Expectancy Theory states that a person will decide to behave or act in a certain way due to expectations of the resulting outcomes of his actions. It also explains how people make decisions to achieve the end they value. In essence, the motivation behind behavior selection is determined by the desirability of the outcome. The core of the theory is how individuals process different motivational elements, which is done before making a choice. Under this theory, the desired outcome is not the sole determining factor in how people make decisions.
Victor Vroom of the Yale School of Management first propose the three variables of expectancy theory: valence (V), expectancy (E) and instrumentality (I).
Expectancy is the belief that one's effort (E) will result in attainment of desired performance (P) goals. Expectancy is usually based on an individual's past experience, self confidence (self efficacy), and the perceived difficulty of the performance standard or goal. Self efficacy is the person’s belief about their ability to successfully perform a particular behavior. Goal difficulty happens when goals are set too high or performance expectations that are made too difficult are most likely to lead to low expectancy perceptions. Control is one's perceived control over performance. In order for expectancy to be high, individuals must believe that they have some degree of control over the expected outcome.
Instrumentality is the belief that a person will receive a reward if the performance expectation is met. This reward may come in the form of a pay increase, promotion, recognition or sense of accomplishment. Instrumentality is low when the reward is given for all performances given.
Factors associated with the individual's instrumentality for outcomes are trust, control and policies. If individuals trust their superiors, they are more likely to believe their leaders' promises. When there is a lack of trust of leadership, people often attempt to control the reward system. When individuals believe they have some kind of control over how, when, and why rewards are distributed, Instrumentality tends to increase. Formalized written policies impact the individuals' instrumentality perceptions. Instrumentality is increased when formalized policies associates rewards to performance. Valence- V(R)
Valence is the value the individual places on the rewards based on their needs, goals, values and Sources of Motivation. Factors associated with the individual's valence for outcomes are values, needs, goals, preferences and Sources of Motivation Strength of an individual’s preference for a particular outcome. The valence refers the value the individual personally places on the rewards.
Application of Theory
Expectancy Theory of motivation can help managers understand how individuals make decisions regarding various behavioral alternatives. These 3 factors interact together to create a motivational force for an employee to work towards pleasure and avoid pain. The formula for this force is: Motivational Force (MF) = Expectancy x Instrumentality x Valence
When deciding among behavioral options, individuals select the option with the greatest motivational force (MF). Expectancy and instrumentality are attitudes (cognitions) that represent an individual's perception of the likelihood that effort will lead to performance that will lead to the desired outcomes. These perceptions represent the individual’s subjective reality, and may or may not bear close resemblance to actual probabilities. These perceptions are tempered by the individual's experiences (learning theory), observations of others (social learning theory), and self-perceptions. Valence is rooted in an individual’s value system.
Criticism of Theory
Some of the critics of the expectancy model were Graen (1969) Lawler (1971), Lawler and Porter (1967), and Porter and Lawler (1968). Their criticisms of the theory were based upon the expectancy model being too simplistic in nature; these critics started making adjustments to Vroom’s model.
Edward Lawler claims that the simplicity of expectancy theory is deceptive because it assumes that if an employer makes a reward, such as a financial bonus or promotion, enticing enough, employees will increase their productivity to obtain the reward. However, this only works if the employees believe the reward is beneficial to their immediate needs. For example, a $2 increase in salary may not be desirable to an employee if the increase pushes her into a tax bracket in which she believes her net pay is actually reduced, which is actually impossible in the United States with marginal tax brackets. Similarly, a promotion that provides higher status but requires longer hours may be a deterrent to an employee who values evening and weekend time with his children.
Lawler’s new proposal for expectancy theory is not against Vroom’s theory. Lawler argues that since there have been a variety of developments of expectancy theory since its creation in 1964, the model needs to be updated.
Lawler’s new model is based on four claims. First, whenever there are a number of outcomes, individuals will usually have a preference among those outcomes. Two, there is a belief on the part of that individual that their action(s) will achieve the outcome they desire. Three, any desired outcome was generated by the individual’s behavior. Finally, the actions generated by the individual were generated by the preferred outcome and expectation of the individual.
Instead of just looking at expectancy and instrumentality, W.F. Maloney and J.M. McFillen found that expectancy theory used concentrated could explain the motivation of those individuals who were employed by the construction industry. For instance, they used worker expectancy and worker instrumentality. Worker expectancy is when supervisors create an equal match between the worker and their job. Worker instrumentality is when an employee knows that any increase in their performance leads to achieving their goal.