Equity theory of Work Motivation - Organisational Behaviour

As a theory of work motivation, credit for equity theory is usually given to J. Stacy Adams. Simply put, the theory argues that a major input into job performance and satisfaction is the degree of equity (or inequity) that people perceive in work situation. Adams depicts a specific process of how this motivation occurs.

Inequity occurs when a person perceives that the ratio of his or her outcomes to inputs and the ratio of a relevant other’s outcomes to inputs are unequal. Schematically this is represented as follows:

Equity occurs when

Person’ s outcomes =other’s outcomes

Person’s inputs other’s inputs

Both the inputs and the outputs of the person and the other are based upon the person’s perceptions,which are affected by age, sex, education social status, organisational position, qualifications, and how hard the person works etc. Outcomes consist primarily of rewards such as pay, status, promotion, and intrinsic interest in the job. In essence the ratio is based upon the person’s perception of what the person is giving (inputs) and receiving (outcomes) versus the ratio of what the relevant is giving and receiving.This cognition may or may not be the same as someone else’s observation of the ratios or the same as the actual situation.

If the person’s perceived ratio is not equal to the other’s, he or she will strive to restore the ratio to equity. This “striving” to restore equity is used as the explanation of work motivation. The strength of this motivation is in direct proportion to the perceived inequity that exists.

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