Expectancy Theory of Motivation and Its Application

Expectancy theory, also known as Vroom’s expectancy theory is one of the theories of motivation applied in the workplace. Expectancy theory explains why individuals choose to behave in a specific manner in the workplace. Unlike other theories of motivation, which explain what motivates people in the workplace, expectancy theory explains how people make certain decisions in the workplace, why they choose to make those decisions, and the expected value of their decisions (Schmidt, 2002). To explain this, expectancy theory stipulates that an individual’s behavior in the workplace is a product of three components: expectancy (E), instrumentality (I), and valance (V). Using these three components, the motivation force of an individual in the workplace can be represented as follows: P(E) x P(I) x P(V) (where P represent probability) (Schmidt, 2002).

The component of expectancy is based on the belief that efforts have direct effect on performance. The belief that efforts affect performance depends on self-efficacy, individual control, and difficulty of the set performance goal(s) (Schmidt, 2002). Self-efficacy is the belief that an individual has concerning his/her ability to perform a specific duty or behave in a specific manner. When an individual strongly believes that he/she has the required skills to perform a specific duty or behave in a specific manner, then he/she is likely to have high expectation that his/her efforts will result into better performance. Control affects expectancy in that, when an individual believes that he/she has high control over the expected outcome, then expectancy is high. On the other hand, the belief that one has low control over the expected outcome results into low expectancy. When an individual sets very high or difficult goals, he/she is likely to have low expectancy, while an individual with manageable goals has high expectancy (Schmidt, 2002).

The component of instrumentality is based on the belief that the ability to meet performance expectations is accompanied by greater rewards. Rewards can be in the form of increased pay, recognition, or promotion. On the other hand, the component of valance is based on the values that individuals hold on specific rewards. Individual’s value for specific rewards depends on his/her needs, preferences, goals, and values. For example, time off to a production staff may not have the same value to a salesperson.   

According to Mosley and Pietri (2010), there are two types of relationships, which emerge when expectancy theory of motivation is used to explain people’s behavior. Effort - performance relationship is the relationship that exists out of the belief that greater efforts result into better performance. The other relationship is performance - reward relationship. This relationship emerges from the belief that better performance will always be rewarded.

In the given scenario, it is clear that Supervisor A’s employees hold different expectations concerning the expected outcome after the new production process was introduced. The informal conversation between Supervisor B and some of Supervisor A’s employees indicate that many employees felt that the expected production standards and goals that the employees were required to meet through a new production process required more efforts. The fact that many of the employees did not put efforts to learn a new production process is an indication that previous experience of the employees concerning increased efforts did not produce the expected outcome. It is also evident that the past efforts applied by the employees to produce better performance did not result into increased rewards. This is because the employees cite that there is very small difference between the rewards given to those who meet the expected performance and those who do not meet the expected performance. This explains why the employees with the ability to use the new production process lack the motivation to utilize their abilities.

Expectancy theory can be applied to solve this situation by observing the different expectations that Supervisor A’s employees have on the expected performance. Evaluation of the expectancy of the employees would be based on evaluation of the perceptions they have towards the difficulty of the set production goals, their control over the expected performance, and self-efficacy. If the employees hold, a perception that, the set goals under the new production process are too high, or difficulty to achieve, then measures would be taken to set relatively difficult goals, which the employees would feel capable of achieving.

Similarly, if the employees indicate that they have less control over their performance, then measures would be taken to increase the amount of individual control in performing his/her duties. Besides, presence of low self-efficacy would be an indication that the employees do not have the necessary skills to perform their jobs under the new production process. Measure to increase the employees’ self-efficacy would include training the employees about the new production process and allowing them to undertake continuous education in order to improve their job skills. These would increase the expectancy of the employees.

Valuation of the instrumentality of the employees would also be necessary. It would entail evaluating whether the employees trust that good performance will be rewarded. A great control over employees’ reward by the management may reduce the level of trust in the reward system. To ensure increased trust that good performance would results into rewards, Supervisor A should increase the amount of employees’ to control in the existing reward system. Finally, an evaluation of the valance would be conducted to help determine the values that different employees hold about different rewards. This would be done by looking at the needs, values, goals, sources of motivation, and preferences of all Supervisor A’s employees. The outcome of evaluation would be increased employees’ expectancy and instrumentality, and greater understanding of the employees’ valance. These would result into increased efforts, which would result into increased performance, and thus greater rewards. 

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