Expectancy Theory

What is Expectancy Theory? Definition, Elements, Implications, and Limitations

Employees’ motivation depends on their needs or their expectations of the outcome they will get if they hit the target or execute the task. What do you think? Let’s discuss what expectancy theory has to say about it.

What is Expectancy Theory?

Expectancy theory, also called the expectancy theory of motivation explains that employee motivation is dependent on the outcome or reward they expect from their actions. Simply, by this theory when employees think they will get positive results or rewards they devote their best performance and vice versa.

It is Victor H. Vroom, a business school professor at the Yale School of Management proposed the expectancy theory of work motivation in 1964. And, later it was expanded by Porter and Lawler. It describes the process of how individual needs are translated into behavior.

Maslow and Herzberg focused on needs but Vroom focused on outcomes. As such, employees choose their actions based on the outcomes of their actions. Thus, Vroom explains employees always choose one behavior or work that has a likelihood they will get a maximum outcome, and pleasure or that minimizes their pain.

This theory represents a comprehensive, valid, and useful approach to understanding human motivation in organizations. It assumes every employee or individual is a rational person. It is even said that this theory is more for scholars and scientists rather than for practitioners.

Components of Expectancy Theory of Motivation

This motivation model of Vroom is the function of three components, namely expectancy, instrumentality, and valance. By this Motivation = E * I * V (expectancy, instrumentality, and valance). If expectancy, instrumentality, and valance all equal zero, the motivation will be zero.

Related: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs


The first component of this motivation model is expectancy. It is the belief that if you do good then good will come to you. It is expecting positive outcomes from the actions.

It is simply the probability that a particular action (effort) will lead to a particular outcome.

Employees’ expectancy will be high if they believe if they work hard they will get better results such as promotion, improved performance, or reward. It explains employees’ expectation has an impact on their motivation and performance.


Instrumentality indicates the relationship between the actions and outcomes. It is related to your actions and the reward or punishment you will get.

If employees know if they do the given task assigned by the manager they will definitely get a certain reward they become motivated to work. Similarly, if the reward is more pleasing the motivation will be higher and if the reward is not such interesting the motivation will be lower.

By instrumentality, the reward is measured and explicitly tied to the level of performance. It clearly states that better performance will lead to better pay or reward and vice versa.


Valance is more individual. It is a personal belief about the outcomes one will get from his performance. Valence is the value an individual gives to a particular outcome.

In a team, all employees ignore the particular outcome but an employee has value to it. He will do his best to get that outcome. Thus, valence is simply the perceived value of the reward to you.

A valance of zero occurs when the individual is indifferent toward the outcome. The valence is negative when the individual prefers not to attain the outcome. And, the valence is one when the individual is motivated to attain the outcome.

The Four Steps Inherent in Vroom’s Theory

They are:

  • What outcome does the job offer to employees? The first issue is what an employee perceives the outcome will be.
  • How attractive do employees view these outcomes? The second issue is related to the individual’s likes and dislikes (value) about rewards he perceived in the first issue.
  • What kind of behavior must the employees produce in order to achieve the objectives? The outcomes can be effective only when the employees know the criteria upon which their performance would be judged.
  • How does the employee view his changes in doing what is asked of him?

After knowing their competencies and abilities employees should ascertain the probability of their successful attainment of the job.

Also Read: ERG Theory of Motivation.

Implication of Expectancy Theory

  • Vroom’s model emphasizes payoffs. People make choices based on what they think they will get, not what they got in the past.
  • The reward should be tied to performance.
  • Rewards should be equitable.
  • Recognize individual differences in work motivation.
  • Managers can influence employee expectancies by matching people to the job.

Based on the above points of Vroom’s motivation theory the following implications can be drawn.

It is crucial to first identify the needs that each employee must try to fulfill. This information will be helpful in managing efforts to match the rewards offered to employees with the needs they are trying to serve. It is essential to personalize rewards for each employee because available rewards may be appealing to some but not to others.

Second, management should attempt to clear the path for the worker between efforts and need satisfaction. The path or relationship is employee effort leading to performance – performance leading to rewards and these rewards – satisfying personal goals.

Limitations of the Expectancy Model of Motivation

In spite of its usefulness, the expectancy model of motivation also suffers from its weaknesses. Some limitations of this model include:

  • This theory indicates only the conceptual determinants of motivation and how they are related. It is unable to describe specific suggestions on what motivates employees.
  • It does not describe what the individual differences are in calculating valence and expectancies.
  • It is overly rational. Not every person goes through that complex process thereby determining their level of effort.
  • It does not describe how motivational decisions are actually made. It just helps to open the eyes of the manager but does not provide the sunlight to see the picture.

Read Next: Theories of Motivation

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *