Expectancy Theory of Motivation Which Was First Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Expectancy theory of motivation, which was first created by Victor Vroom, has become a widely accepted theory for explaining how individuals make decisions regarding different behavioral alternatives.

According to Vroom (1964), an individual will act in a certain way "based on the expectation that the act will be followed by a given outcome and on the attractiveness of that outcome to the individual."

The expectancy theory deals with internal processes that an individual goes through in order to decide whether they want to put forth the effort to achieve a specific goal. According to Vroom, three important elements must be considered when determining motivation.

The first of these elements is "valence," which describes the desire an individual has to obtain a goal or fulfill a need. The second of these elements is "instrumentality," which relates to the belief that if an individual puts in a certain amount of effort, then a desirable outcome is expected (Vroom, Green, 112-113).

The third element is "expectancy," which refers to the belief an individual has about the relationship between effort and performance. For example, if an individual puts in a good amount of effort, he can expect good performance.

Different people are motivated in different ways, depending on their individual perceptions of the attractiveness of the goal and how easily attained it can be. The expectancy theory places a strong emphasis on the individual.

It is important to note that the expectancy theory requires that all three of the above conditions be high. If any these elements are low, then, according to the theory, effort will also be low.

The expectancy theory developed a framework that clearly includes individual differences. Expectancy, instrumentality, and valence all differ for different individuals. For managers dealing with individual motivation, the inclusion of individual differences can be both the theory's greatest strength and the theory's greatest weakness.

For example, it is the theory's greatest strength because individuals differ as far as what it takes to motivates them. The expectancy theory addresses those individual differences. Also, focusing on individual differences allows managers to develop a more personal relationship with employees.

On the other hand, applying the expectancy theory effectively can take a lot of time, as it requires getting to know people and developing individual motivation plans. This is one of the flaws of the theory.

The expectancy theory suggests several important determinants of employee skills, including employee motivation, their perceptions of the difficulty of the task, the value the employee places on the task, and the employee's confidence in his or her ability to accomplish the task (Eccles, 1983; Pintrich & Schunk, 1996).

Literature Review

As opposed to psychological theory of behaviorism, the expectancy theory takes into consideration the fact that the individual person is a key element to understanding and predicting human actions.

Since Vroom's development of the theory, there have been many supporting and opposing views and studies on the expectancy theory. In addition, many researchers have found that the theory is too vague.

Research has suggested that the expectancy theory must be expanded in order to consider the effects of the time between when the individual intended to act and when the actual behavior took place; the significance of previous behavior on subsequent behavior; and the sequence of behavior (Saltzer, 1981).

Hirokawa and Scheerhorn (1986) developed a model of group decision-making that supports general expectancy theory concepts. This model shows how groups come to decisions, which factors result in decisions, and how individual group members affect the quality of the decisions.

Research shows that treating people as a group may have many benefits, but it also has many undesirable consequences (Hansen, 1997). One of the major consequences is that individuals are proven to show less effort when performing collectively than when performing individually.

This research supports the expectancy theory, which states that people will be motivated to show effort to the extent they believe their efforts can increase the likelihood of obtaining a specific outcome. The expectancy theory proves to be a useful framework for examining lack of group motivation, as it provides a valid theory on motivation and productivity in work groups in applied settings.

As companies are having greater difficulty getting employees to stay with them, research has been conducted to examine this problem. For example, Brown (2000) found that one in three MBA graduates have jumped to two or more companies since graduating one year ago. These three graduates were offered excellent salaries but were unsatisfied with inducements to remain.

In addition, here is little evidence that supports the theory that higher wages would increase individual performance (Foust, 2000). Higher wages typically do not increase performance unless there is a clear connection between performance and wages. Because the higher wage is offered to attract an employee, the connection between wage and performance is missing.

Evidence shows that employees remain more loyal to a company when they are offered rewards for meeting performance expectations (Byrne, 1983). This reward may come in the form of a bonus, promotion, recognition, sense of accomplishment, or any other incentive to perform.

According to Grant (1982), expectancy describes a person's perception of the likelihood that their effort will lead to performance and performance will lead to a reward. These perceptions are representative of the individual's subjective reality, and may or may not resemble actual probabilities. These perceptions are created by the person's individual experiences, observations of others, and self-perceptions. In any event, most perceptions have a strong influence on behavior.


As a whole, the majority of research on the expectancy theory has supported the importance of the relationship between beliefs, expectations, attitudes, and intentions on behavior and persuasion.

Basically, research on the expectancy theory shows that it has been mostly used in psychology to assist in understanding the behaviors of individuals alone or in a group setting. However, the concepts presented in these theories also have a great value in determining the communication in interpersonal or group settings and decision-making processes. A lot of the research has suggested expanding the theory.

Application of Expectancy Theory

As a cashier in a grocery store, the expectancy theory can be applied to my job in many ways, showing both the positive and negative aspects of using the expectancy theory to boost performance in the workplace.

For example, the store may offer incentives to boost performance. This may increase the cashiers' desire to ring in sales faster and increase productivity in the expectation of a reward. However, it also causes salespeople to crunch their sales during the competition, so the store will see a sales slump before and after the contest. In addition, the competitive attitude it creates may dampen team spirit.

According to the expectancy theory, motivation correlates to an individual's expectations about how well they can perform tasks and receive desired rewards. Expectancy theory is based on the relationship among the individual's effort, the individuals' performance, and the desirability of outcomes linked to high performance.

The major keys to expectancy theory are the expectancies for the relationships among effort, performance, and outcomes and the value of the outcomes to the individual (Green, 15-21). The cashiers, in this case, will only act when they have a reasonable expectation that their efforts will lead to the desired outcome.

In addition, if an employee feels he or she does not have the skills to compete for the reward, or if the reward holds little or no value for him or her, he or she may not participate or put in the effort.

At the grocery store, I am offered other incentives to perform well, such as possible promotions, employee of the month awards, and bonuses. Of the three, the bonuses have the highest value to me.

Therefore, I conclude that the expectancy theory is supported through studying my workplace. In most cases, in…

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