Finally, he decides if the outcomes that he is to receive are worth earning or not.

This way, the Expectancy Theory of Motivation has explained how expectancy, instrumentality and valence cause direct impact on motivation of an individual.