Expectancy theory of motivation was developed by- Victor Vroom. Basically, Vroom’s expectancy theory views motivation as a- process of governing choices. The expectancy theory tries to explain how and why people choose a particular behavior over an alternative. The theory suggests that motivation depends on two things: how much an individual desires a particular goal and how likely he thinks he can get it. For instance, a person is looking for a job and reads an advertisement for a position of Marketing Executive with a starting salary of Rs. 3 lakh per year. Even though he might want the job, he probably does not apply because he is aware that there is little chance of getting it. Next he sees an advertisement is for Field Supervisor for a salary of Re. 1 lakh per year. In this case he realizes that he .can probably get the job, but still doesn’t apply simply because he doesn’t want it. Then he comes across another advertisement for a Management Trainee in a big organization with a starting salary of Rs. 2 lakh per year. He chooses to apply for this job because he wants it and also thinks that he has a reasonable chance of getting it. Figure 9.3 shows the expectancy theory of motivation.





The expectancy theory rests on four assumptions:

  • The theory assumes that behavior is determined by a combination of forces in the individual and in the environment.
  • It assumes that people make decisions about their own behavior in organizations.
  • It assumes that different people have different types of needs, desires and goals.
  • It assumes that people make choices from among alternative plans of behavior based on their perceptions of the extent to which a given behavior will lead to desired outcomes.


The above model suggests that motivation leads to efforts and that effort, when combined with individual ability and environmental factors, result in performance. Performance, in turn, leads to various outcomes—each of which has an associated value called its ‘valence’. According to this model, individuals develop some sense of these expectations before they exhibit motivated or non-motivated behavior.


Effort-to-Performance Expectancy

The effort-to-performance expectancy refers to an individual’s perception of the probability that effort will result in high performance. When an individual believes that effort will lead directly to high performance, expectancy is quite strong, that is close to 1.00. For instance, if one feels sure that studying hard for an examination (effort) will result in scoring high marks (performance), then his effort-to-performance expectancy is high, that is close to 1.0. When an individual believes that effort and performance are unrelated, the effort-to-performance expectancy is very weak, that is close to 0.0. Usually we are not sure about our expectations, so they fall somewhere between 0.0 and 1.0 with a moderate expectancy. ;


Performance-to-Outcome Expectancy

The performance-to-outcome expectancy means an individual’s perception of the probability that performance will result in a specific outcome. For example, an individual who believes that high performance will lead to a pay raise has a high performance-to-outcome expectancy, approaching to 1.00. An individual who believes that high performance may possibly lead to a pay raise has a moderate expectancy between 1.00 and 0. And an individual who believes that performance has no relationship to rewards has a low performance-to-outcome expectancy that is close to 0.


Outcomes and Valences

Expectancy theory recognizes that an individual may experience a variety of outcomes as a consequence, of behavior in an organizational environment. A high performer, for example, may get big pay raises, fast promotions and praise from the boss. However, he may also be subject to a lot of stress and incur resentment from co-workers. Each of these outcomes has an associated value or valence that is,, an index of how much an individual desires a particular outcome. If an individual wants an outcome, its valence is positive. If an individual does not want an outcome, its valence is negative. If an individual is indifferent to an outcome, its valence is zero. It is this advantage of expectancy theory that goes beyond the need-based approaches to motivation.


Thus, for motivated behavior to occur on the part of any individual, three conditions must be met, which are as follows:

  • First, the effort-to-performance expectancy must be greater than zero.
  • Second, the performance-to-outcome expectancy must also be greater than zero.
  • Third, the sum of the valences for all relevant outcomes must be greater than zero.


Expectancy theory maintains that when all of these conditions are met, the individual is motivated to expand effort. The expectancy theory also has several other important practical implications, which managers should keep in mind. The managers can perform the following activities in relation to this –

  • Determine what outcomes employees prefer.
  • Define, communicate and clarify the level of performance that is desired.
  • Establish attainable performance goals.
  • Link desired outcomes to performance goal achievement.


Practical Applicability of Expectancy Theory

If a manager wishes to motivate his employees for increased and better performance, then he has to make sure whether the reward system is highly supportive to hard work or high quality. The manager will particularly see that the specific system, as applicable in their case, is communicated to them, so as to make them feel confident that their energized efforts will be rewarded.


Another important point, which should not be ignored by the manger, is that rewards must correspond to the varying preferences of an individual employee.


In conclusion, no doubt ‘expectancy’ theory has gained much popularity with theorists, but much more work still needs to be put in, before it can be accepted for use as an effective instrument of explanation of ‘motivation’ with all its implications.


The Porter-Lawer Extension

Porter and Lawler have proposed an interesting extension to the expectancy theory. The human relationists assumed that employee satisfaction causes good performance but research has not supported such relationship. Porter and Lawler suggest that there may indeed be a relationship between satisfaction and performance but that it goes in the opposite direction, that is, superior performance can lead to satisfaction.


Porter-Lawler Model

First, an individual’s initial effort is influenced by his perception regarding the value of reward and the likelihood that the effort will yield a reward. The probability that increased effort will lead to improved performance is affected by an individual’s traits, abilities and perception of his role in an organization. The model also distinguishes between intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. Finally, the Porter-Lawler model borrows from equity theory the idea that the employee’s satisfaction depends on the perceived equity of the rewards relative to the ‘effort expended and the level of performance attained.


Implications for Managers

Expectancy theory can be useful for organizations attempting to improve the motivation of their employees. Nadler and Lawler suggest a series of steps for managers in applying the basic ideas of the theory.

  1. They should determine the primary outcomes that each employee likely desires.
  2. They should decide what kind and levels of performance are needed to meet organizational goals.
  3. They should ascertain that the desired levels of performance are attainable.
  4. They should ensure that desired outcomes and performance are linked.
  5. They should also analyze the complete work situation for conflicting expectancies.
  6. They should make sure that the rewards are large enough.
  7. They should make sure that the overall system is equitable for everyone.


The expectancy theory has also its limitations. It is quite difficult to apply, for example, application of this theory in the work place would require to identify all the potential outcomes for each employee, to determine all relevant expectancies and then to balance everything somehow to maximize employee motivation. Expectancy theory also assumes that people are rational – therefore, they will systematically consider all the potential outcomes and their associated expectancies before selecting a particular behavior. However, few people actually make decisions in such a precise and rational manner.

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