Vroom's Expectancy Theory

Expectancy Theory is based on an employee’s beliefs:
  • Valence - refers to emotional orientations which people hold with respect to outcomes (rewards) – the value the person attaches to first and second order outcomes
  • Expectancy – refers to employees’ different expectations and levels of confidence about what they are capable of doing – the belief that effort will lead to first order outcomes
  • Instrumentality – refers to the perception of employees whether they will actually receive what they desire, even if it has been promised by a manager – the perceived link between first order and second order outcomes
These 3 factors interact together to create a motivational force for an employee to work towards pleasure and avoid pain.  The formula for this force is:

Valence of outcome x Expectancy act will be result in outcome (Instrumentality) = Motivation Force

First Order Outcome is the behavior that results directly from the the effort an employee expends on the job. 

Second Order Outcome is anything good or bad that results from a first-order outcome. 


employee motivation, leadership, management, industrial psychology
Contributors: Leopold De Sousa
School of Information Studies
Syracuse University 

Victor H. Vroom, (1932- )


Victor Vroom’s doctoral dissertation "Some Personality Determinants of the Effects of Participation," dealt with the moderating effects of two personality variables— authoritarianism and need for independence on reaction to participation in decision making won a Ford Foundation award and was published as a book. Vroom took inspiration from this and worked on a general formulation of a theory dealing with the interaction of individual differences and situational variables. The result was his creation of the VIE Theory (Valence, Instrumentality, Expectancy) or “expectancy theory” as published in Work and Motivation (Vroom 1964).  He decided to restrict himself to problems of individual behavior. This fit well with Vroom’s training as a psychologist of focusing on a single person.  His second decision served to restrict the class of phenomena to work behaviors including occupational choice, job satisfaction and job performance.  Vroom’s third decision was to focus on the explanation of individual behavior rather than its control. This meant he focused on the variables and processes which influenced work behavior.  The fourth decision was the assumption of the kinds of variables which would be useful in explaining these individual work behaviors. Leading to a focus on the preference among outcomes, individual expectations concerning their actions for attainment of these outcomes.  Vroom’s final decision concerned the sources of data considered. He restricted his examination to evidence based on objective observation.  Organizations looking to motivate employees need to ensure that all 3 of Valence, Instrumentality and Expectancy must be high or positive. If only two or one of these are achieved, employees will not be motivated.


Vroom’s Expectancy theory is one of the most widely accepted theories of motivation to explain how and why people make decisions.  Through the research that I did, I found many references to Vroom’s work in the literary review sections of their research.  Lyman Porter and Edward Lawler extended Vroom’s Expectancy Theory to state that satisfaction is a result of performance.  Some articles that reference Vroom’s work to help support and explain very diverse human motivational actions.  Here are some examples:

  • Banks, Claretha H. (2007). Met Expectations Hypothesis: The use of Direct Measures to Develop Participant Surveys. Online Journal of Workforce Education and Development, Volume II, Issue 4

  • Caufield, Jay (2007). What Motivates Students to Provide Feedback to Teachers About Teaching and Learning: An Expectancy Theory Perspective, International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Vol. 1, No. 1

  • Darmon, Rene Y. (2004). The Measurement of Sales Force Motivation Revisited, ESSEC Business School

  • Lui, Liao, Zeng (2007) WHY PEOPLE BLOG: An Expectancy Theory Analysis. Issues in Information Management, Volume VIII, No 2

  • Vroom’s Expectancy Theory has broad application to many areas of human motivation like education, survey response and even why people write blogs.

REFERENCES ~ Coding Spreadsheet - Web View

  • Arthur G. Bedeian (Ed.), (1993 )Management Laureates: A Collection of Autobiographical Essays. Abstract: Vroom wrote an autobiography and it was included in this book.  It is also posted on the Yale School of Management website. http://mba.yale.edu/faculty/pdf/vroombio.pdf

  • Isaac, Robert G., Zerbe, Wilfred J., Pitt, Douglas C. Leadership and Motivation: The Effective Application of Expectancy Theory. Journal of Management Issues, Summer 2001 (13) 2. Abstract: This is a very informative article on Expectancy Theory, its development and application.

  • Vroom, Victor H. (1964). Work and motivation. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.  Abstract: Vroom’s seminal book that introduces his Expectancy Theory cognitive model. Vroom introduces the model and its concepts of Valence, Expectancy, and Force.

  • Vroom, Victor H. (1990). Manage people, not personnel: motivation and performance appraisal. Harvard Business School Press. Abstract: A collection of readings concerning human motivation in the workplace and the continuing search for effective ways of managing it. The book contains two parts: Motivation and Performance Appraisal.

  • Vroom, Victor H and Deci, Edward L. (1970). Management and motivation: selected readings. Penguin Books. Abstract: A collection of readings concerning human motivation in the workplace and the continuing search for effective ways of managing it. The book contains six parts: Why Men Work, Satisfaction: Its Determinants and Effects, Motivation and Performance: the effects of some specific  job characteristics, Motivation and Performance: General Formulations, Theories of Motivation and Management and Organizational Change.