Different Approaches to Understand the Cognitive Theories of Motivation

(i) Their effort will result in successful performance

(ii) Successful performance will ensure desired results

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Expectancy Theory has different names like, Instrumentality Theory, Path-Goal Theory and Valence-Instrumentality-Expectancy (VIE) Theory. It has its roots in the cognitive concepts of Kurt Lewin and Edward Tolman and in the choice behaviour and utility concepts from the Classical Economic Theory.

However, it was Victor H. Vroom (1964), who formulated the Expectancy Theory, as an alternative to content models, for work motivation. The theory identified relationships among variables, which affect individual behaviour in a dynamic environment. It was an attempt to capture how people determine their extent of effort for a job and how such effort gets influenced by their perceived expectation.

The strength of a tendency to act in a certain way depends on the strength of an expectation of outcome, which is likely to accrue upon the accomplishment of the job. So, motivation is the product of strength of one’s desire (valence) and perceived probability of getting something good (expectancy). We can show such relationships as under:

Valence is the degree of desirability of certain outcomes. It is, therefore, the strength of an individual’s preference for a particular outcome, which may either be a promotion or a pay rise or recognition, etc., after he successfully accomplishes the job. Since people may have positive or negative preferences for an outcome, valence may be negative or positive. Hence valance may vary from -1 to +1.

Expectancy is the perceived possibility of a particular outcome that would follow after an action. It is, therefore, the strength of belief that an act will be followed by particular outcomes. The strength of expectations is based on the past experience. People expect what will happen in the future on the basis of what has occurred in the past.

As expectancy is an action-outcome association it may range from zero to one. If employees perceive no possibility of an outcome from certain acts, their expectancy would be zero, whereas, on the contrary, the value of expectancy would be one, when they feel (from their experience of action-outcome relationship) that they are likely to achieve something.

Vroom has used one more term in between expectancy and valence, which is usefulness or instrumentality. Instrumentality is the belief that the first-level outcome would lead to the second-level outcome.

To take an example, one may be motivated for a performance of the superior level, for his desire to get promoted. Here, the first-level outcome (superior-level performance) is seen as being instrumental for the second-level outcome (promotion).

Therefore, the strength of motivation to perform a certain act will depend on the sum of the products of the valences (including instrumentality) and the expectancies, which can be represented as follows:

Motivation Strength = ? V x I x E

Evaluation of the Theory:

It is believed that content theories oversimplified the complex process of work motivation, whereas on the contrary, Vroom’s model highlights the importance of organizational behaviour, clarifying the relationship between the employees and the organizations. His model has generated research interests among the corporate and academic circles. The theory also has a cognitive dimension as individuals are viewed as thinking and rational beings, and they just do not simply act for the satisfaction of their unfulfilled needs.

Despite such unique features in Vroom’s approach, his theory was also criticized for following aspects:

(i) It needs to be adequately tested in different work environment.

(ii) Employees may not always take a conscious decision. It was observed that they were also prone to take unthoughtful decisions, and later on, they tried to rationalize the action with their own logic.

(iii) Linkages between efforts-performance and performance-rewards may not be linear. Organizational policies may further complicate the process. To take an example, promotion may be on seniority, educational background, etc.

(iv) The theory is complex. In real life situation, managers may face time and resource constraints to implement it.

2. Equity Theory:

This theory owes its origin to several contributors like Festinger, Heider, Homans, Jacques, Patchen, Weick, etc. However, James Stacy Adams’ contribution is much discussed in the literature on motivation. The theory proposes that in a work environment, motivation is influenced by one’s perception of how equitably he or she is treated compared to others.

The theory is also known as ‘Social Comparison Theory or ‘Inequity Theory’. Perceptively, employees try to reduce their inequity through such comparison or by establishing a hypothetical exchange relationship. An individual accounts for the amount of work he puts in and corresponding rewards he gets for the same.

He then compares the efforts and rewards of similarly placed person in the organization. If equity exists, the individual feels good or complacent about the situation. In case of inequity, it propels him into action to create a condition of equity. Since inequity propels action, it is the motivator. The greater the perceived inequity, the greater the motivation to reduce it. While doing so, individuals can make any of the following choices:

(i) Change or alter inputs

(ii) Change or alter outcomes

(iii) Distort inputs and outcomes

(iv) Distort inputs and outcomes of others (whom they compare)

(v) Select a different referent (to compare)

(vi) Withdraw from the field

Evaluation of the Theory: It is a promising theory of work motivation as well as job satisfaction. For this reason, it has generated extensive research. Since the basic theory works on the perception in a social comparison process, it is, by default, dynamic because inequity in perceived perception motivates employees to restore equity.

However, the theory is criticized for following reasons:

(i) It is complex and difficult in application

(ii) Perceptions are difficult to measure or assess

(iii) Choosing a ‘comparison other’ may not be always correct

(iv) A given factor may be an input as well as an outcome

(v) The study is based on laboratory experiments rather than in real-life situations in organizations

3. Performance Satisfaction Theory:

Layman W. Porter and Edward W. Lawler (1968) based on Vroom’s Expectancy Model, observed that performance leads to satisfaction contrary to our belief that satisfaction leads to performance. Other interesting observations made by them are that motivation (efforts), performance (accomplishment) and satisfaction are separate variables.

This again is, in contrast, to our belief that motivation leads to performance, which in turn leads to satisfaction. Efforts (force or motivation) do not directly lead to a performance. It is mediated by abilities, traits and role perceptions. After performance, rewards that follow and the way they are perceived, determine the satisfaction. The theory is illustrated in Figure 5.8.

Whether an individual will make an effort depends on the interaction between the value of reward (Box 1) and the perceived effort-reward probability (Box 2). Effort (Box 3) is the motivation. Performance (accomplishment) (Box 6) is not the direct consequence of effort. It is the product of effort (Box 3) abilities and traits (Box 4) and role perceptions (Box 5).

Performance leads to certain outcomes in the form of intrinsic rewards (Box 7A) and extrinsic rewards (Box 7B). Both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards provide satisfaction (Box-9). However, such reward-satisfaction relationship is moderated by the perceived equitability of rewards (Box 8).

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