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# Expectancy Theory

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Would you feel more motivated if you got paid double your salary? Would you work harder if you got the chance to get more company benefits? Motivation in the workplace has been a tricky topic for many years, as managers have tried to find innovative ways to motivate their employees to work and perform better.

Motivation depends on how much we want something and how likely we think we are to get it.1

- Victor Vroom

This quote from Victor Vroom is an excellent summary of his most famous work on motivation. In this explanation, we will look closely at his expectation theory, so keep on reading if you want to learn more about this thesis and how it can help you motivate people in the workplace.

## Motivation Expectancy Theory

As motivation and expectancy are at the core of this explanation, let's start with a definition of these terms.

Motivation is the reason why people do something or conduct themselves in a certain way.

Expectancy is someone's belief that something will happen in the future.

People have different goals in life and, therefore, have different motivations. Expectancy theory aims to define this relationship and help managers find ways to motivate their employees to work and improve their performance.

Motivation has been widely popular in the twentieth century, and many psychologists developed motivation theories that have changed how people lead organizations. We can cite numerous famous theories:

• Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory.
• Frederick Herzberg two factor theory.
• McClelland's theory of needs.
• Reinforcement motivation theory.
• McGregor Theory X and Theory Y of management.

You can check out our explanation of Motivation Theory for more information.

## Rotter's Expectancy Theory

Behavior is determined not only by the nature or importance of goals or reinforcements but also by the person's anticipation or expectancy that these goals will occur.2

- Julien B. Rotter.

Julian B. Rotter's work had an essential role in behavioral study. In 1966, he developed the concept of locus of control, which is how a person perceives an outcome as the consequence of external factors or actions.3

As such, there are two types of loci of control:

• Internal locus of control: People tend to think that an outcome results from their actions.

• External locus of control: People tend to think that an outcome results from external factors independent of their actions.

Therefore, people with an internal locus of control will generally think they have more control over their lives and that their actions define who they are and directly impact their current situation. So, for example, someone with an internal locus of control who just filed for bankruptcy because their business failed would say: "it's my fault; I wasn't ready and didn't have the knowledge nor the skill to do it."

In contrast, people with an external locus of control think that their current situation results from external factors and that they have no control over it. So, for example, someone with an external locus of control who just filed for bankruptcy because their business failed would say: "There is nothing I could do; it's the financial crisis, and nobody has money to buy anything."

## Vroom’s Expectancy Theory

Victor Vroom established the expectancy theory in 1964. He stated that people will act in a certain way because they expect a specific outcome and that the intensity of their work will depend on how desirable this outcome is for them. In a nutshell, people are motivated and work harder if they believe their efforts will help them achieve a specific goal and gain the reward they want.

There are three fundamental principles to Vroom's expectancy theory:

• Expectancy: It's the individual's belief that they can reach a particular target or achieve a specific goal if they put more effort into a task.

• Instrumentality: It's the individual's expectation that they will be rewarded if they reach a particular target or achieve a specific goal.

• Valence: It's how valuable a reward is for someone.

Let's have a closer look at each component:

### Expectancy

It is the first element of Vroom's expectancy theory.

Managers can implement expectancy theory in the workplace, but they must ensure that the employees believe they can achieve a specific goal if they work on a task. Furthermore, they must think that the more they work, the more chance they have to achieve their target.

Management must ensure employees have the proper knowledge, training, and resources to achieve their tasks.

### Instrumentality

The second element of expectancy theory is instrumentality.

As mentioned earlier, the expectation is that the organization will reward the employee if they achieve a target. It means that the company must ensure that the employees receive what they are promised; otherwise, the employees won't trust it in the future. To be effective, it is therefore preferable that companies have established and communicated their rewards policy.

### Valence

The last element of expectancy theory is the most important one. As mentioned earlier, Valence is how vital the reward is for the employee; it's how they perceive it. If the reward the employee gets is not appropriate, employees won't be motivated to work hard to get it.

For example, some employees will be interested in recognition; in contrast, others will be more interested in monetary prizes. That's why it's vital for managers to understand what employees value the most.

Another concept that can help managers find an appropriate type of reward for their employees is the concept of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

• Intrinsic motivation is when someone is driven by themselves or by self-accomplishment.
• Extrinsic motivation: it's when someone is driven by external factors such as a potential reward or the fear of punishment.

If a manager can define which type of motivation would be more effective for an employee, it can significantly improve their productivity.

You can check out our explanation of Motivation Theory for more information.

## Outcome Expectancy Theory

This theory can be extremely valuable for managers if they apply it properly, as it can drastically improve the employee's productivity and overall job satisfaction.

When managers understand what truly motivates their employees and can convince them that their performance will be rewarded by what they seek, they can accomplish great things.

You can use the following formula to calculate the expectancy theory's outcome:

$Expectancy (E) * Instrumentality (I) * Valence (V) = Motivation force$

## Expectancy Theory Example

Let's take a look at two practical examples of this theory.

A salesperson in a garage earns a minimum salary of $3,000 a month; however, he is incentivized to sell many cars as he gets a 20% commission on the dealership's profit for every car sale. If a car costs$20,000 to the dealership, and a salesperson can sell it at $30,000, then the salesperson will earn a$2,000 commission.

In this example, the salesperson is more interested in his commission than his base salary, as he can make much more money. Therefore, he will be much more motivated and incentivized to perform.

Although this theory is well-known all around the world, it is not a perfect one. Moreover, even if there are some great advantages, there are also significant disadvantages to consider when applying it:

 Advantages Disadvantages The theory's primary purpose is to help managers motivate their employees and can immediately improve their work productivity. The most significant advantage of the theory is that it is simple, and everyone can quickly put it into practice.When putting it into practice, your organization's most driven people will shine and drastically improve their performance.Depending on the types of reward, an organization can use this theory to show their employees that they care about their well-being and satisfaction. The theory doesn't consider other factors that might outweigh the potential reward in people's lives. It's not because someone values the reward and expects it that they will necessarily be motivated and work harder for it, as they might face more significant issues in their personal life.Every person is different; people will expect and value their rewards differently. In other words, what will work to motivate someone might not for another person, so the company has to adapt and find suitable rewards for many people.Rewards can create tension as people focus on individual prizes rather than teamwork and the organization's larger goal.

Table. 1 - Advantages and disadvantages of the expectancy theory

As you can see, the expectancy theory is a great tool to improve employee productivity in the workplace. However, managers must use it cautiously as it can create tension or be less effective than expected.

## Expectancy Theory - Key takeaways

• Motivation is the reason why people do something or conduct themselves in a certain way.
• Expectancy is someone's belief that something will happen in the future.
• There are two types of locus of control:
• Internal locus of control: People tend to think that an outcome results from their actions.
• External locus of control: People tend to think that an outcome results from external factors independent of their actions.
• Victor Vroom established the expectancy theory in 1964. He stated that people will act in a certain way because they expect a specific outcome and that the intensity of their work will depend on how desirable this outcome is for them. In a nutshell, people are motivated and work harder if they believe their efforts will help them achieve a specific goal and gain the reward they want.
• There are three fundamental principles to Vroom's expectancy theory:
• Expectancy: It's the individual's belief that they can reach a particular target or achieve a specific goal if they put more effort into a task.
• Instrumentality: It's the individual's expectation that they will be rewarded if they reach a particular target or achieve a specific goal.
• Valence: It's how valuable the reward is to the individual, how valuable it is to them.

## References

1. Toolshero. 10/31/2022. https://www.toolshero.com/toolsheroes/victor-vroom/#:~:text=Victor%20Vroom%20quotes,we%20are%20to%20get%20it.%E2%80%9D
2. Julien B. Rotter. Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. 1966
3. John S. Carton, Mikayla Ries, and Stephen Nowicki Jr. 2021. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.565883/full#:~:text=Rotter's%20social%20learning%20theory%20emphasizes,that%20these%20goals%20will%20occur.
4. John B. Miner. Organizational Behavior 1: Essential Theories of Motivation and Leadership. 2015. https://books.google.com.my/books?hl=fr&lr=&id=YXOsBwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA94&dq=publication+victor+vroom+1964&ots=3C8Paz1bae&sig=b-FW5dPVn95B_QH0RXMCcY_xkAs#v=onepage&q=publication%20victor%20vroom%201964&f=false

## Frequently Asked Questions about Expectancy Theory

Victor Vroom established expectancy theory in 1964. He stated that people will act in a certain way because they expect a specific outcome and that the intensity of their work will depend on how desirable this outcome is for them.

For example, a salesperson will be more motivated and incentivized to sell more if they get a commission on every sale.

The three elements of Victor Vroom's expectancy theory are:

• Expectancy: It's the individual's belief that they can reach a particular target or achieve a specific goal if they put more effort into a task.
• Instrumentality: It's the individual's expectation that they will be rewarded if they reach a particular target or achieve a specific goal.
• Valence: It's how valuable the reward is to the individual.

People have different goals in life and, therefore, have different motivations. Expectancy theory aims to define this relationship and help managers find ways to motivate their employees to work and improve their performance.

People who want a reward will be motivated and work harder to get it.

It's when an employee believes they can achieve a specific goal if they work on a task.

The formula is the following:

Expectancy (E) X Instrumentality (I) X Valence (V) = Motivation Force

In Victor Vroom's own words, expectancy theory can be summarized as follows:

"Motivation depends on how much we want something and how likely we think we are to get it."

## Expectancy Theory Quiz - Teste dein Wissen

Question

What is Victor Vroom's theory of expectancy?

According to Victor Vroom, people behave in a certain way because they expect a specific outcome, generally a reward.

Show question

Question

What is valence according to Vroom's expectancy theory?

Valence is how much an individual values the reward.

Show question

Question

What are examples of motivational theory?

• Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory.
• Frederick Herzberg two factor theory.
• McClelland's theory of needs.
• Reinforcement motivation theory.
• Mc Gregor Theory X and Theory Y of management.

Show question

Question

What is an internal locus of control?

Internal locus of control: it’s a concept stating that people tend to think that an outcome results from their actions.

Show question

Question

People with an internal locus of control will often blame external factors for their current situation?

False

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Question

Who created the expectancy theory?

Victor Vroom in 1964

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Question

What do people with an external locus of control often do?

They tend to think that an outcome results from external factors independent of their actions.

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Question

Is “Expectancy” one of the three elements in Vroom’s expectancy theory?

Yes

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Question

Select the three elements of Vroom’s expectancy theory:

Expectation

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Question

What are the three principles of Vroom’s expectancy theory?

• Expectancy: It's the individual's belief that they can reach a particular target or achieve a specific goal if they put more effort into a task.
• Instrumentality: It's the individual's expectation that they will be rewarded if they reach a particular target or achieve a specific goal.
• Valence: It's how valuable the reward is to the individual, how valuable it is to them.

Show question

Question

In what year did Victor Vroom develop the expectancy theory?

1964

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Question

What is the expectancy theory formula?

Expectancy (E) X Instrumentality (I) X Valence (V) = Motivation force

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Question

What is an internal locus of control?

It's when someone is driven by themselves or by self-accomplishment.

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Question

What is an external locus of control?

It's when someone is driven by external factors such as a potential reward or the fear of punishment.

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Question

What is the instrumentality element in the exepecation theory?

It's the individual's expectation that they will be rewarded if they reach a particular target or achieve a specific goal.

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Question

What is the expectancy element in the exepecation theory?

It's the individual's belief that they can reach a particular target or achieve a specific goal if they put more effort into a task.

Show question

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