Porter Lawler Theory Of Motivation Essays

Expectancy Theory is based on an employee’s beliefs:
  • Valence - refers to emotional orientations which people hold with respect to outcomes (rewards) – the value the person attaches to first and second order outcomes
  • Expectancy – refers to employees’ different expectations and levels of confidence about what they are capable of doing – the belief that effort will lead to first order outcomes
  • Instrumentality – refers to the perception of employees whether they will actually receive what they desire, even if it has been promised by a manager – the perceived link between first order and second order outcomes
These 3 factors interact together to create a motivational force for an employee to work towards pleasure and avoid pain.  The formula for this force is:

Valence of outcome x Expectancy act will be result in outcome (Instrumentality) = Motivation Force

First Order Outcome is the behavior that results directly from the the effort an employee expends on the job.

Second Order Outcome is anything good or bad that results from a first-order outcome.

employee motivation, leadership, management, industrial psychology
Contributors: Leopold De Sousa
School of Information Studies
Syracuse University

Motivation is one of the most important methods a manager can implement in order to get employees to meet goals and continue pursuing their day to day tasks.  In healthcare, managers oversee many different employees with various degrees, skill levels, races and backgrounds.  The theories discussed in this post will help in predetermining the conduct of subordinates and inspiring them through motivation (Borkowski, 2011).

Motivation is the mindful and instinctive incentive, encouragement, or impulse for aiming toward an outcome as a result of

cognitive or communal aspects that give the reason or bearing to conduct.  Motivation is also the subconscious development where unfulfilled needs and wants spur an individual to develop goals or outcomes.  The sole reason people respond to stimuli is to quench their needs or wants.  A need is anything necessary for an individual to survive and live a healthy life.  A want is the mindful acknowledgment of a need but is not required in order to sustain oneself.  When a need or a want is unfulfilled, it results in inner anxiety.  With this disquieting, people will seek relief.  Throughout the years, the idea of motivation has been thoroughly researched in organizational behavior and can be broken down into two areas: content and process theories.  Content theories describe certain areas that motivate people while process theories focus on the intellectual reasons of someone’s motivational levels (Borkowski, 2011).

The first theory covered is the Expectancy Theory.  This idea was started in 1964 by Victor Vroom.  The Expectancy Theory says that in any circumstance a person’s motivational level, when dependent on accomplishment, relies on three things: (1) the person’s eagerness for an effect; (2) the approach an employee’s job completion in relation to gaining other wanted outcomes; and (3) the perceived likelihood that their hard work will contribute to essential fulfillment.  The theory relies on three variables: valence, instrumentality and expectancy.  It can thus be summarized by the following equation: Motivation = Valence x Instrumentality x Expectancy.  Valence is the substance of someone’s want or need or the distaste for a certain end goal.  Instrumentality is an individual’s outlook that their performance is related to other positive or negative goals.  It is a comparison between aims.  Another way to put it is a worker will perform a particular way because they think their performance and attitude will be honored with something of worth.  Expectancy is a passing assertion having to do with the possibility that an act or effort will come before an outcome or performance.  In other words, expectancy is someone’s view that their efforts will positively affect their achievement.  It is an association between a plan and a goal.  The Expectancy Theory is a very useful tool for managers in that it can assist them in comprehending the behavior of their subordinates.  The theory is based on the belief that people calculate the pros and cons before picking different behavior actions (Borkowski, 2011).

The Equity theory (started by J. Stacy Adams) states that an individual determines their goals and knowledge by balancing them with those of other people.  His theory is founded on the social-exchange theories that rely on two premises: (1) there is a relationship between how someone assesses their personal relationships and how they conduct their business at work and (2) it deals with the how someone decides if a transaction is to their liking.  Both parties will be content if there is fairness and equality during a transaction (Mowday, 1983).  However, if inequality is part of a relationship between two people, frustration occurs that leads to a strain on their association.  Inputs and outcomes are the two main aspects of the Equity Theory.  Inputs are what a person puts forth in a transaction.  An input may be someone’s knowledge, learning, hard work, aptitude and talents.  An outcome comes about after a transaction like a paycheck, a benefit, a promotion or a reward.  If one person’s input to output ratio is equal to another person’s input to output ratio, equity will exist.  There are three reasons if inequality exists between two people’s ratios.  First, it may be based on someone’s unrealistic assumptions.  Secondly, a person’s performance may not always maintain a certain level.  Consequently, they may produce different outputs than someone with a similar ratio.  Thirdly, whenever someone is underpaid or overpaid, inequality will always exist.  A manager needs to be mindful of how their employees view inequality in their workplace.  It will be close to impossible to keep them motivated if there is even a small perception of inequality (Borkowski, 2011).

In 1968, Lyman Porter and Edward Lawler incorporated the Equity Theory and built on the Expectancy Theory to form the Satisfaction-Performance Theory.  Porter and Lawler stated that gratification in the workplace is depended on both employee absence and turnover.  This is a great concern to organizations because both factors have a large influence on the success of a company (Lawler, 1983).  Previous to Porter and Lawler, no other model had dealt with relating contentment to accomplishment (Luthans, 2002).  The Satisfaction-Performance Theory does not mention who will be satisfied, only that there are stipulations that can contribute to one’s feeling of being satisfied or dissatisfied (Lawler, 1983).  Performance should come first before satisfaction, not the other way.  When an employee gains an award as a result of a job well done, they become satisfied.  However, depending on one’s rank in the company’s hierarchy, they will receive greater rewards if they hold a higher position.  Therefore, the more advanced one’s position is, the greater their satisfaction.  The Satisfaction-Performance Theory explains two things.  First, an employee will perform more productively if they are aware that the increasing merit of the reward requires them to work harder if they possess the abilities and the job description is clear.  Secondly, satisfaction will be the result of an employee perceiving the essential and unrelated rewards they receive (as a result of their high performance) as being equally fair (Borkowski, 2011).

The Goal Setting Theory was brought about in the 1960s and 1970s but Gary Latham and Edwin Locke.  In their research, there were two groups.  Group one was given very precise difficult goals and group two was given very unclear goals and told to “to your best”.  The end result was that group one outperformed group two, which formed the Goal Setting Theory.  Setting a goal may seem quite clear and simple.  However, it requires very precise study and preparation on the manager’s part.  Latham and Locke included three steps in their Goal Setting Theory.  Step one was called Setting the Goal.  The goal should be clear and concise rather than undetermined.  One should also be able to estimate a goal.  The goal should require great effort but still be attainable, which leads to greater accomplishment.  The second step in setting a goal is obtaining goal commitment.  The manager needs to find out from their employees if they accept the goal and can commit to its success.  This might require offering some incentives and motivation on the manager’s part.  The last step to setting a goal is providing support elements.  Managers need to make sure their subordinates have what they need to attain the goal and organizational guidelines should not hinder them in the process.  Employees need to realize that managers are on their same team and are aiming for the same outcome (Borkowski, 2011).

B. F. Skinner developed the Reinforcement Theory, which was based on operant conditioning.  Skinner discovered that a manager’s reinforcement could deflect an individual’s behavior.  Positive benefits will cause an employee to repeat their desirable performance where unconstructive penalties will hinder them.  The Reinforcement Theory equips managers to comprehend and persuade changes in their employee’s performance.  The four types of reinforcement are positive, negative, punishment and extinction.  Positive reinforcement happens with a positive result is dependent on actions.  Negative reinforcement is when an undesirable outcome is taken away.  This reinforces appropriate performance.  Punishment comes in the forms of positive or negative penalties.  A positive penalty is when something positive preferred is taken away.  A negative penalty when an unwanted response occurs in order to cease an employee’s unconstructive actions.  Extinction is when a conventional positive or negative reinforcement is removed that was formerly used to strengthen a worker’s actions.  Managers must learn to discipline their subordinates in a way that teaches them to not repeat negative performance but also reinforces their good qualities.  The last thing a manager needs is employees who harbor bitterness and negative feelings towards the company which can result in turnover (Borkowski, 2011).

My leadership style would best be supported by the Goal Setting Theory.  When I want something done, I make sure everyone involved knows precisely what it will take to achieve that goal, that they have the resources available to get it done and that they are motivated in reaching that outcome.

In conclusion, I believe that motivation is the key ingredient for managers to inspire their employees to reach goals.  The Expectancy Theory influences an individual’s level of motivation.  Adams’ Equity Theory defines equality – inequality within an organization and seeks to break up any strain among workers.  The Satisfaction-Performance Theory seeks to increase job satisfaction within an organization.  This will greatly increase the performance of employees and bring about overall company success.  The Goal Setting Theory states that employees perform better when their goals are clearly defined and lists three precise steps in order for managers to motivate their subordinates towards achieving a goal.  The final model, the Reinforcement Theory, covers four different ways to reinforce positive behavior and performance amongst employees.  The end goal for every business organization is to earn profit.  However simple that may sound, there are many very complicated working parts that must perform correctly in order to attain that end goal.  Managers provide their employees with the motivation they need so goals can be reached by the most positive, desirable means.


Borkowski, N. (2011). Organizational behavior in healthcare. (2nd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers

Lawler, E. E. (1983). Satisfaction and behavior. In J. R. Hackman, E. E. Lawler, & L. W. Porter (Eds.), Perspectives on behavior in

          organizations (pp. 78–87). New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company.

Luthans, F. (2002). Organizational behavior (9th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company.

Mowday, R. T. (1983). Equity theory predictions of behavior in organizations. In J. S. Ott (Ed.), Classic readings in organizational

          behavior (pp. 94–102). Albany, NY: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

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