Compare and Contrast Maslow’s Theory of Needs with Vroom’s Expectancy Theory

Motivation is an intangible human asset which acts as a driver that pushes humans to be willing to perform certain actions. In just about everything we do there is something that moves us to perform the action which involves some motivation allowing us to perform tasks or actions which produces some type of personal benefit as a result. The general theory would be that, the greater the personal gain in performing the task for the individual, the more motivated they are to try at the task to achieve the best outcome. Motivation is usually stimulated by a want where there is a gain to be had as a result of performing a certain task. A person is a wanting being – he always wants, and he wants more. Therefore if there is nothing that an individual wants, there would be no need for them to perform a certain task as there is nothing they can gain from it. Over time there have been many motivational theories developed to try and explore what motivation is and how different levels of motivation can be achieved with different inputs. Two of the most widely recognized motivational theories come from Abraham Maslow (Hierarchy of Needs) and Victor H. Vroom (Expectancy Theory). Managers in businesses would use these theories of motivation in an attempt to motivate staff to provide them with job satisfaction and in return receive better task performance. As there are several motivation theories, only through comparing and contrasting one can establish which ones motivate workers more than others.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow looked to expand on Human Relations Theory. His argument was that if motivation could be driven by managers filling their employees’ needs, then managers should look to understand which of these needs are the most important. Maslow argues that there were five main categories of needs, which were arranged in a hierarchy. The first needs to be fulfilled were physiological needs, followed by security needs, social needs, esteem needs and finally the need for self-actualization.

Maslow's Theory of Needs

Physiological needs are the most basic requirements of human existence, such as food, water and rest. Maslow argued that if these needs were not fulfilled, then people would devote all their needs to fulfilling them, and no extent of social interactions or esteem felt by people would compensate. Once the physiological needs were met, people would next consider their security, and the extent to which they were safe from any harm. As such, people will look to live in a safe area, visit the doctor, look for a secure job, and build up savings so they would not risk being poor. As this is above physiological needs in the hierarchy, Maslow claimed that people who were hungry would put themselves at risk to obtain food. This explains why people in war torn regions will still attempt to plant crops in former minefields: the food is a more pressing need than their own safety. Once people feel safe, secure and physiologically satisfied, they will begin to prioritise their social needs. This involves having meaningful social interactions with others, manifested as a need for friends, a need to belong to a social group, and a need to both give and receive love. Once a person has fulfilled these social needs, they begin to desire esteem needs. Esteem needs are defined as those related to someone’s psychological image of themselves. As such, they can be external, such as receiving praise, recognition and promotion; or internal, such as knowing that a job has been done well, and having a high level of self respect. Finally, the need for self-actualisation represents the highest level Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Maslow argued that it represented the pinnacle of the human condition, only being reached by the most exemplary people. In addition, Maslow argued that the nature of this need is such that it can never be fully satisfied, as people can always strive to better themselves and reach a higher level of achievement.

Vroom’s Expectancy Theory

Vroom’s expectancy theory was originally developed by Victor H. Vroom, a Canadian psychologist, in 1964. Vroom’s expectancy theory consisted of two related models-the valence model and the force model. The valence model attempts to capture the perceived attractiveness, or valence, of an outcome by aggregating the attractiveness of all associated resultant outcomes. The force model of expectancy theory attempts to capture motivational force to act by associating the expectancy of resultant outcomes and their individual valences. These two models gave Vroom the opening to build his expectancy theory to the level that it is today most commonly known.

Vroom's Expectancy Theory 

Vroom’s expectancy theory explains motivation in terms of four main concepts: force, valence, expectancy, and instrumentality. Force is seen as the sum of the products of multiple valences, instrumentalities and expectancies involved in a course of action. It is reasoned that the motivation to behave in a particular way is determined by an individual’s expectation that behavior will lead to a particular outcome, multiplied by the preference or valence that person has for that outcome. This can be shown in the following mathematical equation: Motivation (M) = Instrumentality (I) x Expectancy (E) x Valence (V). It is assumed that the level of motivation an individual demonstrates, results from his or her conscious decision-making process: a rational assessment of the likely result of their behavior. The theory also considers the value that each individual places on the estimated outcome. The basic theory recognizes that individuals differ: that we are all unlikely to value the same outcome equally.

Comparing Maslow’s Theory of Needs with Vroom’s Expectancy Theory

First, Maslow’s hierarchy theory as an earlier proposition, it creates the base on which Vroom’s expectancy theory, a later edition, builds on. Secondly, both the Expectancy and the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs motivational theories, they both enable a person to modify his/her input (efforts to undertake a task) depending on the importance they have on the expected result in the entire procedure of undertaking that task and what they understand about input and output. For example, Maslow theory of motivation as a commonly known theory, it addresses needs of an individual in a hierarchy manner. It considers a single need and this need depends on already other satisfied needs. From an arrangement of how these needs need to fulfillment in a hierarchy manner, one can establish those that require early fulfillment than others. In addition, both theories allows an individual to establish which results are most likely to motivate people and this will dictate the best measures to take as factors of their experiences and expectations.

Maslow’s understanding on the effect of unsatisfied needs relates to expectancy theory in that like Maslow, Vroom indicates in the expectancy theory that the need to fulfill unmet demands is what motivates individuals where such a person will make a concerned decision to undertake a certain task in a manner that he/she understands as satisfying that need. Therefore, high motivation will manifest where there is concise and quantified goals that for example in a team the team members understand how a task as achievable and how it would benefit them considerably. In cases of low motivation, team members usually become frustrated as they cannot define the best ways to undertake different tasks and for what rewards these tasks can bring to them.

In addition, whenever an individual understands that he/she is lacking an essential item/want necessary for well being, then this understanding will establish a need for that individual to undertake activities or behave in a manner that will lead to satisfying that particular need. Moreover, if someone understands that certain need is being satisfied, then this person will lack motivation to manifest characters/behaviors that associate with fulfilling the need. Considering this perspective in a work place, what this indicates is that financial benefits will act as a significant motivation tool until an understanding that the money is a way of fulfilling different categories of demands (basic needs). Contrary to this, if these people understand that such demands are fulfilling, then these people/employees will lack motivation to fulfill such needs and will rather establish other ways of fulfilling higher ranked needs touching self-esteem. The more the expectations employees have on their job, the greater the motivation they will have to perform. These approaches are common both the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Vroom’s expectancy theories of motivation.

Contrasting Maslow’s Theory of Needs with Vroom’s Expectancy Theory

As suggested by Victor Vroom and unlike Maslow’ theory, the expectancy theory of motivation does not focus on needs but concentrates in the results. When Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory concentrates on the association of internal needs of an individual and the expected effort needed to satisfy them such as time and money, Vroom puts apart effort (a result of motivation), performance, and results/outcome. What this means is that for anyone to get motivated, the drive behind effort should associate with execution of relevant tasks and the outcome. To connect the drive/effort with performance, expectancy helps one to believe that extra dedication on a task will improve performance, meaning hard work pays. For the hard work to be fruitful there has to be right resources (adequate time, appropriate skills, and support). Linking performance and outcome will be instrumentality that helps one perceive that whenever an individual performs excellently, then a worthy outcome is viable and finally valence connects outcome and effort as dictated by the main motivation. For example, if cash motivates someone, then taking leave would not be valuable to this person because he is not making money.

In Maslow’s theory of motivation, individuals get motivation from something extra as compared to only cash/financial benefits and job fulfillment. Therefore, the broad consideration of varying factors improves motivation of individuals/employees. Expectancy theory on its part only illustrates motivation as not applying to all cases as the understanding of whatever one wants to achieve/objects relates to efforts on a task and performance of that task, performance and compensation/gain, gain and objective fulfillment. As these will differ for different individuals as well as locations, to design rewarding systems, managers should thus always consider respective organizational structure so that the rewards offered relate to individual goals in such environments.

Expectancy Theory of motivation proves to be most sophisticated comparing to Maslow’s theory in motivating employees because the effort to undertake a task will relate to the surrounding and capability to dictate the resulting achievement/performance of a person. This theory to significant number of people and situations, might fail to apply. For example, it is more difficult to change management practices of an organization to meet individual needs, which might appear as outdated ways of doing things to many people and thus expectancy theory viewed as an individualized theory rather than management oriented.

Contrary to the expectancy theory, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory has the option that working towards self-actualization, rather than actually achieving it may be the ultimate motivation for most people. As currently, some people find themselves leaving high paying jobs that fail to satisfy their job objectives to low paying jobs that satisfy. Maslow’s gives a sense of understanding without conscious reasoning thus common to many practicing managers and gives a general structure to classify demands as needs will not necessary fit to Maslow’s model. In the manner in which the needs rank, the bottom needs will be termed as physiological needs (food and water) and they determine when the following batch of growth needs (knowing and perceiving one’s needs) will start fulfilment. It is only when the growth needs are fulfilled that one is at peace to attain his/her potential such as self-actualization (example) after which one can overcome his/her self-esteem (example) to assist others. This is a more realist arrangement that enables one to progressive exploit his/her potential through satisfaction from preceding level of needs unlike expectancy theory that limits only on reward and job satisfaction.

The expectation theory to managers will base their reward on individual achievement as to how better that individual relates input and output paying attention of any possible changes in the process to reduce risk. Furthermore, managers are required to utilize organizational structure that hold rewards and performance together as well as ensuring rewards are worthy to employees, and should involve in training to improve employees ability and understanding that extra effort yields good performance. This can be challenging as the process might turn out to be complex for some mangers. However, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory will give the flexibility for managers to allow development up the ranks of their employees in the best way they feel satisfied increasing motivation. In addition, Maslow’s theory allows managers to understand the significant needs active for specific employee ensuring motivation.


In summary, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory has greater motivation to employees compared to the expectancy theory. Although they compare in some aspects, the significantly differ in others. These two theories compare in Maslow theory creating a base from which expectancy theory develops from, both enabling a person to modify his/her input depending on the importance they have on the expected result after performing a task, as well as allowing an individual to establish which results are most likely to motivate them or others. Contrary to the similarities, expectancy theory concentrates on the needs rather than the results on a particular task where else Maslow’s theory focuses on how the different needs associate with themselves and what it calls fro to satisfy them and allows managers to understand the significant needs active for specific employee ensuring motivation. Expectancy theory separates effort, performance, and achievement of a certain task making it difficult and sophisticated for many individuals to explore their potentials because the effort to undertake a task will relate to the surrounding and capability to dictate the resulting achievement/performance of a person. This can be a complex process. Therefore, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory of motivation is more realistic and cheaper in motivating compared to Vroom’s expectancy theory of motivation.

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