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Victor Vroom was born on 8 September 1932 in Montreal, Canada. He is a Professor of Psychology, and currently works in the Yale School of Management.

Professor Vroom is renowned for his work on the Expectancy Theory of Motivation, in which he examines why people chose to follow a particular course of action.

Vroom's Expectancy Theory deals with motivation and management. Vroom's 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, Vroom suggested that the relationship between people's behavior at work and their goals was not as simple as was first imagined by other theorists. Vroom posited that an employee's performance is based on individual factors such as personality, skills, knowledge, experience and abilities.

The expectancy theory states that, in the workplace, individuals have a variety of goals and that they can be motivated if they believe that:

  • There is a positive correlation between efforts and performance,
  • Favorable performance will result in an outcome,
  • The outcome's value to the employee can be determined,
  • (The desire to satisfy the need is strong enough to make the effort worthwhile).

The actual equation is: F = E (I x V)

Vroom's Expectancy Theory is based upon the following three beliefs:

  1. Valence (Valence refers to the emotional orientations people hold with respect to outcomes [rewards]. The depth of the want of an employee for extrinsic [money, praise, promotion, time-off, benefits] or intrinsic [satisfaction] rewards). Not all outcomes possess a positive valence; getting a promotion, coupled with a transfer to an undesirable location, may well result in a negative valence. Effective managers thus seek to discover what employees value.
  2. Expectancy (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. Expectancy is measured as a probability insofar as the employee asks, "What are chances that, given my knowledge, skills, and the resources available to me, I am able to complete the assigned task?"
  3. Instrumentality (The perception of employees -- expressed as a probability -- that there will actually be an outcome associated with completing the assigned task.). 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. This force can be 'calculated' via the following formula: Motivation = Expectancy x (Valence x Instrumentality).

This formula can be used to indicate and predict such things as job satisfaction, one's occupational choice, the likelihood of staying in a job, and the effort one might expend at work.


Vroom's primary research was on the expectancy theory of motivation, which attempts to explain why individuals choose to follow certain courses of action in organizations, particularly in decision-making and leadership. His most well-known books are Work and Motivation, Leadership and Decision Making and The New Leadership. Vroom has also been a consultant to a number of corporations such as GE and American Express.

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Expectancy Theory Edit

Vroom's theory assumes that behavior results from conscious choices among alternatives whose purpose it is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. The key elements to this theory are referred to as Expectancy (E), Instrumentality (I), and Valence (V). Critical to the understanding of the theory is the understanding that each of these factors represents a belief.

The Expectancy Theory of Victor Vroom deals with motivation and management. Vroom's 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, 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 expectancy theory says that individuals have different sets of goals and 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 reward will satisfy an important need,
  • The desire to satisfy the need is strong enough to make the effort worthwhile.


Vroom's Expectancy Theory is based upon the following three beliefs:

  1. Valence (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.
  2. Expectancy (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.
  3. Instrumentality (The perception of employees 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. This force can be 'calculated' via the following formula: Motivation = Valance x Expectancy(Instrumentality). This formula can be used to indicate and predict such things as job satisfaction, one's occupational choice, the likelihood of staying in a job, and the effort one might expend at work.

Vroom's theory suggests that the individual will consider the outcomes associated with various levels of performance (from an entire spectrum of performance possibilities), and elect to pursue the level that generates the greatest reward for him or her.


Expectancy Edit

Expectancy refers to the strength of a person's belief about whether or not a particular job performance is attainable. Assuming all other things are equal, an employee will be motivated to try a task, if he or she believes that it can be done. This expectancy of performance may be thought of in terms of probabilities ranging from zero (a case of "I can't do it!") to 1.0 ("I have no doubt whatsoever that I can do this job!")

A number of factors can contribute to an employee's expectancy perceptions:

  • the level of confidence in the skills required for the task
  • the amount of support that may be expected from superiors and subordinates
  • the quality of the materials and equipment
  • the availability of pertinent information

Previous success at the task has also been shown to strengthen expectancy beliefs.

Instrumentality Edit

"What's the probability that, if I do a good job, that there will be some kind of outcome in it for me?"

If an employee believes that a high level of performance will be instrumental for the acquisition of outcomes which may be gratifying, then the employee will place a high value on performing well. Vroom defines Instrumentality as a probability belief linking one outcome (a high level of performance, for example) to another outcome (a reward).

Instrumentality may range from a probability of 1.0 (meaning that the attainment of the second outcome -- the reward -- is certain if the first outcome -- excellent job performance -- is attained) through zero (meaning there is no likely relationship between the first outcome and the second). An example of zero instrumentality would be exam grades that were distributed randomly (as opposed to be awarded on the basis of excellent exam performance). Commission pay schemes are designed to make employees perceive that performance is positively instrumental for the acquisition of money.


For management to ensure high levels of performance, it must tie desired outcomes (positive valence) to high performance, and ensure that the connection is communicated to employees. The VIE theory holds that people have preferences among various outcomes. These preferences tend to reflect a person's underlying need state.

Valence Edit

"Is the outcome I get of any value to me?"

The term Valence refers to the emotional orientations people hold with respect to outcomes (rewards). An outcome is positively valent if an employee would prefer having it to not having it. An outcome that the employee would rather avoid ( fatigue, stress, noise, layoffs) is negatively valent. Outcomes towards which the employee appears indifferent are said to have zero valence. Valences refer to the level of satisfaction people expect to get from the outcome (as opposed to the actual satisfaction they get once they have attained the reward).

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.

People elect to pursue levels of job performance that they believe will maximize their overall best interests (their subjective expected utility)

There will be no motivational forces acting on an employee if any of these three conditions hold:

  • the person does not believe that he/she can successfully perform the required task
  • the person believes that successful task performance will not be associated with positively valent outcomes
  • the person believes that outcomes associated with successful task completion will be negatively valent (have no value for that person)

(Source: WILF H. RATZBURG British Columbia Institute of Technology)

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