The “Expectancy Theory” is a theory in motivation pioneered by Victor Vroom (Droar, 2006). It is about the decisions a people make, and it suggests that an individual will choose to behave in a certain way. This is because individuals are motivated to choose a specific behavior over others because of the expected results. This theory proposes that behavior results from known choices among a variety of choices whose goal is to restore satisfaction and reduce pain. According to Vroom & Kenneth (June 1968, p. 30) an employee’s performance will depend on characteristic factors such as abilities, knowledge, and skills. There are three key variables in this theory that are: expectancy variable, instrumentality probability, and valence (Vroom & Kenneth, 1986). The result of these three variables is the motivation an employee gets at the place of work.
Expectancy probability is the firm belief that an employee’s efforts will lead to achievement of the expected performance goals (Droar, 2006). If one assumes that all other things are constant, an employee is encouraged to try out a given job where he/she believes that it is possible to do the job. This perception depends on several factors such as the height of confidence in the skills needed for the job. The availability of crucial information and the quality of materials, and tools may also influence an employee’s expectations. To achieve performance, employees have to consider that they have control over expected results.
Instrumentality is another key variable in the expectancy theory. It involves a performance-reward relationship and it assumes that the higher the performance, the greater will be the reward (Droar, 2006, p. 120). The employee has a firm opinion that meeting performance comes with rewards. The rewards could be the employee gets a higher rank, appreciation or pay increases depending on the employees trust, policies and control. To increase instrumentality, rewards are required to be for specific performances. Where an employee perceives that the superiors will not meet their rewards, he/she will tend to control the reward system. Instrumentality increases with this control since it is possible for employees to direct the manner in which they would like the rewards distributed. Instrumentality also increases with conventional policies that tie rewards to performance.
Valence is the third variable of the expectancy theory. It refers to the worth that employees put on the rewards they get depending on their values, goals, preferences, sources of motivation, and needs. Valence is the expected level of satisfaction, which an employee gets from the rewards they receive (Droar, 2006, p.123). Valence is positive if workers prefer not to have rewards, and negative if workers can refrain from them because of their associated stress or fatigue. Zero valences occur where employees are indifferent towards the rewards they expect to receive.
These three variables relate to expectancy theory. Their product is motivation and, therefore, if any one variable is zero, the equation is zero. To determine behavior, the employee should choose the variable with the greatest motivational power. Therefore, it can be seen that expectancy and instrumentality are independent attitudes. This is because they show the employee’s effort that leads to a potential performance and that performance eventually leads to certain outcomes. Valence, on the other hand, depends on a person’s values. To strengthen the effort-performance knot, managers should involve in training to enhance their abilities and beliefs that effort actually leads to greater performance. In addition, to improve the performance-reward chord, the superiors should use systems that connect rewards to performance, and ensure that the employees deserve and want them.
The company in the given scenario could apply the expectancy theory of motivation to improve the motivation of its employees in several ways. The company produces audio products, and it anticipates its employees to put extra effort in achieving its high production standards and goals. The employees are not performing with this new production process. Some do not understand how the whole process works.
Others are not even placing any extra effort in ensuring that they achieve the company’s targets even with the knowledge of how the process works. There are those who believe that the process requires extra skills from what they can offer. Others think that the extra effort in achieving the goals is not worth it since even with better performance, the salary remains the same. They also believe that an overtime pay is better than a bonus.
It is clear that the employees of this company lack motivation. The management is doing little to ensure that the employees reach the production goals. However, it is vital to improve employees’ motivation in order to achieve the targets. Management should institute a system that will closely link employees’ effort with performance (Vroom, & Kenneth, 1968, p.41). The goals set should be achievable by the employees. In this case, if an employee is aware of their expected performance he or she will put extra effort in achieving the performance.
The management should train the employees so that they view extra effort with better performance. This way, it will be possible to meet the company’s goals.
Another way to motivate employees in this company is to apply the instrumentality and valence variables. The management should use systems that connect performance with rewards. The employees will then work hard because they believe that achieving performance comes with rewards. However, these rewards should be valuable to employees. If the reward is a bonus, it should be worth the effort the employees puts in their performance to attain it.
Therefore, the expectancy theory of motivation is a crucial approach to improving employees’ performance in the workplace.
Droar, D., (2006). Expectancy theory of motivation. Retrieved October 2, 2010, from
Vroom, V.H., & Kenneth, R.M., (June 1968). Towards a Stochastic Model of Managerial
Careers. Administrative Science Quarterly, 13 (1), 26-46.