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Leadership and Motivation: The Effective Application of Expectancy Theory

Submitted by on August 17, 2013 – 11:58 PM

A man holding a present for you isolated on white backgroundPeople are the greatest source of power in any work industry of the world. Likewise in health care sector, manpower is really crucial and it needs to be dealt well in order to obtain greater efficiency and essential quality outcomes. Health care organization must consider their employees as their asset and they need to be retained and satisfied, which will have a long term positive effects on the success of organizations. There are different behaviors and goals that managers and employees seek from each other in order to work together.


Reward system is one of the crucial way of motivating employees in order to make them productive and to attain the desired organizational objectives. This paper will initially highlight the reasons for the disparity between organizational and individual goals and the behavioral expectations associated with it. Secondly, the importance of motivation will be examined in order to resolve this goal conflict. Then it will take an overview of importance of reward system and will categorize and define the range of rewards available.


Then we will try to understand few hurdles to power rewards along with the strategies to improve it. Finally, we will try to recognize few other approaches of motivating employees. Every individual has different sets of goals which are determined by different factors- for instance: their values, beliefs, economical status, age, previous experiences, culture etc. People strive hard focusing on the achievement of their preferred goals.


People are attracted toward jobs which match their goal priorities and if job fails to satisfy these aims then it can lead to frustration and long term negative effects on their behavior. For instance, a person giving priority to relationship will be more attracted towards some social interactive job rather than an isolated job just by sitting in an office. For some people money matters a lot and for others promotion, authority, pride and opportunity. There is a massive difference between the goals the individual wants to achieve and the  rewards that the organization offers them.


Parallel to employee goals and expectations, organization on the other hand also expects certain behaviors from their employees before rewarding them, which is mostly determined by the job. Individuals must be attracted towards a particular job which meets staff’s as well as organizational needs. The employees must create a favorable work environment and be faithful to the organization during their tenure following the organizational rules and standards. The staff must try to put an extra effort in order to work exceptionally and to perform beyond the minimum level of expectation.


Moreover, the employee must always be ready to react spontaneously and appropriately to any upcoming situations. Any organization must realize that none of their expectations and goals can be met without the input from their employees and for attaining the desired organizational objectives, one should create motivation among the employees and create a balance between organizational and individual goals. Hence, it is very much important to reward employees in order to keep them motivated and this motivation in turn relates to organizational goal achievement. In order to reward appropriately it is very important to understand reward system and different types of rewards.


As cited by Pontus, F (2009), Reward system is related to two major issues; performance and rewards. Performance includes defining and evaluating staff performance and providing them feedback. Rewards include different sorts of admirations in form of bonuses, promotions, salary increments etc. There are two major types of rewards, Intrinsic and Extrinsic Rewards as cited by Mahaney & Lederer (2006).


Intrinsic rewards motivate workers by appealing to their sense of contribution and self importance- for example: pride, feeling of accomplishment, public praise etc. Researchers found that intrinsic rewards are positively related to project success in terms of client satisfaction. On the other hand, extrinsic rewards are external factors offered externally by others to the workers- for example: job security, financial bonuses, time off, technical training flexible work schedule, promotions etc. Rewards can be offered individually or to the group of people.


Individual rewards can be increments of salary or wages, clothing allowance, bonuses, car, medical insurance etc. On the other hand, in group rewards, all of the group members are rewarded like bonuses, dinner or some special event arrangement, some prizes distribution etc. Group rewards are only effective if the group objectives are measurable and directly related to group performances. It is not enough to just understand about the reward system and different types of rewards but it is also necessary to understand how the managers correctly allocate rewards for different employees.


Ineffective rewards offered by organizations hinder better staff performances because employee’s goals are not being fulfilled. Power rewards which are less manipulative release enormous power in employees, empowering and motivating them. These are the rewards that promote desired organizational outcomes, making employees feel good about their present and past achievements. Rewards also have their pitfalls.


Traditional organizations have associated rewards with money but money has some serious motivational limitations. In most of the jobs, the highest paid person is not always a best performer and the people who perform best are not always highly paid. Monetary rewards don’t have long term effects, as they are mixed with other money allowances and soon forgotten. Failure of monetary rewards can be prevented by recognizing the money limitation and substituting it with other more cost effective forms of rewards.


Lack of recognition value is the other reason of reward failure. Sometimes, organizations do offer rewards but fail to give recognition value to the employees. This factor derails them as the employees are very eager for recognition for the hard work they have performed. Organizations should build up a high degree of recognition as it is highly motivating as well as very cost effective than other expensive rewards. It can be given in many ways like just giving a round of applause, saying thanks, giving a treat or using any suitable way of making the staff feel special.


Entitlements can also be a reason of reward failure as staff takes the allocated entitlement for granted. Organizations should try to reduce too many entitlements and link as many rewards to performances. Rewarding at wrong times is also a problem- for example a pizza delivery company rewarding its drivers for on-time delivery often prompts the drivers to drive recklessly. Wrong rewarding can be prevented by re-evaluating the existing system and making sure that the desired behaviors are rewarded only.


Delay in rewarding is another one of the problems discussed in this paper. Rewards need to be given as soon as possible after the performance takes place because it motivates the employees for more extra efforts. The whole reward system can be best overviewed by understanding and implementing Vroom’s Expectancy Theory. According to this, individuals choose their own course of actions in order to maximize the probability to achieve desired outcomes.


People choose particular actions intentionally which are highly based upon their perceptions, attitudes and beliefs as consequence of their needs to augment enjoyment and avoid pain. Expectancy theory mainly relies on external motivating factors according to which external rewards are viewed by inducing motivational state that fuels behavior as opposed to intrinsic motivators. If there is any weakness in the effort, performance or outcome, it can affect the motivational status of the employees. Therefore, in order to keep the staff motivated, work must provide a reasonably challenging task for the followers based upon their previous experience, abilities and education etc.


So, it is the duty of the leader to acquire a style of leadership and expend a significant effort to ensure an alignment between the personal goals of their followers and those of the organization. The satisfaction achieved from getting the reward and performing well constitutes an intrinsic reward of high valence. There are some of the other strategies through which the leader can motivate their followers by spending some time with followers, by increasing followers’ knowledge, skills and abilities, establishing realistic, meaningful and attainable goals together with followers, showing appreciation, making the work more active and adding variety to it, encouraging self measurement, letting employees make more choices, facilitating team work, encouraging learning and continuous improvement and helping employees understand the significance of their work. Reward system is a great initiative to inspire the followers.


Although organizations do have their own expectations from employees but these expectations can only be met upon willingness of the followers. Therefore, a correct reward system needs to be set in place keeping in mind the individuality of the employees, their motivation and preventing the hurdles that lead to power reward failure. The expectancy theory is highly useful in understanding these behaviors. Sometimes a jelly doughnut or a handshake is as effective as a monetary bonus.




(1)Douglas, C. P., Robert, G. I., and Wilfred, J. Z. (2001) “Leadership and motivation: The effective application of expectancy theory”, Journal of managerial issues, 8(2), pp. 212-226. Dixon, J. (2004) “Payment by results- new financial flows in the NHS”, British Medical Journal, 328, pp. 969-70. Hunt, J. Managing People at Work, 3rd edition. Mahaney, R.C., and Lederer, A.L. (2006) “The effects of intrinsic and extrinsic Rewards for developers on information systems project success”, Project management journal, 37( 4), pp. 42-54. Pontus, F. (2009) “Rewards systems in the post digitization Era: Possible Benefits” Electronic Journal of Information Systems Evaluation, 12 (1), pp. 51-58. Spitzer, D. R. (1996) “Power Rewards: rewards that really motivate”, Management Review, 85(5), pp45-50. Vroom, V. (1964) Work and Motivation. New York: John Wiley.


About the Author: Hina Raheel is a nurse by profession and graduated from Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi, Pakistan in 2003. She has worked in different levels of professional roles and has completed her Masters from University of Surrey, UK. To date she is working in UAE as a Nursing Educator and Training Coordinator. Hina can be reached at [email protected]


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