Why Employees In Your Organization Aren’t Motivated

Expectancy theory, supported by evidence-based research, speaks to why employees may not be motivated in organizations.

Chuma S. Okoro

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Employee motivation is often a critical part of innovation and performance in organizations. Victor Vroom, a psychologist, came up with the expectancy theory which suggests that an employee’s motivation comes from three main sources.

Cost and Benefits

First is the employees’ analysis of the costs and benefits of their efforts. If the employee doesn’t believe some benefits outweigh the costs of their efforts, they will likely not be motivated. For example, if an employee has the option of working late to accomplish a task early, they might think about costs like missing happy hour with their friends. But if the benefit for their efforts includes a bonus, that employee may be motivated to put in the extra effort.

Valuation of Cost and Benefits

The second source of motivation comes from the employees’ valuation of those benefits and costs. Using the same example, if someone were to have a higher value assigned to the happy hour with friends than a potential few extra dollars in their bonus, they would likely not be motivated to perform better.

Attainability

Last but not least is the employees’ belief in their chances to attain the benefits they value if they “put in the work”. If I did value getting an increased bonus more so than the happy hour with my friends, I may want to do the late nights. But if I believe I either don’t possess the ability to perform at the requisite level or that I won’t secure the benefits even if I put in the requisite work, I likely will not be motivated. As a manager, it is pivotal for you to understand this theory and leverage it in the diagnosis of your organization.

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Chuma S. Okoro

Sr. Software Engineer @ Bloomberg. I love talking about technology and business. Every article has my opinion backed by my experience, education, and research.