We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

What Is the Expectancy Theory?

By Karize Uy
Updated: May 23, 2024

Expectancy theory is a behavioral and motivational theory that explains how people choose their actions in order to achieve a result that they expected. A person is especially motivated to act or not act a certain way if the outcome of doing so is very desirable. This theory is usually applied in a workplace setting, where employees perform in a certain way according to the reward or incentives that the employers can give in return.

The theory was first proposed in 1964 by the Yale School of Management’s Professor Victor Vroom. In its contextual period, the Expectancy Theory may have been a revolutionary idea, as it focuses on desired outcomes instead of needs that are emphasized by Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” and Herzberg’s “Two-Factor Theory,” both of which preceded Vroom’s proposal. The theory also acknowledges that the individuality and the uniqueness of each person contributes to what his desired outcomes are, unlike Maslow, who assumed his proposed human “needs” are universal and inherent in all people.

There are three elements involved in the expectancy theory: valence, instrumentality, and expectancy, all of which play different parts in motivating a person to behave a certain way. Valence refers to the degree of how the individual puts “value (v)” in the reward (r),” giving it a formula of V(R). This, in part, will help the individual decide how he performs to achieve that reward. For example, a person who puts a lot of value in getting a promotion will be more motivated in being involved in many projects and working longer hours than usual.

Instrumentality is the element that pertains to the individual’s certainty that he will be given his reward if he does the behavior or performance that is expected of him. In the expectancy theory, Vroom gives this element the formula of “Performance → Outcome.” Simply put, there is more probability that a person will perform expected tasks and responsibilities if there is more certainty that he will get his reward in the end. To motivate their employees to perform well, employers can talk to them privately and tell them directly that a promotion is for the taking if they do specific tasks. More importantly, the employer has to keep his word; that way, an employee has a clear perspective of what he has to do in order to receive his reward.

In the expectancy theory, expectancy is the factor that refers to the individual’s belief that his effort will produce the performance or task that he is expected to do, giving it a formula of “E → P.” If a person believes he has the capability and skill to do a task, then he is more motivated to do that task in order to get to his goal; for example, if a person is tasked to sell five products in order to get a bonus. If he is confident in his skills as a communicator and salesperson, then he is more likely to see those five products, therefore getting his bonus as a reward.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Link to Sources
Discussion Comments
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.