Vroom's expectancy theory

...assumes that behavior results from conscious choices among alternatives whose purpose it is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. Together with Edward Lawler and Lyman Porter, Victor Vroom suggested that the relationship between people's behavior at work and their goals was not as simple as was first imagined by other scientists. Vroom realized that an employee's performance is based on individuals factors such as personality, skills, knowledge, experience and abilities.

The theory suggests that although individuals may have different sets of goals, they can be motivated if they believe that:

  • There is a positive correlation between efforts and performance,
  • Favorable performance will result in a desirable reward,
  • The rewardwill satisfy an important need,
  • The desire to satisfy the need is strong enough to make the effort worthwhile.

The theory is based upon the following beliefs:



Valence refers to the emotional orientations people hold with respect to outcomes [rewards]. The depth of the want of an employee for extrinsic [money, promotion, time-off, benefits] or intrinsic [satisfaction] rewards). Management must discover what employees value.



Employees have different expectations and levels of confidence about what they are capable of doing. Management must discover what resources, training, or supervision employees need.



The perception of employees as to whether they will actually get what they desire even if it has been promised by a manager. Management must ensure that promises of rewards are fulfilled and that employees are aware of that.

Vroom suggests that an employee's beliefs about Expectancy, Instrumentality, and Valence interact psychologically to create a motivational force such that the employee acts in ways that bring pleasure and avoid pain.



  • Management and Motivation, Vroom, V.H., Deci, E.L., Penguin 1983 (first published 1970)
    [This book contains selected readings on "motivation"; Including Simon, Maslow, Herzberg, Vroom, Lawler etc.]


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