What is the Expectancy Theory of Motivation?

By Ezekiel Ahika3 min read · Posted Aug 19, 2023


Motivation is a critical factor that propels employees to put their best effort into the plow. The expectancy theory of motivation posits that humans are more likely to perform better when a reward awaits their effort's outcome. This reward can be an increase in salary, health insurance benefits, promotion, or anything else workers will appreciate.

As a business owner, project manager, supervisor, or coordinator, you can inspire your team to achieve and surpass targets by practicing the expectancy theory of motivation.

This article will discuss the meaning of the expectancy theory of motivation and its components or features.

What is the Expectancy Theory of Motivation?

The expectancy theory of motivation states that a worker will likely perform in a certain way if there is a probability that applied effort will yield a defined, appealing, or expected outcome that comes with a reward.

The expectancy theory of motivation refers to the future hope of reward that an employer promises an employee. This theory emphasizes that workers are extrinsically motivated when the expected reward is something they highly appreciate.

Rewards can be a salary increase, welfare benefits, promotion, bonuses, equity, or whatever your employees will appreciate. For example, you may target selling 500 units of a product within 30 days. Practicing the expectancy theory of motivation makes this possible.

As the manager or director, you must assign the task to those who can. If they can't sufficiently sell five hundred units of the product in 30 days, you may have to train them to build their skills and have the confidence to approach this goal.

The expectancy theory of motivation is a pragmatic approach to getting things done within an organization. A Sisyphean task won't fly here, nor does it recognize air castle projects. You must be sure your goals are achievable.

The theory identifies the need of the organization and the desires of the employee, then suggests a win-win strategy where everyone goes home happy. Ultimately, the business owner or manager is pleased with the completed task, and the employee is satisfied with the reward.

However, the components or elements of the expectancy theory of motivation need to be in place to maximize this theory.

Components of the Expectancy Theory of Motivation

There are three components or elements of the expectancy theory of motivation. They are:

1. Expectancy

Expectancy is an employee's belief in their ability or skills to achieve goals. An employee is motivated to perform a task if he feels he possesses the resources, information, skills, experience, and whatever else is needed to produce the expected outcome.

It is humane that an employee would want to be sure that his effort will be impactful before he begins the task. He wants to save his precious time and energy for a wild goose chase. If the wherewithal is present, the employee may be willing to embark on the project.

2. Valence

Valance is the individual's desire for or value of an outcome or reward. The expectancy theory of motivation highlights that an individual will only be committed to pursuing an outcome if he values its essence. The project manager must tailor the reward to the personal preferences and ambitions of the individual. It may be tangible or intangible.

As a business owner or manager, you must assess your staff to identify the reward they cherish or need most. You may think a salary increase will do, whereas their greatest desire could be a two-week uninterrupted vacation with their family.

3. Instrumentality

Instrumentality is the belief in the credibility and validity of the process and promise of an organization. The expectancy theory of motivation enunciates that an individual is willing to excellently perform her duties if they get assurance of the promised outcome and reward. There should be clearly defined criteria for achieving the result of their performance because this will strengthen their confidence.

If, as a business manager, you promise to reward the best performers with a promotion, then it should be so. Race, ethnicity, religion, or prejudice should not interfere in selecting beneficiaries.


Applying the expectancy theory of motivation can help achieve business goals. Employees are motivated to perform better when there is an expected reward. Managers and supervisors should use the expectancy theory of motivation to maximize productivity.


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About The Author

Ezekiel Ahika


I am Ezekiel Chidinma Ahika. I am a curious explorer, a researcher, a writer, and an editor. I have a Bachelor's degree in Education, English and Literature (B.A/Ed), and I am an Article Editor at Pitch Labs. I derive pleasure in writing educational content and teaching the things I know.

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