Vroom’s Expectancy Theory of Motivation

27/05/2020 2 By indiafreenotes

Victor Vroom made an important contribution to the understanding of the concept of motivation and the decision processes that people use to determine how much effort they will expend on their jobs. Criticizing Herzberg’s two factors theory, he said that a person’s motivation towards an action at any time would be determined by an individual’s perception that a certain type of action would led to a specific outcome and his personal preference for this outcome.

This model is based on the belief that motivation is determined by the nature of the reward people expect to get as a result of their job performance. Because man is a rational human being he will try to maximize the perceived value of such rewards. People will be highly motivated if they are made to believe that if they behave in a particular way, they will receive a certain type of outcome according to their personal preference.

There are three variables in Vroom’s model given in the form of an equation. Since the model is a multiplier, all the three variables must have high positive value to imply motivated performance choices. If any of the variables is zero, the probability of motivated performance tends to be zero.


All these three variables are explained as follows:

  1. Valence

Valence means the attraction (or repulsion) of an outcome to the individual. Whenever an individual has preference for a reward valance is the strength of that preference. The valence is something subjective and varies from person to person. Valance is deemed to be positive for an individual if he prefers attaining the outcome to not attaining it.

Valence is zero, if the individual is indifferent towards the outcome and the valence will be negative if the individual prefers not attaining the outcome to attaining it. In simple words we can say that the worker must value the reward as desired and satisfactory. It is not the actual value of the reward, but the perceived value of the reward in the mind of the worker which is important. For example, a person who is more interested in getting recognition for the hard work will not have any valence for cash reward.

  1. Expectancy

Expectancy is also referred to as the Effort-Performance Probability. It refers to the extent to which the person believes his efforts will lead to the first level outcome i.e., completion of the task. Expectancy is the probability that a particular action will lead to the outcome, it is the perception in the mind of the individual of the likelihood that a particular action or behaviour will lead to a certain outcome.

Since it is an association between effort and performance, its value can range between 0 and 1. If the individual feels that the probability of achieving an outcome is zero, he will not even try. On the other hand, if probability is higher, he will put more efforts to achieve the desired outcome.

  1. Instrumentality (Performance-Reward Probability)

Instrumentality refers to the probabilities attached by the individual to each possible performance- outcome alternative just as the individual previously assigned probabilities to various levels of effort leading to different levels of performance (expectancy). In simple words, instrumentality refers to the belief and expectation of a person that his performance will lead to a particular desired reward.

For example, if an individual wants a promotion and feels that superior performance is very important in receiving the promotion. Superior performance is the first level outcome and the promotion is the second level outcome. Superior performance (First level outcome) will be instrumental in obtaining the desired promotion (Second level outcome). The value of instrumentality also varies between 0 and 1 as it is also the probability of achieving the desired outcome.

As the relationship suggests, (Motivation = V x E x I) motivational force will be highest when all the three factors are high and the force will be reduced when any one or more of valence, expectancy or instrumentality approaches zero. Vroom’s model can also be depicted graphically as given in the figure.

The management must recognise and determine the situation as it exists and take steps to improve up on these factors for modification of behaviour, so that highest value can be achieved individually.

Management for example, can deal with the different situations in the following way:

(i) Low Effort-Performance Expectancy

  • Reasons: Lack of necessary skills & training, so that the workers do not know that their extra efforts will lead to better performance.
  • Steps to be taken: Management should provide opportunities for training to improve skills in order to improve effort performance relationship.

(ii) Low Performance-Reward Instrumentality Relationship

  • Reasons: Reward policy may be inconsistent and may depend upon factors other than performance which the worker may not be aware of or may not consider fair.
  • Steps to be taken: Management should re-evaluate the appraisal techniques and formulate policies that strengthen this relationship as just and equitable.

(iii) Low Reward-Valence

  • Reasons: The rewards may not be desirable for the workers. Some workers may find monetary rewards desirable while some others may value recognition more.
  • Steps to be taken: Management must investigate the desirability of the rewards which are given on the basis of performance.

Evaluation of the Expectancy Model

Vroom’s theory has become very popular and it has provided an alternative to content theories, which according to him, were inadequate explanations of complex process of work motivation.

The plus points of this theory are:

(i) The expectancy model is highly useful in understanding organizational behaviour. It can improve the relationship between the individual and the organizational goals. This model explains how individual’s goals influence his efforts and like need-based models reveal that individual behaviour is goal oriented.

(ii) The expectancy theory is a cognitive theory, which values human dignity. Individuals are considered rational human beings who can anticipate their future on the basis of their beliefs and expectations.

(iii) This theory helps the managers in looking beyond what Maslow and Herzberg implied. According to him motivation does not mean satisfying the unsatisfied needs. The managers must make it possible for an employee to see that effort can result in appropriate need satisfying rewards. This level of expectations will improve the motivation to work.

Despite these plus points, there are some drawbacks of Vroom’s expectancy model as given below:

(i) Vroom’s theory is difficult to research and apply in practice. This is evident by the fact that there have been a very few research studies designed specifically to test Vroom’s theory.

(ii) This theory assumes man to be a rational human being who makes all the decisions consciously. But there are numerous instances where decisions are taken with no conscious thought. This is particularly true for routine jobs.

(iii) Although, it is an important theory of motivation but it is quite complex. Many managers, in actual organisational situations, do not have the time or sources to use a complex system on the job. To conclude, we can say that from the theoretical point of view, this model is a step in the right direction, but from practical point of view, it does not help the manager in solving the complex motivational problem.