It’s not my intention to give full information or an extensive discussion on every theory. This website is intended to be a starting point and the main difference with other websites is the visual representation of the theory, which I hope will help get to grips with the theory. There are also links it the bottom to get your further research started.

Expectancy Motivation Theory

Victor Vroom 1964



Vroom’s Expectancy Motivation Theory or Expectancy Theory suggests that individuals expect their positive performances to be followed by successes (Wigfield, 1994).

The theory further explains the motivational force is expectancy times instrumentality times valance. This implies that the higher these 3 values are, the higher motivation will be. Supporting clients in making decisions about effort, performance and rewards will have an effect, positive or negative, on their level of motivation. Expectancy Theory of career planning by Victor Vroom.

The illustration above shows flow (in visual format) between the different elements towards increased motivation. The level of each of the three elements: effort, performance and reward, will determine the level of motivation the client will have in exploring their ideas or in aiming for a particular career idea.


Expectancy Motivation Theory in practice

I feel that the validity of this theory for career guidance, rather than for management, is in the process. For managers, offering the right rewards may trigger the right level of effort and performance, increasing motivation. This is difficult to translate in career guidance terms. Effort and performance in planning may or may not always offer the rewards the client is seeking, which may be a good thing, rather than negative. It may set them on a path that is even better and that they didn’t expect.

However, this can be used in a different way in career guidance, coaching and counselling in that it can be an exploratory tool with the client. Let’s look at two examples:

  • For instance: in exploring different career goals, Vroom’s theory can be used to explore the amount of effort the client is putting in and how this fulfils what they need to find out. Or effort can be related to the outcomes and whether they are desirable, after which the client can increase their effort and performance or decrease these and focus them somewhere else if the outcomes are not desirable.
  • Another way to use Vroom’s theory in career coaching, guidance and counselling can be by starting with their level of motivation. You can then explore where their (low) level of motivation originates. Are the rewards not desirable enough? And if so, what rewards would be desirable and increase motivation? How much effort are they putting in and is that why they don’t see the rewards they were hoping? Is their effort being applied efficiently or do they need to refocus to increase performance?



Although it requires some creative thinking, the building blocks of the level of motivation and how they related to each other, are there, within Vroom’s theory. This is not a model, which can be a good thing in that you can then use your own creativity to make this theory work for you. Just like all theories of motivation in my view, applying this theory may not work with all clients but it’s an excellent tool to have in your toolbox.

How do you feel?

  • Do you feel this is generally applicable with all clients lacking motivation?
  • Vroom takes a very different approach to Maslow. What is the difference, can you describe it?
  • Two Factor Theory is also based in business, but the two have a very different starting point. Compare the foundation of Two Factor Theory and Expectancy Motivation Theory. Is one easier to apply with your clients? Why?
  • What are the fundamental differences between Vroom’s theory and Motivational Interviewing? Could you make a list of both to compare?
  • Again, here too, have a look at how Expectancy Motivation Theory scores in Brown’s eyes.

To explore these questions, also have a look at the links below.


Links, references and suggested further reading: