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What is Vroom's Expectancy Theory?

Vroom's expectancy theory separates effort, performance and outcomes, while Maslow and Herzberg focus on the relationship between internal needs and the resulting effort expended to fulfil them.

Vroom's expectancy theory assumes that behaviour results from conscious choices among alternatives whose purpose is to maximise pleasure and minimise pain. 

  • Vroom realised that an employee's performance is based on individual factors such as personality, skills, knowledge, experience and abilities. 
  • He stated that effort, performance and motivation are linked to a person's motivation. 
  • He uses the variables Expectancy, Instrumentality and Valence to account for this.


Expectancy is the idea that increasing the amount of effort will increase performance (if I work harder then I will perform better). 

This is affected by:

  1. Having the right resources available (e.g. raw materials, time)
  2. Having the right skills to do the job
  3. Having the necessary support to get the job done (e.g. supervisor support, or correct information on the job)


Instrumentality is the idea that if you perform better, then the outcome will be achieved (If I perform well, there I will achieve the desired outcome).

 This is affected by:

  1. A clear understanding of the relationship between performance and outcomes – e.g. the rules of the reward 'game'
  2. Trust in the people who will take the decisions on who gets what outcome
  3. Transparency of the process that decides who gets what outcome


Valence is the perceived value the employee puts on the outcome. For the valence to be positive, the person must prefer attaining the outcome compared to not attaining it. (If someone is mainly motivated by money, he or she might not value offers of additional time off).

The three elements are important behind choosing one element over another because they are clearly defined: 

  • Effort-performance expectancy (E-->P expectancy) and performance-outcome expectancy (P-->O expectancy).

  1. E-->P expectancy: our assessment of the probability that our efforts will lead to the required performance level.
  2. P-->O expectancy: our assessment of the probability that our successful performance will lead to certain outcomes.

Vroom's expectancy theory works on perceptions, so even if a motivation tactic works with most people in the organisation, it doesn't mean that it will work for everybody.

Application of Vroom's Theory of Expectancy

Vroom's theory can equally apply to any situation where someone does something because they expect a certain outcome. 

For example:

  • People recycle paper because they believe it's important to conserve resources and take a stand on environmental issues (valence),
  • they believe that the more effort they put into recycling the more paper people, in general, will recycle (expectancy)
  • and they believe that the more paper recycled the fewer resources will be used (instrumentality).

Vroom's expectancy theory of motivation is not about self-interest in rewards but about the associations people make towards expected outcomes and the contribution they feel they can make towards those outcomes.