MOTIVATION THEORY AND PRACTICE 1. 0 Equity Theory The equity theory was proposed initially by Adams (1963). The focus of the theory has been to understand the motivational aspect of employees. The equity theory is based on the distributive justice principles promulgated to take care of social justice by balancing the economical disadvantages that existed in that period. It focuses on the need for fairness and justice as related to several human behaviors especially used by administrators of salary and wage.
Although, it is commonly referred as an equity theory, it was originally offered as a theory of inequity, which is evident from the outline made by Adam (1963) as “the purpose of the paper is to present a theory of inequity” (p.
422). It may have been referred as an equity theory as it is attuned to achieve equity and Adams (1963) would have focused on inequity as some element of inequity needs to be believed to have taken place to propose a theory of this kind.
The theory is based on a give-and-take principle whereby an individual gives something and gets a return for his/her giving.
Adams (1963) classified the giving made by the individual as inputs and returns received as outcomes. Since, the theory was based on a give-and-take principle, a frame of reference to judge the equity or inequity was needed and therefore, the perception of inequity was based on reference persons or groups. The reference person or group as identified by Adams (1963) could be the individual himself/herself, “co-worker or colleague, relative or neighbor, a group of co-workers, a craft group, and an industry-wide pattern” (p. 424).
Adams (1963) emphasized the inputs “as perceived by their contributor and not necessarily isomorphic with those of the other party to exchange” (p. 423). He was of the opinion that the inputs and outputs had two distinct characteristics of “recognition and relevance” (p. 423). The implications of these characteristics is that the inputs need to have some attributes which are recognized as important and there has to be a perception that the individual feels that this recognized attribute is relevant in the process of exchange.
The same was considered important by Adams (1963) for outputs as he opined that “in a manner analogous to inputs, outcomes are as perceived, and … characterize them in terms of recognition and relevance. Table 3. 1 lists the inputs and outcomes as suggested by Adams (1963). A feeling of inequity is expected to be generated when the person with the inputs perceives that outcomes are not in balance as compared to the inputs based on those reference framework discussed earlier.
In other words, a perceived ratio of inputs and outputs is developed and if the ratio is different than that of the reference group, an inequity is said to be perceived. Thus, inequity could be both positive and negative in terms of being favorable or unfavorable to the concerned individual. An equity is said to be established when the ratio of inputs and outcomes is equal to that of the reference group. Another important area of equity theory is the concept of “perception”.
There may not a real inequity but it could be perceived as a person may feel knowledgeable but gets paid less than his/her reference group, then an inequity will be perceived. And when inequity is perceived a feeling of dissatisfaction creeps in and the perception of inequity persists till an exit is made out of it. The exit could be because of a systematic intervention strategy or simply the person leaves the organization where he perceived inequity. Hence, a change or even modification is required at the input or output or reference level to achieve a perceptual change in the inequity level.
Table 3. 1 Inputs and outcomes in the Equity theory InputsOutcomes EducationPay IntelligenceIntrinsic rewards ExperienceSatisfying supervision TrainingSeniority benefits SkillFringe benefits SeniorityJob status AgeStatus symbol SexJob perquisites Ethnic backgroundPoor working conditions Social StatusMonotony Job effortFate uncertainty Personal appearanceHerzberg’s dissatisfies Health Possession of tools Spouse’s characteristics Source: Miner, J. B. (2006). Organizational behavior 1: Essential theories of motivation and leadership. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, p. 136.
The implications of equity theory in the work area can be viewed from the fact that it three pillars of any exchange relationship i. e. the inputs, outcomes and a frame of reference, it is very relevant in every situation where an exchange relationships exists even in extreme situation of “Man and his God” (Adams, 1963, p. 422). It is also based on a reality based individual perception; there could always be feeling of inequity and hence its applicability and relevance is widespread. According to Carrell & Dittrich (1978) “several laboratory experiments have resulted in strong support for this equity norm” (p. 03). The relevance of this theory has been fuelled with people losing jobs on the one hand and on the other chief executive officers of corporations still going on expensive vacations, being paid hefty bonuses and even ostensibly attending meetings by traveling by a private jet especially in financial crisis the US is going through now, there are bound to be inequities. The theory is particularly useful in explaining the levels of stress, burnout, and job dissatisfaction experienced by employees in a perfectly normal or even temporary setting.
Considering its relevance and applicability, it has a wide scope of being applicable to a large number of staff outcomes like “stress and burnout, turnover, absenteeism, staff behavior, staff performance, and job satisfaction” (Disley, Hatton, & Dagnan, 2009, p. 56). In spite of wide applicability, the theory has been debated on several fronts. It has been consistently debated for its inability to thoroughly explain the reference framework, lack of substantive methods in dealing with the inequities and lastly for the theory’s assumption of perceived inequities.
Disley, Hatton, & Dagnan (2009) have debated it on the grounds that “it provides little explanation about the processes involved in the selection of both comparison others and methods of equity resolution” (p57). On the other hand Carrell & Dittrich (1978) have opined that laboratory based have provided the equity theory a strong support but the field studies have shown limited support for equity theory amongst the employees of an existing organization. Although, the theory was not solely meant for an explanation of remuneration but since the Adams (1963) era it has established a remuneration focus and largely remains as such.
Nevertheless, it has remained to be an acceptable theory as against others which dealt the same area of fairness, equity, and cognitive dissonance. 2. 0 Expectancy theory Expectancy theory is one of the several theories of motivation, applied in organization behaviors, based on the learning theory. The expectancy theory of motivation was initially proposed by Vroom (1964). At the time, the theory was being proposed, Maslow’s and Herzberg’s theories based on needs were dominant and these theories along with Adams (1963) equity theory were departures from those.
Vroom concentrated on outcomes. The outcome was based on effort and performance. Vroom (1964), proposed that a person will be motivated when the effort, performance and the level of motivation are linked. He used three elements to account for this and called them Valence, Expectancy and Instrumentality. That is why some times this theory is also called VIE theory. Expectancy is based on the fact that a person will put an effort only when the person believes that certain levels of performance are conceivable and achievable i. e. f I work diligently then I will get better grade. There is also an element of probability in the expectancy as specific outcomes could also depend on events which are beyond the control of that person. Vroom (1964) has defined expectancy as “a momentary belief concerning the likelihood that a particular act will be followed by a particular outcome” (p. 17). He was of the opinion that expectancy was an “action-outcome association … (taking) values ranging from zero to 1” (p. 18). Valence is the level of importance that a person places upon the expected outcomes.
For example, I value the learning more than the grade I would receive. Although grade is important but the value attached to it is less than the learning experience. According to Vroom (1964), “the strength of person’s desire or aversion…is based not on their intrinsic properties but on the anticipated satisfactory dissatisfaction associated with other outcomes to which they are expected to lead” (pp 15-16). The third element deals with instrumentality and it is the belief that if you perform well then a valued outcome will be received.
And of course this is affected by clear understanding of the relationship between performance and outcomes, trust is the people who will take the decisions and transparency of the process that decides who gets that outcome. Therefore, having awareness of these links, the concept is that the person will systematically change their level of effort as per the value placed on the outcomes being given by the process and of course the perception of the strength of the links between effort and outcome.
Therefore, if I take my example of taking this course and ultimately graduating out of the program, if I perceive that my increased effort will not increase my performance, which will not increase my rewards, then I will not value the reward on offer. Then Vroom’s (1964) theory suggests that I will not be motivated. Therefore, expectancy theory outlines that an individual will be motivated by two expectancies. The first expectancy is the probability that a certain level of performance will lead a certain desired outcome.
The second expectancy is that the probability of certain level of performance will lead to the desired performance. And these expectancies will indulge each other in the spirit of valence of outcome to determine the overall level of motivation. Mathematically, motivation is derived as a product of valence, expectancy, and instrumentality. Expectancy theory has the capacity to be applied in multiple situations as it is based on expectancies. All parties in a relationship have expectancies and it all depends upon the expected outcomes and the level of attractiveness of those outcomes that people will take a decisions.
Therefore, expectancy theory can not only be used in situations of employer-employee relations. It could also be used in peer-peer relationships to evaluate expectancies, negotiations, and level of motivations. Adams (1963) equity theory and Vroom (1964) expectancy theory both have survived the time and criticisms but they have not been ignored and the fact they exist and continue to be applied provides enough evidence that they have been successful in explaining human behaviors based on fairness, justice, and expectancies.
Performance levels can be judged on the basis of perception employees have about their inputs, outcomes, and valance of these efforts. Managements can use these theories to explain the variations in individual differences in their motivation levels and ultimately the outcomes. References American Psychological Association. (2009). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed. ). Washington, D. C. : APA. Adams, J. C. (1963). Towards an understanding of inequity. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67(5), 422-436. Carrell, M.
R. & Dittrich, J. E. (1978). Equity theory: The recent literature, methodical considerations and new directions. Academy of Management Review, April 1978, 202-210. Disley, P. , Hatton, C. , & Dagnan, D. (2009). Applying equity theory to staff working with individuals with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Intellectual & Development Disability, 34(1), 55-66. Miner, J. B. (2006). Organizational behavior 1: Essential theories of motivation and leadership. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe. Vroom, V. H. (1964). Work and motivation. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
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