Becoming an effective leader

2.2 - Review own ability to motivate, delegate and empower others

Motivation Theory

Expectancy Theory


Canadian Victor Vroom, currently Professor of Organization and Management at the Yale University School of Management, established in his 1964 book, Work and Motivation, the Expectancy Theory of motivation which essentially states that an employee’s motivation to complete a task is influenced by whether they believe that:


·    They can complete the task (the probability of success); and,

·    The possible outcome or consequence of completing the task is worthwhile or needs to be avoided (reward versus sanction).


Vroom argues that individuals make decisions about work, which they believe will lead either to reward or which will reduce the likelihood of sanction. He observes that the ultimate goal is unimportant when compared with the impact that achieving the goal will have on the individual.


Vroom suggests that an individual’s opinion is formed (and their behaviour determined)

by a combination of 3 factors – elements of belief – which he defined as:


·      Expectancy.  For an individual to commit effort to the task, they must first believe that there is a reasonable probability, or likelihood, of success.

·      Valence. An individual will place a judgement value on satisfactory completion of the task, assessing whether the reward (or, indeed, the sanction) will be of benefit (or detriment) to them.

·      Instrumentality. Refers to the probability that the task itself will produce an outcome that is desired by the individual.


There will be a raft of factors which affect how an employee perceives, for example, the likelihood of successfully completing the task. For example:



·    Do they have the skills, knowledge and experience (competence) and other resources needed to complete the task?

·    Will their colleagues provide them with the support they need to complete the task?

·    Do they have all the information they need to complete the task?


How  an  individual  weighs  each  of  these  factors  will  depend  on  their  previous experience. If the task (or a similar task) has been successfully completed in the past then expectancy will be high. Conversely, if the task (or a similar task) was difficult to perform (or, indeed, unachievable), individual expectancy is likely to be low.


Expectancy Theory suggests that employees will be motivated to complete the tasks set them when:


·    There is a positive correlation between effort and performance;

·    Favourable performance results in a desirable reward;

·    The reward satisfies an important need; and,

·    The desire to satisfy the need is strong enough to make the effort worthwhile.


Vroom developed an algorithm to explain his Expectancy Theory further, suggesting the following equation:



Force (Motivation) = Valence x Expectancy



Force is the effort that an individual puts into a task. Vroom asserts that the motivation or effort we will put into a particular task will be predicated on the importance of the task to us (which may not necessarily be the same as the organisational imperative) and the likelihood of success. In other words, if we see a reward which we value (or a sanction that we wish to avoid) and believe the task is achievable, we will commit enough or sufficient effort to it.

Take some time to consider the advantages and disadvantages of the expectancy theory.