Vroom Expectancy Motivation Theory

Vroom’s expectancy theory separates effort, performance and outcomes, while Maslow and Herzberg focus on the relationship between internal needs and the resulting effort expended to fulfil them.

Vroom’s expectancy theory assumes that behavior from conscious choices among the alternatives to minimize pain and maximize pleasure.

He uses the variables Expectancy, Instrumentality and Valence to account for this.

Expectancy is the belief that increased effort will lead to increased performance i.e. if I work harder then this will be better. This is affected by such things as:

  1. Having the right resources available (e.g. raw materials, time)
  2. Having the right skills to do the job
  3. Having the necessary support to get the job done (e.g. supervisor support, or correct information on the job)

Instrumentality is the belief that if you perform well that a valued outcome will be received. The degree to which a first level outcome will lead to the second level outcome. i.e. if I do a good job, there is something in it for me. This is affected by such things as:

  1. Clear understanding of the relationship between performance and outcomes – e.g. the rules of the reward ‘game’
  2. Trust in the people who will take the decisions on who gets what outcome
  3. Transparency of the process that decides who gets what outcome

Valence is the importance that the individual places upon the expected outcome. For the valence to be positive, the person must prefer attaining the outcome to not attaining it. For example, if someone is mainly motivated by money, he or she might not value offers of additional time off.

The three elements are important behind choosing one element over another because they are clearly defined: effort-performance expectancy (E>P expectancy) and performance-outcome expectancy (P>O expectancy).

E>P expectancy: our assessment of the probability that our efforts will lead to the required performance level.

P>O expectancy: our assessment of the probability that our successful performance will lead to certain outcomes.

The Expectancy theory provides a sort of a mechanism for finding out motivation through a certain type of calculation.

The way in which the Expectancy theory works is as follows: Employees have personal goals which they like to achieve and for this reason they work in organizations.

These personal goals can be fulfilled by organizational rewards or work outcomes. Therefore, the relationship between organizational rewards or work outcomes and personal goals is important i.e. to what extent organizational rewards fulfil an employee’s personal goals and how attractive are those rewards to the employee.

This relationship can also be expressed as the value the employee gives to the work outcomes.

Secondly, organizational rewards or work outcomes are dependent on the individual performance of the employee.

The level of belief that the individual employee has that his/her performance will result in achievement of organizational rewards/work outcomes is also important.

And thirdly, the perception of the chances by the individual employee that personal effort on his/her will lead to high performance is again important.


The Expectancy Theory of motivation as developed by Victor Vroom is a process theory of motivation and it finds an important place in the literature of motivational theories.

The Expectancy Theory looks at motivation in a more comprehensive and realisticthan some of the other theories.

Although it is a more complex theory of motivation, it is based on common sense psychology of employees and says that they will be motivated to act when there is an expectancy that their behaviour can result in achievement of desired outcomes. Underpinning expectancy theory is perception and the anticipation of the likely consequences of behaviour.

Individuals will aim to predict what consequences of their action may be. 

In simpler words the Expectancy Theory can predict if an employee will work for extra hours for career advancement, maintain superior inter-personal relations, project a more ethical image and do similar other things.

The theory emphasizes some very important aspects or variables of management that are efforts, performance, rewards and personal goals. It establishes relationships between effort – performance – rewards and personal goals and tries to synthesize all these into one theory of motivation. It provides a sort of quantitative formula to finding out the motivation of employees.

It lays emphasis on the value of individual perceptions of what the reality is in the process of motivation. It focuses on utilitarianism (or hedonism),as the goal of the employee is to maximize advantage/selfinterest/pleasure and avoid negative consequences/pain. Expectancy theory also implies that job satisfaction results from superior performance and not the other way round.

The Expectancy theory is based on the Contingency Model and it recognizes that all employees are not motivated by the same things and in the same way.


Many experts in the field of organizational behaviour hold the view that Expectancy theory is one of the most acceptable theories of motivation and there is substantial evidence to support the theory. Numerous studies have been done to test the accuracy of Expectancy Theory in predicting employee behaviour and direct tests have been generally supportive.

The managers can be benefitted from the expectancy theory as it helps them to understand the psychological processes that cause motivation. The thinking, perceptions, beliefs, estimates of chances and probabilities and other such factors of employees strongly influence their motivation, performance and behaviour.

It makes the process of understanding the organizational behaviour easier. The Expectancy Theory seems to be intuitively appealing and is based on common sense.

It explains the gamut of motivation by breaking it down into separately recognizable stages. It brings forward the linkages between efforts and performance, performance and rewards and rewards and personal goals.

Therefore, the managers can create a work environment, climate and culture that will increase the motivation levels of employees by understanding the factors that motivate and demotivate individual employees.


Expectancy theory is not complete and all comprehensive. Like all other theories it also has a point of view and an angle. Butit is better on many accounts and more realistic than many other theories of motivation.

Managers may not rely only on the Expectancy Theory alone and use other theories as well,yet it is one of the most important theories of motivation. We must also understand that all theories in social sciences are limited and the Expectancy Theory is no exception.

The value of a theory lies in its ability to explain with high probability what it purports to explain. It must also be understood that human nature, behaviour, attitudes and of course motivation are more subjective than objective and can never be completely objectified or theorized. Therefore all theories of motivation suffer from this limitation.

Again the theory is complicated and involves many variables. Practical applicability of the theory therefore might be a little suspect. In fact a few experts believe that complexity of the theory makes it difficult not only to test but also to implement.

All employees many not have the time, willingness, favourable situation, resources or even the adequate ability to calculate motivation in the way this theory assumes.

Similarly, the managers also may be lacking one or more of the above parameters to take a decision of what motivates a particular employee. Quantitative measures of expectancy, instrumentality and valence that are suggested in the theory may not at times be possible or may be too difficult to calculate. Also whether the formula suggested for motivation can in realistic terms calculate and be applied to motivation is a subject of controversy.