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  • Fall 2013 Expectancy Theory
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Motivating employees can be a complex task considering there are so many factors that affect one’s behavior including individual characteristic, job characteristics, and the work environment. In an effort to promote good behavior and motivate employees there are several approaches and applications that are available to management. For this study, we focus on intrinsic values through the use of the expectancy theory.  This theory utilizes the employee’s perception between his or her effort, performance, and outcome (PSU WC, L.4).  Each perceptions is linked together by three separate components: Expectancy, Instrumentality, and Valence.

Although each component is separate, to feel motivated all three components must be met (PSU WC, L.3). In other words, each is dependent on the other.  Outlined below are the individual characteristics of expectancy theory.



The perceived link between effort and performance


The link between performance and outcomes


Belief about outcome desirability

                                                                               (PSU WC, L.4)

This study will analyze the motivation issues at Tribeza and attempt to resolve the problem by applying the expectancy theory.  To accomplish this we will outline the situation, present profiles, and connect theory concepts to the scenario. Furthermore, an analysis of how the expectancy theory may improve motivation at Tribeza will be discussed. Finally, we will describe how the application and implementation resolve the problem 

Case Details

Tribeza is a lifestyle magazine that covers the arts, fashion, architecture and design, music, community events and cuisine.  They have a simple mission, which is to celebrate the city of Austin, Texas and the many innovative people in it.  Owner, George Elliman, complains his staff members that used to be considered top-notch are now difficult to work with and unmotivated.

His team is very young, with several staff members recently having children.  He had his hand in hiring each member because of their creativity, efficiency, and energy.  He values their networking experience as they were well-traveled and well-liked.  Lately, sales have plummeted despite the connections his staff made with advertisers and subscribers alike.  There is a lack of commitment by staff members to their responsibilities and teamwork isn’t a priority anymore.  Staff use the word “I” instead of “we” even though George knows members collaborated on a project.  They socialize more and work less, complaining about sick children and family demands.

George is disillusioned because his team worked like a well-oiled machine since the magazine’s inception five years ago.  He partially blames young staff members getting married and starting their families for their lack of motivation.  Also, because the magazine is relatively new, he’s worried the young team doesn’t see much growth potential.


George decides to implement the concepts of the expectancy theory in an effort to enhance his employees’ motivation and revive the success of Tribeza.  When analyzing the expectancy theory, George understands that three conditions must be met in order to influence motivational force.  The first component in the expectancy equation is expectancy or the perceived link between an employee’s effort and his/her performance.  George’s employees must believe that the more effort they put into their work the better they will perform.  The employees at Tribeza may believe that despite their efforts, they will not perform their job function successfully.   George must ascertain how to enable his employees to believe that the more effort they exert, the more they will accomplish.  He must be sure that his employees have an interest in their job and the ability to perform their job function.  

The next component of the equation is instrumentality.  In order for instrumentality to promote motivation, employees must perceive a relationship between job performance and particular outcomes.  For example, an employee’s motivation may be influenced by pay increases, promotions, or additional paid time off when these outcomes are contingent on high job performance.  In order for instrumentality to influence motivation, George must be sure to base rewards on employees’ levels of performance.

Lastly, motivation can only be accomplished when expectancy and instrumentality are combined with valence.  George will only be able to revive Tribeza if he is able to determine the outcomes that are desirable to his employees.  Employees will only exert effort to perform well, when the reward connected to that performance is something he/she desires.  Some employees are not interested in promotions and additional job responsibilities.  Some employees are interested in pay raises instead of paid time off and vice versa.  When the employees at Tribeza achieve high expectancy, instrumentality and valence, their motivational force will be high.  With highly motivated employees, Tribeza magazine is more likely to succeed.


Using this expectancy theory, there are a few options that George has. George decides to implement team building exercises or training to help boost morale and confidence for the employees of Tribeza. Since writing a magazine takes a team of people, teamwork skills are just as important as the employee’s writing abilities. Showing the employees that their performance level is important, through accomplishing small goals during these exercises, help the employees have the motivation to raise that performance level.

In the instrumentality phase, high performance levels are rewarded with the outcome of benefits such as: paid time off, the opportunity to work from home on occasion in order to spend more time with their families, etc. The reward will depend on what George finds out in surveys or interviews to learn what matters to his employees. When George sees the levels rising in quality and quantity of submissions and teamwork, rewards are granted.

Valence is that relationship between the performance level and what they want. When the employees see that things they want are being offered and are attainable, the motivation level rises, and the performance level follows the same trend.



In Summary, the study explained how the owner of Tribeza magazine, George Elliman used the expectancy theory to build his workers’ motivation, and enhance their performance and production. Expectancy is the perceived  relationship between how hard one tries, how one executes, and the desired outcome. This is comparable to self-confidence in that it focuses the extent to which a person credits their efforts  to their performance and rewards.

Elliman knew his staff was once highly motivated, productive, and capable because they had succeeded in the past; this is why the owner of the magazine chose team building and training to boost motivation.  For expectancy to be high, there must be a relationship between how hard you try and how well you do.  In order to achieve that, Elliman ensured that his employees’ had the appropriate training program in place to perform well on a regular basis. Elliman will not let the connection between performance and outcomes go unnoticed, he will recognize exemplary performance with rewards.  Using instrumentality, Elliman will have clear guidelines for attaining incentives.  Because Elliman understands valence, the beliefs about outcome desirability, he asked his employees’ to participate in a survey about preferences in rewards, such as, time off, working from home, or financial.  Ultimately, people are inspired to work hard when they realize they can reach desirable outcomes.



Mueller, M. (2012, March 23). How to Manage (and Avoid) Entitled Employees. Retrieved 2013, from The New York Times:

Penn State University. (2013). Retrieved from Psych 484 Commentary, Lesson 4: Expectancy Theory: Is there a link between my effort and what I want?:



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