Expectancy Theory - Explained
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What is Expectancy Theory?
Vroom's Expectancy Theory says that individuals act when they expect positive results from their actions. Without the hope of a reward, it is less likely that individuals will exert the highest level of effort. As such, individual choose their actions based upon the expected outcome of those actions.
Expectancy theory contributes to the understanding of motivation. An individual's expectations are affected by the certainty they feel that their actions will result in their expected reward or goal. There is an immediate relationship between exertion and accomplishment.
Back to: Management & Organizational Behavior
A Little More on What is Expectancy Theory
Expectancy theory was proposed by Victor Vroom in the 1960s. This theory states that individual motivation with regard to the amount of effort expended is a result of a rational calculation. There is a link between the type and amount of effort invested and the amount and type of reward received. The elements of the expectancy theory are as follows:
- Expectancy - Whether a person believes that high levels of effort will lead to the desired outcomes or performance. If something other than the amount of effort contributes to achieving the outcome, then this will cause a lack of motivation.
- Instrumentality - To what degree is the level of performance related to the reward received? For example, lots of work may not increase the likelihood of a given result. Make certain that the indicated reward is measured and explicitly tied to the level of performance.
- Valence - What is the value of the rewards that result from the performance? Understand what type of reward employee values.
Managers can motivate employees by understanding and modifying the scenario such that the amount of effort will relate directly to the amount of reward received and that the reward received is valued by the employee. The theory is often criticized for being too idealistic - assuming that all individuals are rational actors making affirmative decisions concerning the rewards received from their efforts.
Academic Research on Expectancy theory
- Expectancyvaluetheoryof achievement motivation, Wigfield, A., & Eccles, J. S. (2000).Contemporary educational psychology,25(1), 68-81. In this paper, the authors discuss the expectancyvalue theory of motivation, focusing on an expectancyvalue model developed and researched by Eccles, Wigfield, and their colleagues. This paper presents the definitions of crucial constructs in the model, as well as other factors. This research focuses on two aspects of children and adolescent ability beliefs.
- Leadership and motivation: The effective application of expectancy theory, Isaac, R. G., Zerbe, W. J., & Pitt, D. C. (2001). Journal of managerial issues, 212-226. This study discusses the application of a motivational model, expectancy theory, which is seen to provide a practical tool for those in leadership roles. The authors present different definitions and suggestions for administering of leadership roles, and factors that lead to high performance.
- Implications of a measurement problem for expectancy theoryresearch, Schmidt, F. L. (1973).Organizational Behavior and Human Performance,10(2), 243-251. This study explores the expectancy theories of work motivation which specify that multiplicative relationship between valence of job outcomes (V) and expectancy (E) that effort will lead to these outcomes. This paper further demonstrates that transformations of E and V scales which change only the location of the non-meaningful zero point can greatly alter obtained correlations between E V and measures work motivation or effort. Two solutions are derived from this demonstration.
- An expectancy theory motivation approach to peer assessment, Friedman, B. A., Cox, P. L., & Maher, L. E. (2008). An expectancy theory motivation approach to peer assessment.Journal of Management Education,32(5), 580-612. This paper first presents the importance of group projects in higher education. It further explores a research carried out by some individuals who used the expectancy theory to investigate conditions that influence students' motivation to rate their peers' contributions to team projects. Research findings reveal peer assessment to be a complex process in need of further study.
- Expectancy theoryin work and motivation: Some logical and methodological issues, Wabba, M. A., & House, R. J. (1974). Human Relations,27(2), 121-147. The development of expectancy theory is described and 14 alternative models of expectancy are contrasted. It is argued that the essence of the theory in work and motivation is the choice of work behavior. This paper shows that the major constructs of the theory (expectancy and valence) lack the necessary theoretical classification.
- A test of the expectancy theory of motivationin an accounting environment, Ferris, K. R. (1977). Accounting review, 605-615. This paper reports the results of a study undertaken to test the individual motivation level due to the expectancy theory in public accounting firms. This is achieved using a sample of staff accountants from two "Big Eight" public accounting firms.
- Expectancy-value theory of achievement motivation: A developmental perspective, Wigfield, A. (1994). Expectancy-value theory of achievement motivation: A developmental perspective.Educational psychology review,6(1), 49-78. This paper focuses on the Eccles et al.'s (1983) expectancy-value model of achievement performance and choice from a developmental perspective, by examining how recent research on the development of young children's competence beliefs, expectancies for success, subjective task values, and achievement goals can be incorporated into the model. The author also discuss how achievement goals are conceptualized in this model, and how goals are conceived by other current motivation researchers.
- Expectancy theory measures: An empirical comparison in an experimental simulation, Ilgen, D. R., Nebeker, D. M., & Pritchard, R. D. (1981). Organizational Behavior and Human Performance,28(2), 189-223. In this study, several expectancy theory measures of work motivation (i.e., expectancies, instrumentalities, and valences) were evaluated in a work simulation. Forty employees were hired for 2 weeks to work on a clerical task under one of two (high or low) levels of expectancy and under low then high instrumentality. Different measures of the expectancy theory were used, and the results are documented.
- Expectancy theory and occupational/organizational choices: A review and test, Wanous, J. P., Keon, T. L., & Latack, J. C. (1983). Organizational Behavior and Human Performance,32(1), 66-86. In this paper, a review of expectancy theory research concerning how individuals choose occupations or organizations is presented. Sixteen studies, conducted between 1966 and 1981, were found which used the within-subjects form of expectancy theory.
- An attributional theory of achievement motivation and emotion., Weiner, B. (1985). Psychological review,92(4), 548. In this chapter a theory of motivation and emotion developed from an attributional perspective is presented. Discussions are divided into four detailed chapters for clarity.
- An expectancy theory approach to the motivational impacts of budgets, Ronen, J., & Livingstone, J. L. (1975). The Accounting Review,50(4), 671-685. In this paper, the authors discuss the implications of budget for motivation and behaviour in the context of expectancy theory, as developed in the psychology of motivation.
- Within-person expectancy theory predictions of accounting students' motivation to achieve academic success, Harrell, A., Caldwell, C., & Doty, E. (1985). Accounting Review, 724-735. This paper presents evidence to support the proposal that the force model of expectancy theory [Vroom, 1964] provides a useful conceptual framework for understanding a student's motivation to strive for academic success. Previous research examining this issue has employed the methodologically-flawed across-persons approach.