Porter and Lawler’s Expectancy Theory

Porter and Lawler’s Expectancy Theory, was first proposed in 1968. It is a well-established model that HR professionals and scholars still use to understand motivation in the workplace. Though the theory is a powerful tool to understand and inspire workplace performance, there are some criticisms against it.

These include the lack of consideration for the changing needs of employees in the workplace and the potential for manipulation. This article will explore the merits of the Porter and Lawler Theory, as well as consider its criticisms of it. The seminal work of Porter and Lawler on expectancy theory has been both lauded and criticized since its introduction in 1968.

Lawler's Expectancy Theory

To this day, the theories of motivation and job satisfaction these two theorists posited remain as controversial as ever. In this article, we will uncover the criticisms of Porter and Lawler’s theory and assess their validity. The model proposed by Porter and Lawler is notoriously difficult to apply in the real world. Yet their theories are often considered the most influential of the early expectancy theories.

This article will examine the validity of their work, highlighting the criticism of the theory and seeking to answer the question: Is Porter and Lawler’s Theory still relevant today?

1. Introduction

The unveiling of Porter and Lawler’s Expectancy Theory has caused a lot of debate among scholars recently. This theory suggests that effort is related to motivation, performance, and results and has undeniable benefits.

From improved job satisfaction to more employee engagement, the Expectancy Theory can bring tangible rewards for both employers and employees. Although some argue against its validity, research still demonstrates its many advantages. So, let’s take a closer look at what this theory offers to fully understand its implications.

2. Overview

Unveiling the controversial Porter and Lawler Expectancy Theory requires an extensive overview to understand its complexities. Aiming to explain motivation in the workplace, the theory revolves around three core factors: valence of outcomes, instrumentality, and expectancy.

Valence is an individual’s perceived value of a potential outcome and its potential to satisfy their needs and goals. Instrumentality is the belief that a behavior will be rewarded with a desired outcome and expectancy is the degree of certainty of success.

The interplay of these three elements influences a person’s motivation to complete a task. Understanding these concepts is key to comprehending Porter and Lawler’s Expectancy Theory.

3. Hypothesis

The Porter and Lawler Expectancy Theory has caused quite a stir in the academic world. This theory suggests that an individual’s performance is determined by effort-to-performance and performance-to-reward ratios.

This ‘Overview of Porter and Lawler Theory’ claims that an individual’s motivation to perform is caused by this ratio. It explains why certain people may be more or less motivated. Many have praised the theory, while others have criticized it for oversimplifying the complex relationship between effort and reward.

Nevertheless, it is clear that the Expectancy Theory is a significant and fascinating contribution to psychology.

4. Model

Porter and Lawler’s Expectancy Theory has sparked much interest. Modeled on their expectancy-value model, it investigates the link between effort, performance, and rewards.

It proposes that a person’s motivation is largely determined by their perception of their ability to meet a goal, influenced by the rewards and outcomes. So, what does this mean for organizations? They must customize tips and outcomes to maximize Expectancy Theory Influences and boost individual performance.

But how? That’s a whole other question.

5. Criticisms

Despite the many strengths of Porter and Lawler’s Expectancy Theory, there are also criticisms worth noting. One key shortcoming is that the theory does not always account for individual differences and nuances. Additionally, some researchers argue that the theory does not explain the complexities of human behavior.

The practical applications of the theory are not much common. It does not take into account the unpredictable nature of individual behavior. It is important to weigh the pros and cons of the Expectancy Theory to determine when and where it is effective in organizational contexts.

6. Applications

Porter and Lawler’s Expectancy Theory sparked controversy and debate when revealed, but also provided a helpful model to direct workplace behavior and motivation. This theory has wide applications to improve productivity and staff satisfaction.

In short, it states that individuals will perform when they feel their efforts will lead to a desired result. It means that an individual performs in expectation of a reward only. It also suggests that workplaces have an incentive structure with awards and recognition for successful results.

Despite any disputes, Porter and Lawler’s Expectancy Theory is beneficial for employers and employees, being essential for understanding motivation in the workplace.

7. Conclusions

Porter and Lawler’s Expectancy Theory is a major breakthrough in organizational behavior and motivational psychology. This theory, created by Edward Porter and Richard Lawler, offers a powerful framework to comprehend motivation and its impact on performance.

Widely accepted and applied, it has found success in businesses and sports alike. Exploring its basics is an invaluable resource for understanding motivation, and with the right knowledge and application, it can help foster motivation and enhance performance.


Porter and Lawler’s Expectancy Theory has revolutionized the way we view and approach motivation, proving that it is not a one-size-fits-all concept.

It gives us the insight that individuals have different motivational needs, based on their own individualized expectations and needs, allowing us to truly focus on providing each individual with what they need to be successful.

While much more research is required to fully understand and implement Porter and Lawler’s Expectancy Theory. It is clear that it has already provided invaluable insight and knowledge into the world of motivation and will continue to do so into the future.

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  • uhayat
  • The author has rich management exposure in banking, textiles, and teaching in business administration.