Process theories - American businessProcess theories deal with how employee motivation arises and initiated, redirected, and halted by employees’ behavior. There are four types of process theories: expectancy, equity, reinforcement, and GOAL SETTING. All tend to focus on an individual’s behavior in specific settings. EXPECTANCY THEORY, formulated by psychologist Victor Vroom, assumes that people are motivated to exert effort based on their expectations of success. The theory is based on the belief that employee effort will lead to performance, and performance will lead to rewards, which are either positive or negative. An employee’s motivation will increase when he or she highly values a particular outcome and feels a reasonably good chance of achieving the desired goal. It is not enough to offer the person something to satisfy his or her important needs if the person is not reasonably sure they have the ability to obtain the reward. The more positive the reward, the more likely the employee will be highly motivated. The more negative the reward, the less likely the employee will be motivated. Expectancy theory assumes that motivational strength is determined by a person’s perceived probabilities of success. Employees tend to work harder when they believe they have a good chance of getting rewards that are personally meaningful. The strengths of the expectancy theory are that it accounts for multiple goals and preferences, real-world differences, and a variety of situations. However, the theory is weak in that it is too complex for most people and in making decisions and that one cannot get a full commitment to a marginally more important goal. Expectancy theory can be used to link performance to pay systems, to facilitate performance, to recognize competing goals, and to align organizational goals. Equity theory, developed by human resource theorist J. Stacy Adams, focuses on workers’ perceptions of fairness regarding their work outcomes and inputs. Individuals compare their job inputs and outcomes with those of others and then respond to eliminate any inequities. Rewards must be perceived as being equitable and fair if they are to motivate people. Employees strive for equity between themselves and other workers, and this is achieved when the ratio of an employee’s outcomes over inputs is equal to other employees’ outcomes over inputs. Individuals are concerned with their rewards but also with how they compare with what others receive. People are strongly motivated to maintain a balance between what they perceive as their inputs, or contributions, and their rewards. If someone perceives an inequity, that person becomes motivated to reduce or eliminate it. For example, if an employee learns that a coworker earns more money for doing the same job, that employee may request a pay raise. If he does not receive the pay raise, his performance may diminish as he tries to reduce what he sees as an inequity. The strengths of the equity theory are that it accounts for internal assessment, comparison procedures, and quality changes. The theory’s weaknesses include a fixation on underpayment and a lack of clarity about what people “key-in on.” Reinforcement theory, based on the work of the psychologist B. F. Skinner, states that employees will repeat behaviors leading to a positive outcome and not repeat those behaviors that lead to negative outcomes. Managers should positively reinforce employee behaviors that lead to positive outcomes and negatively reinforce employee behaviors leading to negative outcomes. Employees will then recognize the connection between a behavior and its consequences. Employers can change employees’ behavior by providing the proper reward. For example, an employee will learn to engage in specific behaviors, such as responding to customer requests, in order to receive certain consequences, such as a bonus. The strengths of the reinforcement theory are that it is straightforward, is outcome-oriented, and works well with overt behaviors. The theory’s weaknesses are that it may be fallible when the employee fixates on outcome, that it can be very time-consuming to monitor, and that it may not be consistent with organizational situations. Nevertheless, reinforcement theory is useful in changing behaviors and can be revised easily if necessary. Goal-setting theory, as researched by leadership and motivation professor Edwin Locke and organizational behavior professor Gary Latham, is the process of improving an individual’s or a group’s job performance with formally stated objectives, deadlines, or quality standards. The goals that are set for the individual or group should be specific, challenging, and difficult but not impossible for most employees to attain. Goals motivate by directing attention, encouraging effort and persistence, and fostering goal-attainment strategy and action plans. Specific, difficult goals lead to higher motivation and performance. Employees should accept goals and want to attain them if managers set the goals for them. Good goals should be consistent with organizational goals and are easily monitored. Goal setting is a simple, concrete process and can encourage participation among employees; however, it can also be time-consuming and subordinates may differ with bosses on goals and objectives.
See also MOTIVATION THEORY.