Motivation Concepts in the Workplace
The “expectancy x value” tells us that the value of success is inversely proportional to the value of expectancy. It also tells us that the success we have achieved in terms of harder tasks have higher value than the tasks we have achieved on a relatively easier scale. In terms of the “expectancy x value,” motivations are considered as the function of an individual’s expectations of achieving a specific goal and the value that the individual ascribes to that goal.
Pintrich and Schunk (1996) argue that the two most crucial predictors of an individual’s behavior towards achieving a task are expectancy and task value. Task value can be understood in terms of the question “why should I do this task?” (Klein, 1999) An individual performs a certain task primarily because it has its value based on the individual’s cognitive beliefs. On the other hand, expectancy can be understood in terms of the question “am I able to do this task?” It involves an individual’s perceptions towards his ability to execute a task within a certain environment (Igalens & Roussel, 1999).
In a working environment, the concept of “expectancy x value” can be applied especially on the ability of the employees to execute their specific tasks in the workplace. By identifying the capabilities of an employee on a personal level, that employee can be able to assess if he or she can perform a specific task related to his role in the workplace. The perception of that employee of his or her ability to carry-out a specific task also depends on whether or not the value of that task is high enough for the employee. For example, an office clerk may be tasked to compile the financial reports for the month of September. The task requires that the clerk should be adept in identifying which reports are null or have errors and therefore require corrections and which ones are accurate and fit the time schedule. The clerk may be able to identify himself as either able or unable to fulfill the task depending on his assessment of his skills if they are able to meet the requirements. Asking whether or not the clerk is able to perform the task helps identify the clerk’s expectancy. Moreover, the clerk can also ask himself why he should compile the financial reports and ascertain the validity of the reports. If, in the end, the clerk is able to complete the task with minimal expectations that he will be able to do so, it can be said that the value of the clerk’s success is high. If the clerk failed to satisfactorily carry-out the task even though he had high expectations that he could have done otherwise, the value of the clerk’s success is low.
Based on my personal experience, I can say that I have also tried assessing whether I am capable or not of meeting the requirements in some of my tasks, whether or not they are entirely connected my role in the workplace. Those tasks include some of the simplest things from doing errands to fixing my workplace within a specific timeframe to some of the more difficult ones such as typing lengthy articles without typographical and grammatical errors under time pressure and revising paper works depending on the requirements set forth by my superiors in the workplace. For example, I try to comprehend if I am able to complete the task of typing thirty pages of comprehensive report within the 24 to 48 working hours in the office since I do not focus on work whenever I am at home. There are times when I think to myself that I would not be expecting too much considering the different factors that will certainly affect my productivity. These factors include but are not limited to the timeframe, the length of the report and the grammatical and technical expectations concerning the report’s content. At the end of the given time, if I am able to complete the report and pleased the requirements of my superiors, I can say that I have done a good job. Essentially, the value of my success was high since I had low expectations.
The value of that task rests on the requirements of my role in the office. Since I was tasked to do the report as part my job, it is important for me to complete the report otherwise I might lose my work or obtain a bad record at the least. I also understand the value of the task of completing a comprehensive report as something that contributes to my workplace experiences. It broadens the scope of my skills and my understanding whether or not I am able to satisfy the requirements.
However, the motivation concept of “expectancy x value” might not be applicable in instances where the specific tasks are not known. This happens when the people involved in a brainstorming session do not exactly know the tasks that they are to do other than thinking about the possible tasks that should be done. In essence, the “expectancy x value” motivation concept can hardly be applied when individuals are yet to come-up with a concrete task. During brainstorming sessions in the workplace, it is often the case that the people involved in the brainstorming process are not guided with a specific goal. On the contrary, the employees first and foremost task is to identify future tasks. If that is the case, the employees can hardly identify if they are able to carry-out whatever it is that is yet to be known to them. They cannot gauge whether the unknown task has any value to them at all or whether the undetermined task is well within their capacities.
Of course, it can be said that the brainstorming process itself or the task to create a task, so to speak, is already a task where the players in the brainstorming process can assess. It can be treated as a task which may or may not have value to them or to their roles in the workplace. The employees can begin to ask themselves “why should I do this (brainstorming) task?” or “am I able to do this task?” The answers to the two questions, of course, are readily available. Yet looking at the brainstorming activity from a deeper perspective, I cannot help but think that apart from the brainstorming task, there are no concrete tasks available yet. Granted that brainstorming is the task at hand for the concerned employees, it can not be said that the employees already have a concrete task at hand that is supposed to be the product of the brainstorming activity. With that in mind, we cannot apply the motivation concept of the “expectancy x value” since the employees cannot determine the value of an unknown or an undetermined task for them. Neither can they determine if they are able to execute an unknown task just yet. More importantly, the greater challenge lies on the task of aggregating the entire personal valuations of the employees once the task has already been identified. If each of the employees considers the same task with differing valuations and perceptions as to their individual capabilities to fulfill the task, it would be difficult for an entire organization to handle the task as a single unit, especially the tasks that require a collective effort.
There should be a new model of motivation that will address the valuation of an unknown task depending on the personal assessment of the employees involved in the workplace setting. The personal satisfaction of the employees will be adversely affected if they are unable to determine specifically if they are able to execute the tasks that are yet to be determined. There should be a framework upon which the tasks are to be created from during the brainstorming process so that the employees will have a brief idea of what to expect. The inability to have a brief idea of what task to expect will also affect the productivity of the employees in both the short and long runs. In the short run, the lack of an idea on what task to expect deprives employees of knowing how and what to prepare. More importantly, the employees will have a difficult time adjusting to the task derived from the brainstorming process since they had no idea what was about to come their way which, in effect, affects their ability to produce more.
Igalens, J., & Roussel, P. (1999). A Study of the Relationships between Compensation Package, Work Motivation and Job Satisfaction. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 20(7), 1011.
Klein, H. J. (1999). An Integrated Control Theory Model of Work Motivation. The Academy of Management Review, 14(2), 161.
Pintrich, P., & Schunk, D. (1996). Motivation in Education: Theory, Research & Applications. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
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