Expectancy Theory of Motivation

Victor H. Vroom
Expectancy theory of motivation was developed by Victor H. Vroom. It was first published in 1964 in his book ‘Work and Motivation.’ Later, this theory was expanded and refined by Porter and Lawler and others. Expectancy theory is a process theory of motivation which describes the process through which need are translated into behavior. It does not explain how needs emerge as it has been described by content theories of Maslow, Herzberg and others. 

Expectancy theory of motivation states that every employee is motivated to work when he believes to achieve the things which, he wants from his work. This theory is based on the premises that every employee is a rational person. In other words, motivation is a product of the anticipated worth to a person of an action and the perceived probability that the person’s goals would be achieved. 
Expectancy Theory of Motivation

Motivational Force (M) = Expectancy (E) x Instrumentality (I) x Valence (V) 

M = (E x I x V) 

Vroom’s model suggests that motivation leads to efforts and the efforts combined with employee’s abilities (efficiency), experience, available resources, environmental factors etc. lead to performance. The performance, in turn, leads to various outcomes or results. Each outcome has some positive or negative value to the employee, which is termed as valence in this theory. When the total of all the valences are positive, the employee is motivated to make further efforts. 


According to Vroom model, the person’s level of effort (Motivation) depends upon: 

1. Expectancy 

A worker must be confident that his efforts will result in better productivity and that he has the ability to perform the task well. 

2. Instrumentality 

The worker must be confident that such high performance will be instrumental in getting the desired rewards. 

3. Valence 

The worker must value these rewards as desired and satisfactory. Hence, motivation is related to all these three factors 

Advantages of Vroom's Expectancy Theory 

  • It encourages mangers to design a motivational climate that will stimulate positive employee’s behavior. This is done by creative and effective communication with the employees.
  • This theory helps managers think about the mental processes through which motivation occurs.
  • This theory helps manager to value his employee’s human dignity because it is based on the premise that employees are capable and rationally thinking individuals. Therefore, their beliefs, perceptions and probability estimations influence their behavior.
  • It encourages managers to understand employees preferred outcomes and ensures the availability of such outcomes. 

Limitations of Vroom's Expectancy Theory 

  • It is argued that this theory has only limited use. It is because, it tends to be valid only in situations where the effort-to-performance and the performance-to-outcome linkages are clearly perceived by the employees.
  • In many organizations, employees are rewarded on the basis of seniority, educational qualifications etc. rather than on their actual performance. In such a situation, this theory tends to be idealistic and has no practical utility.
  • These are no reliable measures of valence, expectancy and instrumentality in the real work settings.
  • This theory does not consider many factors of affecting motivation force because these factors may complicate the process of predicting motivation. These factors include the role of long-term rewards, favors granted in the past, sense of loyalty, fear of losing job etc.
  • Though this theory has emerged as an important one but it has not been fully tested. This theory needs further testing to build broad-based evidences for its support.

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