How the Expectancy Theory of Motivation Really Works


Expectancy theory suggests that motivation is based on how much we want something and how likely we think we are to get it. I often discuss this facet of motivation when coaching managers, as it answers many questions about desire, want and need for extrinsic motivation.

The formal framework of expectancy theory was developed by Victor Vroom. This framework states basically that motivation plus effort leads to performance, which then leads to outcomes.

According to this theory, three conditions must be met for individuals to exhibit motivated behavior:

?        effort-to-performance expectancy must be greater than zero;

?        performance-to-outcome expectancy must also be greater than zero; and

?        the sum of the effects for all relevant outcomes must be greater than zero.

Effort-to-performance expectancy is the individual’s perception of the probability that effort will lead to high performance. This expectancy ranges from 0 to 1, with 1 being a strong belief that effort will lead to high performance.

Performance-to-outcome expectancy is the individual’s perception that performance will lead to a specific outcome. This expectancy ranges from 0 to 1. A high performance-to-outcome expectancy would be 1 or close to it.

Outcomes are consequences of behavior. An individual may experience a variety of outcomes in a work setting. Each outcome has an associated effect, which is an index of how much an individual desires a particular outcome. An outcome that an individual wants has a positive effect. An outcome that the individual does not want has a negative effect. When the individual is indifferent to the outcome, the effect is zero.

So you can identify a motivator that can appeal to a specific person by identifying what effort it will actually take for them to achieve the particular goal they are aiming for. If the situation could arise that, no matter how much effort they put into something, it may still result in poor performance, then why should they try? And when the effect, or end-result, of something is what they actually desire, then the motive is increased to actually carry it out.

So, expectancy theory helps managers to see how motivation can be be personalised to individual team members, as well as teams.

Many thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training

(Image by Tung Photo)

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Mark-WilliamsMark Williams

Mark Williams is a learning and development professional, using business psychology and multiple intelligences to create fascinating and quickly-identifiable learning initiatives in the real-world business setting. Mark’s role at MTD is to ensure that our training is leading edge, and works closely with our trainers to develop the best learning experiences for all people on learning programmes. Mark designs and delivers training programmes for businesses both small and large and strives to ensure that MTD’s clients are receiving the very best training, support and services that will really make a difference to their business.