Expectancy Theory of Motivation

by Shawn P. Quigley and Jon M. Quigley

In our previous post we have discussed Maslow’s Human Motivation Theory (Hierarchy of Needs) and Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory (Hygiene and Motivation Theory). However, to be aligned with our recent post about Pavlov’s Employee we should look at the Expectancy Theory of Motivation developed by Victor H. Vroom.

Expectancy Theory Equation: Expectancy

The Expectancy Theory of Motivation can be shown as an equation:

MF = Expectancy X Instrumentality X (Valence(S))”(Vroom, 2015).

MF is the Motivational Force derived from the three factors of Expectancy, Instrumentality, and Valence(s). Expectancy is the term used to relate effort put into the task as related to the performance.  Will the effort I put forth produce the gain that I desire is the type of question the individual would ask when employing this section of this theory? The answer to this type of question; for the employee, would be based upon such things as past experiences, confidence, and emotional state.  Of these three contributors all can be directly linked to the manner in which the individual is treated by the organization (Vroom, 2015).  In Pavlov’s Employee, we gave an example of how a negative experience lowered the factor of experience contributing to this portion of the equation.  We can derive from that post there was also a negative emotional state of the employee; due to a recurring pattern.  Specifically, that pattern was a lack of recognition of the employee’s skill and knowledge, their ability to contribute to the project which lowered self-confidence and esteem.

Expectancy Theory Equation: Instrumentality

The Instrumentality portion of the equation refers to the “performance-reward” (Vroom, 2015). From the employees perspective this means will the amount of effort put forth be commensurate to the gain?  This also has some basis in past experiences. Based upon Pavlov’s Employee, we can see this ratio was severely lacking.  Yet another lowering quotient to the equation which is already diminished by what happened in the expectancy portion of the equation.

Expectancy Theory Equation: Valance

The last portion of this equation is Valance.  Valance is used to describe the value the individual associates with the perceived reward for completing the task at a specific level.  It can also be associated with the individual’s level of involvement with the task (Vroom, 2015).  Again this is based primarily on experience and the employee’s perception of the value associated with the reward.  If experience has shown a negative valance: as in Pavlov’s Employee, little can be done to overcome the effect on overall motivation, short of making a reward so compelling that it overcomes the other two diminished factors.  This is commonly why organizations think money is a motivator.

Expectancy Theory Equation: Summary

This interpretation of the theory supports the Leadership Equation post were we came to the conclusion that of the many factors which can effect motivation the experiences an employer provides to their employees will have the predominate affect. This common theme can be seen in most of the theories pertaining to motivation. Yet, employers can be seen creating an environment were negative experiences are prevailing. A simple change to using the Open Mental Model would minimize some of the negative experiences through providing an environment in which employees feel their input and opinions are valued. The irony of this is that people are hired for their knowledge and experience and then that expertise is essentially negated through the propagation of negative experiences by the very people that hired them.

Expectancy Theory Exercise:

  1. Expectancy (effort equal to perceived performance level).
    1. On a scale of -10 to +10 what is your expectancy
    2. Explain why did you select the number you did.
  2. Instrumentality (is your performance equal to level of reward received – equal is positive)
    1. On a scale of 10 to +10 what do you think is your instrumentality
    2. Explain why you select the number you did.
  3. Valence (value of reward received)
    1. Do you place a positive value for the reward received for your efforts?
    2. Explain why you select the number you did.
  4. Using 1a, 2a and 3a, what would your motivational factor be – high or low.
  5. Taking into account 1b, 2b, 3b; what can your organization do to improve these factors?

Vroom, V. H. (2015, January 29). Expectancy Theory of Motivation. Retrieved from Leadership – Central.com: http://www.leadership-central.com/expectancy-theory-of-motivation.html#axzz3QE0TKLHf

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