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Vroom’s Expectancy Theory Of Motivation And Its Components

Motivation is defined as the process that guides, initiates and leads behaviour. It helps in maintaining behaviours as well. Expectancy theory was given by Victor Vroom in 1964 when he was studying motivations behind decision-making. It is centred around motivation. It was given in an organizational behaviour context.

This theory states that people will perform particular behaviours or actions based on what they expect the result of that particular behaviour will be. People are motivated to perform behaviours that will lead to a pleasurable outcome. This tendency begins in childhood and continues throughout adulthood. The theory also focuses on cognitive factors that lead up to these particular behaviours.

Components of Expectancy theory

According to Vroom, employees are motivated to perform or underperform at their jobs based on these three components.

1. Expectancy:

This component includes the person’s belief that he or she will be able to reach the performance goal through his or her effort (Effort->Performance). This component is characterized by an ‘I will be able to do this attitude. This attitude or belief comes from the person’s previous experiences, level of difficulty of the goal or task or activity and self-efficacy or confidence.

It is also based on the level of control an individual has over the outcome. Available resources and skills required can also impact this aspect of the theory.

For example, Mike wants good marks on a test. He plans to study a week before the test. He believes that he can do it, as he has given tests before, has confidence in his skills and studying a week prior would give him some amount of control over his schedule.

2. Instrumentality:

This component refers to the belief that a person will receive a desirable outcome due to his or her performance or behaviour (Performance->Reward/Outcome). A person believes that if I do this task well, I will get this (XYZ item). This desirable outcome could be a bonus, a treat, words of encouragement, personal satisfaction, etc.

For example, Sam believes that he will receive a bonus from his boss if he works hard this month. Instrumentality is based on how much trust a person has in the entity or organisation that delivers the desirable outcome, how much control is there over the situation and the policy involving the performance and outcome. Instrumentality is low if everyone receives the same gift card or reward for their performances or when the outcome is not specific or vague.

3. Valence:

This component refers to the value a person holds for the outcome. This value is based on a person’s goals, desires, needs, sources of motivation and how important the outcome is for them. What one employee might find rewarding and desirable might be different from another employee. Everyone has different preferences.

For example, Mona would want a promotion as a result of her performance whereas Kiya would want paid lunch services as a reward for her performance.

“A Corporate Body Can Act Only Through The Instrumentality Of Human Beings”

Employees need to work hard and give appropriate amounts of time and effort to a job to ensure rewards. An organization or corporate body can help them with rewards, only when they meet the job demands and perform exceptionally. Organizations can have a set of conditions that are required to be met, and the employee that meets these criteria receives the reward.

These criteria could be working for a specified number of hours more than normal work time, bringing in XYZ number of sales, maintaining quality, continuous improvement (Kaizen), etc. This criterion could give some clarity and accountability.

The employees will also be able to trust the organization if there are some clear criteria for gaining rewards. The key point is hard work and effort are needed to gain valuable rewards in any workplace context.

How To Apply The Expectancy Theory In An Organization?

  • Expectancy theory can be applied to motivate employees. For example, a company sells handkerchiefs, and the sales team gets equal salaries, no matter how their performance is. Now, expectancy theory can be applied here by introducing a commission system. The employees who get sales will get a commission; it would be a performance-based reward. This could help in inducing motivation.
  • Employers should build a trusting relationship with their employees. If a reward or promotion is promised, the employer should follow it up with execution or action. Consistency helps in building trust.
  • Make and communicate a clear association between performance and reward. Make it specific and achievable and communicate the connection between performance and rewards in a clear, understandable manner.
  • It would be ideal if the rewards were given fairly and logically. Performance and effort should be deserving of rewards to ensure motivation and productivity.

Expectancy Theory And Education

Apart from organizations, expectancy theory can be applied to education as well. Teachers creating manageable academic goals and providing rewards (marks, grades) for it help increase motivation. Adult or college-going students can be provided with practical knowledge and desirable outcomes such as internship opportunities, placements, etc.

Research Evidence

Study By: Joseph Betz, State University of New York

Aim: To apply the expectancy theory to a group of undergraduate architectural engineering technology students.


  • There were two groups in this study, a control group and an experimental group. The control group was given a reading assignment, followed by a test. The experimental group was provided with a motivational perspective, followed by the reading assignment and test.
  • The experimental group was familiarized with the concepts of expectancy, instrumentality and valence by providing words of encouragement and a desirable outcome if they performed well.
  • They were also asked to fill out a survey that assessed expectancy, instrumentality and valence. This was done to understand which of these concepts was important to students.


  • It was found that the performance of the experimental group was better than the control group.
  • It was also found that students preferred to know why they are learning a particular subject or topic, how it is beneficial to them (valence) and how they would be assessed for the same. Some parts of expectancy theory seem to work for them.

Criticism Of Vroom’s Expectancy Theory

  • It is tough to apply this theory to organizations that do not give out rewards based on performance. Some of them give rewards based on position, responsibility or qualification. Due to this, it would not be possible to motivate employees using this theory and its performance leads to rewards ideology.
  • Some critics have mentioned that the theory is too simplistic in its assumptions. Just because a reward is enticing does not ensure the productivity of employees. The reward should cater to the specific need of the employee, to ensure productivity. If the enticing reward does not meet the employee’s needs, it will not guarantee productivity.
  • A candidate can have expectations of reward if he or she has performed well and met the conditions set by the organization for gaining that specific reward. The organizations should specify the conditions for gaining rewards. The conditions can be more hours devoted to work or more sales, etc.
  • The theory does not take the employee’s workload and personal life into consideration. For example, if an employee receives a promotion and has to work extra hard in this position, his time will be sacrificed, which could lead to frustration and low productivity.
  • The expectancy model is old as it was developed in 1964. A lot of growth and trends have occurred in the industrial-organizational sector by now, so the expectancy theory needs to be updated.

Table Of Comparison Between Vroom’s And Maslow And Herzberg Theory Of Motivation

S. No.Vroom’s TheoryMaslow’s TheoryHerzberg’s Theory
1.This theory is based on rewards and how valuable these rewards are for individuals.This theory is based on the needs of humans and satisfaction.This theory is based on rewards and recognition as motivation factors.
2.This theory is more focused around organizations and workplace contexts.This theory is a more general theory of motivation that focuses on satisfying needs.This theory is more centered around the workplace and job satisfaction and dissatisfaction.
3.There is no hierarchy present here.There is a hierarchy or sequence in Maslow’s theory, from lower needs to higher needs.No hierarchy or sequence exists in this theory.
4.Here, the motivator factors are higher order needs.Here, the motivator factors are needs that are not satisfied.Here, the motivator factors are higher level needs, such as recognition and rewards.
5.Gives importance to individual differences and believes that people can have different views.This is a general theory and assumes that everyone has the same needs, and thus, does not give much regard to individual differences.Believes that everyone can be motivated in the same way.

Applying Expectancy Theory

Expectancy theory can be applied in any number of contexts, wherein someone performs a certain action because they expect a particular result. For example, Brad works hard and studies regularly because he believes that studying regularly and working hard is important for a good student (valence), he thinks that working hard and studying consistently will get him good marks (expectancy) and his good marks will make up for a good grade card, helping in his future endeavors (instrumentality).


  1. Expectancy theory was developed by Victor Vroom in 1964. The theory is about motivation and was developed in an organizational behaviour context.
  2. It states that people will perform particular behaviours or actions based on what they expect the result of that particular behaviour will be. People are motivated to perform behaviours that will lead to a pleasurable outcome.
  3. The theory has 3 aspects, valence, instrumentality and expectancy.
  4. Valence refers to the value a person feels or holds for the outcome. Instrumentality refers to the belief that a person will be able to achieve a desirable outcome due to his or her performance or behaviour. Expectancy is the person’s belief that he or she will be able to reach the performance goal through his or her effort.
  5. This theory of motivation has been applied to education, organizations, workplaces, etc to motivate people to perform.
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