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Motivation is a term derived from the Latin word “movere” which means to move.  Motivation is a critical factor causing a person to take action toward reaching a goal.  In 1964, Victor H. Vroom developed the Expectancy Theory through his study of the motivations behind decision-making. Vroom’s “Expectancy Theory" proposes that work motivation is dependent upon the perceived association between performance and outcomes and can be broken down into three parts:

  1. Expectancy: a person’s efforts results in an acceptable level of performance
  2. Instrumentality:  the person’s performance results in a specific outcome for the person
  3. Valence:  the outcome received is valued by the person

Case Study

Introduction of team dynamic:

In this case we will study a small team work environment, consisting of 2 managers (a Team Lead and Assistant Lead) and 7 employees with different motivators and performance levels. Their Job titles are Construction Surveillance Monitors (CSM). These employees must work in unison to provide overall security to high priority construction sites. Each team member receives a bonus of $3500 at the completion of their year. Bonus is given or withheld based on the Team Lead's final evaluation of each employee. This bonus is a general motivator for all employees to try to finish their tours. In this current working climate most employees' individual capabilities are not being rewarded or fostered. The current Team Lead and Assistant Lead are friends; they are basing their evaluations of employees on how much they like them. The TL and AL are creating wedges in the small group by turning one against the other. They have been replacing people from the team with people they like - those willing to be the "yes" men. The TL & AL are consistently neglecting common sense and job critical functions in favor of thier opinion of the employees. The turnover rate for this team is high. The company the team works for is noticing a problematic trend occurring and is thinking of changing leadership. Reports have made their way back to the company that the TL and AL are not properly evaluating the work and giving inflated evaluations to those they favor. The lower performers just so happen to be in good favor with the bosses for a variety of reasons. The higher performers are losing motivation. The majority of the employees want to do the right thing but are hindered based on the current reward structure.

Team Management and CSM Team Structure: (Each person will have a call sign instead of a name)

Team Leader (TL) Call sign: Delta Charlie- Administrative Supervisor - 55 years old. He retired after 20 years in the Marine Corps and is a father of three. Primary expenses include a house in the United States and one in Ecuador. Responsible for all security functions of the teams and overseas administrative issues. This Supervisor serves as the direct link between the company and the employee. Most Team Leaders have had at least 5 years of company experience prior to being promoted. In this case, the TL is an 11 year veteran and is now in his second year as a TL. Because of his believe of time in title, he has a general distrust of younger, motivated employees and prefers to bring in people with whom he has a past and trusts. The team isn't able to provide feedback regarding the leadership of the TL until their contract is finished and due to processes in place, employees are restricted from contacting the TL's seniors directly. This level of control allows the TL to micro-manage as he sees fit and limit the autonomy of his employees. 

Assistant Team Leader (AL) Call Sign: Tex- 50 Years old. Eyes and ears for the TL. Monitors the employees and reports any issues in the construction project to the TL. Has no real authority. In this case the AL has been an employee for 5 years. He was brought in by the TL to replace the old AL because of a long-standing friendship they share. The team has noticed a considerable gap in their connection to the TL since the change. The AL shows consistently low effort but does not seem to be impacted by this as he is good friends with the TL. He enjoys being told what to do and when to do it but also likes the opportunity afforded him to be the boss in the absence of the TL. The AL does not exhibit original thoughts or ideas and all procedures come directly from the TL.

Wolverine - Former AL – 45 Years old. Retired after 25 years in the Air Force. He has the second most time on the job site. He has been employed by the company for 10 years and is motivated by his needs to provide for his family. Most of his earned income goes to alimony. After taking a 2 week vacation, he returned to find his position filled by Tex. His effort was and is high. The main problem for him now is that instrumentality is very low. He does not value the opportunities afforded him. He is a proponent of autonomy, when he was AL he expected a level of performance from his employees and trusted their judgment. He was quick to correct or train someone if they were unsure of something. The TL took offense to this and it ultimately lead to his being replaced. 

Big Fish - 31 years old. Spent 5 years as an active duty Marine and is in his second year with the company. He has the most job site tenure on the team and is very knowledgeable in the process. He appreciates autonomy and is vocal when not given this. He questions leadership on occasion, specifically when policies are set but not followed by all, commenting that environment is "do as I say, not do as I do." Considered to be a non-conformist. Has high effort which relates to a expectancy of high performance from himself. He is motivated by acknowledgment of solid work performance. Sees no room for advancement as he is not favored by the TL or AL.

Ernie -- 50 Years old. Retired after 20 years in the Navy. He has the third most time on the job site. He is in his eighth year with the company. He was in line to become the temporary AL while Wolverine was on vacation. This would have been a good chance for him to gain experience. He was passed over in favor the less experienced Tex. He is motivated by recognition of his knowledge on the job. He continually gives maximum effort, which results in a high perception of his own performance. Again, the possible outcomes that he imagines are limited and not do not match up to the standards of his performance.

Carolina -- 43 years old. He is known to be a devout follower of the TL. Recently retired from the Army. He is in his 2nd year with the company. He was brought in because of his militant style and willingness to obey all orders. He is inefficient when left on his own and needs the AL to consistently tell him what to do and how to do it. He is motivated by praise and receives much of this from the TL, although this is based on his relationship with the TL rather than his performance. 

Moe -- 36 years old. Served 10 years in the Marines. He is in his third year with the company and is very knowledgeable. He has a high level of effort and perception of his own performance. He views the instrumentality between his performance and outcomes as flawed, because the possible outcomes for him look bleak, considering he's not favored by the TL and AL. He understands the job and looks for a certain level of autonomy which he is not receiving. He voices his opinion on these matters which furthers the disconnect between him and the TL/AL.

Dee-Man - 44 years old. He is in his third year with the company. Has a good amount of job experience, but lacks in the skills to complete the job effectively. Constantly makes mistakes which other employees have to fix. Regularly plays to the egos of TL and AL, which has put him in a position of high standing with them. He reports on all matters of interest to them. Has receives positive evaluations and is motivated by praise from his management. His effort is very low, and his expectancy of his performance is high based on his evaluations from the TL.

Roses - 25 years old and highly impressionable. He is in his first year with the company. During his first meeting with the TL, he was asked to report on his peers. He declined originally but has since seen a high turnover and recanted. He is motivated by personal needs and they are dictating his behavior. He shows strong effort which relates to his expectancy of his performance being high. He thinks if he can maintain his relationship with the TL, he will have a good outcome from this position.

Expectancy (E->P) 

According to Victor Vroom (1964) the source of motivation can be attributed to the three factors; valance, instrumentality and expectancy. This has come to be known as the VIE theory and each factor is multiplicative of motivation.

The first of these is Expectancy. In short, expectancy is the belief about performance capabilities. It translates what the perceived effort is into a resulting performance. (L4, p. 4) Given the circumstances in the case study it appears that many of the employees have low expectancy due to office politics. They feel that no matter how hard they try, they have no control over the outcomes so their work doesn’t matter. This can be considered a situational constraint. While ability and interest factor into expectancy, in this case the employees’ past experiences remain a factor as to whether their efforts will pay off. Even if the employees in this case have high ability and interest the outside variable of the political climate has a huge effect on their motivation or expectations on how performance is perceived.

Instrumentality (I->O)

Instrumentality is defined as the link between performance and outcomes. It involves how much effort is needed to lead to the desired outcome. (L4, pg 5).

Since politics play a key role in this, it is likely that employees in our case study who are not in favor of the TL and AL are going to have low instrumentality. That being said, high performance and hard work does not lead to consistent outcomes, or perceived rewards and motivation will be low.

For the employees who do have friendships with the TL and AL, instrumentality will remain high because rewards or outcomes will be based on friendship, which they have. For these employees, performance will not need to be high as the outcomes desired are not based on this. 

Valence (V(R))

Valence is the idea and perceptions the employees have on the desirability of available outcomes. This can range from -1 to +1 and depicts both results the employees would rather avoid as well as results they would like to see. (L4, p. 5). It is important to consider that not everyone has the same perceptions and attitudes about the appeal of certain outcomes.

In our case study, the employees were prompted with a bonus to be paid out at the end of their assignment, if they receive a favorable rating. This is a positive valence. Additionally, however, there are a variety of other results, both good and bad, possible for the employee. Praise, autonomy, a sense of belonginess - these are all examples of possible benefits due the employees by the TL and AL. How much value the employee places on this (or the avoidance of this) is represented by Valence. 


In the case study provided, the Team Lead and Assistant Lead are individuals who place higher importance on personal opinion/interaction rather than work performed. This translates in their management of the team and has created a sense of disjointment within the group. The TL and AL hold ultimate authority over whether or not an employee will be given their bonus at year end and base this on whether or not they like and trust the employee. Many team members who have the ability to be high performers will consistently see their efforts not rewarded and thus will lower their output, or performance. Lower performers who remain in good standing with the TL and AL will see their efforts in maintaining these relationships rewarded and will thus be encouraged to keep this up. Conversely, however, they will not feel obligated to increase their job performance. The end result will be a low producing group, as productivity is not what's rewarded.


Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2012). Work Attitudes and Motivation. PSYCH484: Lesson 4: Expectancy Theory: Is there a link between my effort and what I really want?. Retrieved from: []

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