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Vroom Theory of Expectations – Features and Concept

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What is Vroom’s Theory of Expectations

This scientist in the field of psychology assumes that behavior results from conscious choices between alternatives whose purpose is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. Therefore, along with Edward Lawler and Lyman Porter, Victor Vroom suggested that the relationship between people’s behavior at work and their goals was not as simple as first imagined by other scientists.

Vroom realized that an employee’s performance is based on individual factors such as personality, skills, knowledge, experience, and abilities. Therefore, the theory suggests that although individuals may have different sets of goals, they can be motivated if they believe in a variety of aspects such as that there is a positive correlation between effort and performance.

Similarly, if the individual believes that a favorable performance results in a desirable reward, this fact motivates him or her to further understand that the reward satisfies an important need, and that this desire to satisfy the need is strong enough to make the effort worthwhile.

Key words: Vroom’s expectations, conscious choices, performance, positive correlation, effort.

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Why is Vroom’s Expectation Theory important?

This theory is important to know because it has a wide application in employment and the labor market, especially from human resources management.  Therefore, it is necessary to know that the theory is based on the following beliefs

The Valencia

From Psychology, valence is defined as the attraction (positive valence) or aversion (negative valence) caused by a certain object or situation. The concept is also used to classify emotions. Therefore, fear, sadness and anger are said to have negative valence, while joy and enthusiasm have positive valence.

Consequently, when there is a conflict between positive and negative values, we speak of ambivalence. Similarly, Valencia refers to the emotional orientations that people have with respect to results (rewards). Similarly, valence refers to the depth of an employee’s desire for extrinsic rewards, whether these are in the form of money, promotion, time off, benefits or intrinsic satisfaction. Therefore, management must discover what employees value.

The Expectation

Employees have different expectations and levels of confidence about what they are capable of doing. Management must discover these resources, training and supervision that employees need.


This aspect refers to employees’ perception of whether they will actually get what they want even if a manager has promised it. Management must ensure that promises of rewards are kept and that employees are aware of them.

In this regard, Vroom suggests that an employee’s beliefs about expectation, instrumentality, and courage interact psychologically to create a motivating force such that the employee acts in ways that provide pleasure and avoid pain.

What is Vroom's Theory of Expectations

How is Vroom’s Expectation Theory used?

This theory has a wide application in the work space because, as a manager, it is important to recognize that individuals have different sets of goals and expectations and therefore must be motivated according to their personal preferences and choices.

An important method of applying this theory in the workplace, therefore, is to gain a true understanding of employee expectations in relation to the following aspects:

In relation to Valencia, the most sensible thing to do is to ask yourself what is most attractive to motivate employees as individuals. Then, whether it is intrinsic to the motivation, such as a simple appreciation or a personal sense of achievement. Likewise, if it is extrinsic to motivation, such as a gift card or a box of chocolates.

Therefore, understanding and appreciating what motivates individuals will help the manager or director to tailor the right type of reward that will be most desirable/valuable to the employees personally.

In relation to Performance, it is important to ask whether the expectation involving a certain level of effort will produce the desired performance objective. If not, what is stopping them? That is, if they lack the right skills, resources and technical capacity to meet the objective, or conversely, if they are capable but simply do not care about meeting the objective.  Therefore, by understanding the employee’s point of view, the manager can work on implementing the appropriate training.

He or she can also schedule a supervision, or actually have a talk about why they feel negative about achieving the goal, to help change their views.

In the case of Instrumentality, it is worth asking the manager or director what are the possibilities perceived by the employees to reach the established objective(s). Similarly, if they expect that they can achieve the objectives, even though they may be challenging/stretching, or see them as unrealistic.

By understanding this, the manager or director can work to agree how the goals/objectives can be achieved or, indeed, modify the goals to more appropriate ones. In addition, ask themselves if they believe they will actually receive a reward as their greatest wish.

The manager can then help with this by explaining at the outset what they can expect as a reward so that employees are aware of what the outcome will be and the manager can then ensure that their promises are kept. Remembering these steps while working towards the goal is a great way to keep focus, increase personal motivation and support the achievement of the objective.

Managing expectations 

In carrying out the above actions by management, you should also consider the following:

-Ensure that the financial/budgetary constraints of the organization or company are understood and be realistic about possible types of rewards

-If monetary rewards are not going to be possible, then extrinsic reward expectations need to be managed

-Maybe get the employees to come up with suitable alternatives.

-Offering greater accountability/promotions as rewards could be a problem with workers who know that higher positions mean more hours and weekend work for example.

-So make sure that individuals are aware of the implications of possible rewards so that expectations are not mismanaged.

-Always make sure you connect effort and performance to reward

– It should always be remembered that all three components are linked. It is advisable never to talk about work without linking it in an obvious and immediate way with

the rewards involved. This is fundamental for the Expectation Theory to work and be a success in the company.