Expectancy theory is a theory in organizational behavior that explains motivation by studying the decision-making process. It looks at how people are motivated by their expectations of the probability of receiving a valued reward. This theory was proposed by Yale School of Management professor Victor Broom, who suggested that the decision-making process, not just desired outcomes, affected motivation.
There are three components to the expectancy theory: expectancy, instrumentality and valence. These three components together contribute to an individuals overall motivation.
- Expectancy: In the decision-making process, one’s expectations are the beliefs they hold that some expended effort will lead to a desired outcome or performance goal. One’s self-confidence, past experiences, and locus of control, along with the actual difficulty of the goal, affect one’s expectations.
- Instrumentality: In the decision-making process, instrumentality is ones belief in the probability of receiving some award based on ones performance. One perceives a higher probability of receiving a reward if performance based rewards are provided consistently, set out in written policies or procedures, or promised by a trustworthy manager. This probability must be linked to performance. If an individual believes he or she will receive a reward despite poor performance, motivation will be lower.
- Valence: Motivation is related to the value an individual places on an expected reward.
Victor H Vroom’s Most notable works include Work and Motivation (1994) (which outlines his expectancy theory), Leadership and Decision Making (1973), and The New Leadership (1988).