Why is Expectancy theory considered a comprehensive theory of motivation?

Expectancy theory: Vroom’s theory that an individual tends to act in a certain way, in the expectation that the act will be flowed by a given outcome, and according to the attractiveness of that outcome.

Expectancy theory states that an individual tends to act in a certain way on the basis of the expectation that the act will be followed by a given outcome and the attractiveness of that outcome to the individual. It includes three variables or relationships:

1) Effort performance linkage: The probability perceived by the individual that exerting a given amount of effort will lead to performance.
2) Performance reward linkage: The degree to which the individual believes that performing at a particular level will lead to the attainment of a desired outcome.
3) Attractiveness: The importance that the individual places on the potential outcome or reward that can be achieved on the job. This variable considers the goals and needs of the individual.

Although this theory might sound complex, it really is not that difficult to visualize. It can be summed up in the following questions (1) How hard do I have to work to achieve a certain level of performances? (2) Can I actually achieve that level? (3) What reward will performing at that level get me? (4) How attractive is this reward to me, and does it helps achieve my goals? Whether one has the desire to produce at any given time depends on one’s particular goals and one’s perception of the relative worth of performance as a path to the attainment of those goals.

How does expectancy theory work?

Exhibit below illustrates simple version of expectancy theory that expresses it major contentions.

Simplified Expectancy Theory

Individual effort  A  Individual performance  B  Organizational rewards  C  Individual goals

A = Effort — performance linkage
B= Performance – reward linkage
C = Attractiveness

The strength of a person’s motivation to perform (effort) depends on how strongly that individual believes that he or she can achieve what is being attempted. If this goal is achieved (performance) will he or she be adequately rewarded by the organization? If so, will the reward satisfy his or her individual goals (attractiveness)? Let us consider the four steps inherent in the theory and they attempt to apply it.

First, what perceived outcomes does the job offer the employee? Outcomes may be positive: pay security companionship trust, employee benefits chance to use talent or skills, or congenial relationships. On the other hand n employee may view the outcomes as negative: fatigue, boredom, frustration, anxiety, harsh supervision or threat of dismissal. Reality is not relevant here: The critical issue is what the employee perceives the outcome to be, regardless of whether his or her perceptions are accurate.

Second, how attractive does an employee consider these outcomes to be? Are they valued positively, negatively or neutrally? This assessment obviously is an internal issue and takes into account the individual’s personal attitudes, personality and needs. The individual who finds a particular outcome attractive that is, values it positively would rather attain it than not attain it. Others may find it negative and therefore prefer not attaining it to attaining. Still may be neutral.

Third, what kind of behavior must the employee exhibit to achieve these outcomes? The outcomes are not likely to have any effect on an employee’s performance unless the employee knows, clearly and unambiguously what he or she must do to achieve them. For example, what does doing well mean in terms of performance appraisal? What criteria will be used to judge the employee’s performance?

Fourth and last, how does the employee view his or her chances of doing what is asked? After the employee has considered his or her own competencies and ability to control those variables that will determine success, what probability does he or she assign to successful attainment?