Vroom’s Valence Expectancy Theory

PSYCH-105 Industrial Psychology

Chapter 5: Motivation

Unit 1

Unit 2

Unit 3

Unit 4



Process theories of motivation attempt to understand what individuals think when they decide to put efforts into a particular job. Process theories are concerned with the thought processes that influence the individual’s behaviour. 

Vroom’s Valence Expectancy Theory

Victor Vroom (1964)

Vroom developed expectancy theory, a theory of work motivation. He emphasized the instrumental and operational contents and understanding of one’s skill/abilities in the reality. Vroom related the concept of motivation to reward and need satisfaction and contended that people are motivated to do things which they feel have a high probability of leading to rewards they value. His theory is based on three variables. The three components/ variables of this theory are valence, instrumentality, and expectancy (Vroom, 1964).

Victor Vroom stated that the strength of tendency to act in a certain way depends on the strength of an expectation that the act will be followed by a given outcome and on the attractiveness of the outcome to the individual. According to this theory motivation can be mathematically defined as:

Motivation = Valence × Expectancy × Instrumentality

A person is motivated to the degree that he or she believes that

    • effort will lead to acceptable performance (expectancy),
    • performance will be rewarded (instrumentality), and
    • the value of the rewards is highly positive (valence).
  1. Expectancy (Effort Reward Probability): Expectancy is a person’s estimate of the probability that job-related effort will result in a given level of performance. Expectancy is based on probabilities and ranges from 0 to 1. If an employee sees no chance that effort will lead to the desired performance level, the expectancy is 0. On the other hand, if the employee is completely certain that the task will be completed, the expectancy has a value of 1. Generally, employee estimates of expectancy lie somewhere between these two extremes.

    E       ——————–>        P

    (Effort)      followed by     (Performance)

  2. Instrumentality (Performance Reward Probability): Instrumentality is an individual’s estimate of the probability that a given level of achieved task performance will lead to various work outcomes. As with expectancy, instrumentality ranges from 0 to 1. For example, if an employee sees that a good performance rating will always result in a salary increase, the instrumentality has a value of 1. If there is no perceived relationship between a good performance rating and a salary increase, then the instrumentality is 0.

    P ————————–>      O

    (Performance)                              (Outcome)

                                                                      may be reward or punishment

  3. Valence: Valence is the strength of an employee’s preference for a particular reward. Thus, salary increases, promotion, peer acceptance, recognition by supervisors, or any other reward might have more or less value to individual employees. Unlike expectancy and instrumentality, valences can be either positive or negative. If an employee has a strong preference for attaining a reward, valence is positive. At the other extreme, valence is negative. And if an employee is indifferent to a reward, valence is 0. The total range is from -1 to +1. Theoretically, a reward has a valence because it is related to an employee’s needs.

The multiplier effect in the equation is significant. It means that higher levels of motivation will result when expectancy, instrumentality, and valence are all high than when they are all low. The multiplier assumption of the theory also implies that if any one of the three factors is zero, the overall level of motivation is zero. Therefore, for example, even if an employee believes that his/her effort will result in performance, which will result in reward, motivation will be zero if the valence of the reward he/she expects to receive is zero (i.e. if he/she believes that the reward he/she will receive for his/her effort has no value to him/her.

Implications of the Valence Expectancy Theory

  1. Expectancy – Leaders should try to increase the belief that employees are capable of performing the job successfully. Ways of doing this include: Select people with the required skills and knowledge; Provide the required training and clarify job requirements; Provide sufficient time and resources; Assign progressively more difficult tasks based on training; Follow employees’ suggestions about ways to change their jobs; Intervene and attempt to alleviate problems that may hinder effective performance; Provide examples of employees who have mastered the task; and provide coaching to employees who lack self-confidence.
  2. Instrumentality – Leaders should try to increase the belief that good performance will result in valued rewards. Ways of doing so include: Measure job performance accurately; Describe clearly the rewards that will result from successful performance; Describe how the employee’s rewards were based on past performance; Provide examples of other employees whose good performance has resulted in higher rewards. In essence, leaders should link directly the specific performance they desire to the rewards desired by employees. It is important for employees to see clearly the reward process at work. Concrete acts must accompany statements of intent.
  3. Valences of Rewards – Leaders should try to increase the expected value of rewards resulting from desired performance. Ways of doing this include: Distribute rewards that employees value, and Individualize rewards. With a demographically diverse workforce, it is misleading to believe that all employees desire the same rewards. Some employees may value a promotion or a pay raise, whereas others may prefer additional vacation days, improved insurance benefits, day care, or elder-care facilities.

Advantages / Merits / Pro’s

  1. Appealing Characteristics: Gives clear guidelines for increasing motivation by altering person’s expectancy, instrumentality and outcome valence.
  2. Is a cognitive theory: individual are viewed as thinking, reasoning beings, they are not impulsive.
  3. Commonly accepted theory for explaining an individual’s decision-making process.
  4. Current research generally supports the decision making concepts proposed by the Expectancy Theory of Motivation.
  5. This theory helps managers to see beyond Maslow, Herzberg, Vroom implies that manager can make it possible for employees to see that effort can result in appropriate need satisfying reward.

Disadvantages / Limitations / Demerits / Con’s

  1. One of the major criticisms of the expectancy theory of motivation decision model was its simplicity. In the sense that it doesn’t explain the different levels of efforts acted out by an individual. 
  2. Doesn’t take the emotional state of the individual into consideration.
  3. The individual’s personality, abilities, skills, knowledge, as well as past experiences are factors affecting the outcome of the model.
  4. The expectancy theory of motivation is a “perception” based model.
  5. The manager needs to guess the motivational force (the value) of a reward for an employee.
  6. Can be difficult to implement in the group environment.
  7. It is not been fully tested empirically and its validity is difficult to test.

Author – Dr. Niyati Garg

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