Expectancy Theory of Motivation

Modified: 5th Dec 2017
Wordcount: 1918 words

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When we talk about motivation, we can see motivation as the strength arising from the mind / mental effort that dictates how an individual will behaviour in an organization or work place, how much effort this individual has on his/her tasks and how this person continues firmly on his /her tasks whenever hurdles face him/her. To managers, their interest is to ensure implementation of strategies and thus they have the obligation to motivate their workers because loosing an employee can be very costly. In addition, managers need to motivate workers so that they can retain the valuable ones as well recruit the best to join the organization as this translates to success in implementing strategies. Through intrinsic reward (self-satisfaction on completing a task) and extrinsic reward (being recognized by others for good work done), employees are able to perform as managers expect, thus managers have to ensure they motivate their employees. As there are several motivation theories, only through comparing and contrasting one can establish which ones motivate workers more than others. Maslow’s pyramid or hierarchy of needs theory of motivation has greater motivation to employees than Vroom’s expectancy theory.

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First, Maslow’s hierarchy theory as an earlier proposition, it creates the base on which Vroom’s expectancy theory, a later edition, builds on. Secondly, both the Expectancy and the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs motivational theories, they both enable a person to modify his/her input (efforts to undertake a task) depending on the importance they have on the expected result in the entire procedure of undertaking that task and what they understand about input and output. For example, Maslow theory of motivation as a commonly known theory, it addresses needs of an individual in a hierarchy manner. It considers a single need and this need depends on already other satisfied needs. From an arrangement of how these needs need to fulfilment in a hierarchy manner, one can establish those that require early fulfilment than others. In addition, both theories allows an individual to establish which results are most likely to motivate people and this will dictate the best measures to take as factors of their experiences and expectations ( Droar 2006).

Maslow’s understanding on the effect of unsatisfied needs relates to expectancy theory in that like Maslow, Vroom indicates in the expectancy theory that the need to fulfil unmet demands is what motivates individuals where such a person will make a concerned decision to undertake a certain task in a manner that he/she understands as satisfying that need. Therefore, high motivation will manifest where there is concise and quantified goals that for example in a team the team members understand how a task as achievable and how it would benefit them considerably. In cases of low motivation, team members usually become frustrated as they cannot define the best ways to undertake different tasks and for what rewards these tasks can bring to them (Yeatts and Hyten 1998, p. 64).

In addition, whenever an individual understands that he/she is lacking an essential item/want necessary for wellbeing, then this understanding will establish a need for that individual to undertake activities or behave in a manner that will lead to satisfying that particular need. Moreover, if someone understands that certain need is being satisfied, then this person will lack motivation to manifest characters/behaviours that associate with fulfilling the need (Yeatts and Hyten, 1998, p. 63). Considering this perspective in a work place, what this indicates is that financial benefits will act as a significant motivation tool until an understanding that the money is a way of fulfilling different categories of demands (basic needs). Contrary to this, if these people understand that such demands are fulfilling, then these people/employees will lack motivation to fulfil such needs and will rather establish other ways of fulfilling higher ranked needs touching self-esteem. The more the expectations employees have on their job, the greater the motivation they will have to perform. These approaches are common both the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Vroom’s expectancy theories of motivation.


As suggested by Victor Vroom and unlike Maslow’ theory, the expectancy theory of motivation does not focus on needs but concentrates in the results. When Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory concentrates on the association of internal needs of an individual and the expected effort needed to satisfy them such as time and money, Vroom puts apart effort (a result of motivation), performance, and results/outcome. What this means is that for anyone to get motivated, the drive behind effort should associate with execution of relevant tasks and the outcome. To connect the drive/effort with performance, expectancy helps one to believe that extra dedication on a task will improve performance, meaning hard work pays. For the hard work to be fruitful there has to be right resources (adequate time, appropriate skills, and support). Linking performance and outcome will be instrumentality that helps one perceive that whenever an individual performs excellently, then a worthy outcome is viable and finally valence connects outcome and effort as dictated by the main motivation. For example, if cash motivates someone, then taking leave would not be valuable to this person because he is not making money.

In Maslow’s theory of motivation, individuals get motivation from something extra as compared to only cash/financial benefits and job fulfilment. Therefore, the broad consideration of varying factors improves motivation of individuals/employees. Expectancy theory on its part only illustrates motivation as not applying to all cases as the understanding of whatever one wants to achieve/objects relates to efforts on a task and performance of that task, performance and compensation/gain, gain and objective fulfilment. As these will differ for different individuals as well as locations, to design rewarding systems, managers should thus always consider respective organizational structure so that the rewards offered relate to individual goals in such environments (Gunkel 2006, p. 15).

Expectancy Theory of motivation proves to be most sophisticated comparing to Maslow’s theory in motivating employees because the effort to undertake a task will relate to the surrounding and capability to dictate the resulting achievement/performance of a person (Griffin and Moorhead 2009, p. 99). This theory to significant number of people and situations, might fail to apply. For example, it is more difficult to change management practices of an organization to meet individual needs, which might appear as outdated ways of doing things to many people and thus expectancy theory viewed as an individualized theory rather than management oriented (Hassard and Parker 1993, p. 93).

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Contrary to the expectancy theory, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory has the option that “working towards self-actualization, rather than actually achieving it may be the ultimate motivation for most people” (Griffin and Moorhead 2009, p. 88). As currently, some people find themselves leaving high paying jobs that fail to satisfy their job objectives to low paying jobs that satisfy. Maslow’s gives a sense of understanding without conscious reasoning thus common to many practicing managers and gives a general structure to classify demands as needs will not necessary fit to Maslow’s model. In the manner in which the needs rank, the bottom needs will be termed as physiological needs (food and water) and they determine when the following batch of growth needs (knowing and perceiving one’s needs) will start fulfilment. It is only when the growth needs are fulfilled that one is at peace to attain his/her potential such as self-actualization (example) after which one can overcome his/her self-esteem (example) to assist others (Droar 2006). This is a more realist arrangement that enables one to progressive exploit his/her potential through satisfaction from preceding level of needs unlike expectancy theory that limits only on reward and job satisfaction.

The expectation theory to managers will base their reward on individual achievement as to how better that individual relates input and output paying attention of any possible changes in the process to reduce risk. Furthermore, managers are required to utilize organizational structure that hold rewards and performance together as well as ensuring rewards are worthy to employees, and should involve in training to improve employees ability and understanding that extra effort yields good performance. This can be challenging as the process might turn out to be complex for some mangers. However, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory will give the flexibility for managers to allow development up the ranks of their employees in the best way they feel satisfied increasing motivation. In addition, Maslow’s theory allows managers to understand the significant needs active for specific employee ensuring motivation.


In summary, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory has greater motivation to employees compared to the expectancy theory. Although they compare in some aspects, the significantly differ in others. These two theories compare in Maslow theory creating a base from which expectancy theory develops from, both enabling a person to modify his/her input depending on the importance they have on the expected result after performing a task, as well as allowing an individual to establish which results are most likely to motivate them or others. Contrary to the similarities, expectancy theory concentrates on the needs rather than the results on a particular task where else Maslow’s theory focuses on how the different needs associate with themselves and what it calls fro to satisfy them and allows managers to understand the significant needs active for specific employee ensuring motivation. Expectancy theory separates effort, performance, and achievement of a certain task making it difficult and sophisticated for many individuals to explore their potentials because the effort to undertake a task will relate to the surrounding and capability to dictate the resulting achievement/performance of a person. This can be a complex process. Therefore, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory of motivation is more realistic and cheaper in motivating compared to expectancy theory of motivation.


  • Droar, D., 2006. Expectancy theory of motivation. Available at: http://www.arrod.co.uk/archive/concept_vroom.php [accessed 18 March 2010]
  • Griffin, R. and G. Moorhead, 2009. Organizational behavior: managing people and organizations. 9th ed. Connecticut, US: Cengage
  • Gunkel, M., 2006. Country-compatible incentive design: a comparison of employees’ performance reward preferences in German and the USA. New York: Springer
  • Hassard, J. and M. Parker, 1993. Post modernization and organization. London, UK: SAGE
  • Yeatts, D. and C. Hyten, 1998. High-performing self-managed work teams: a comparison of Theory to practice. London, UK: SAGE


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