Organizational Behavior

Equity Theory of Motivation

What role does equity play in motivation? An employee with several years of experience can be frustrated to find out that a recent college grad hired at a salary level higher than he or she is current earnings, causing motivation levels to drop.

  • Employees make comparisons between their job inputs and outcomes relative to those of others.
  1. If we perceive our ratio to be equal to that of the relevant others with whom we compare ourselves, a state of equity is said to exist. We perceive our situation as fair.
  2. When we see the ratio as unequal, we experience equity tension.
  • Additionally, the referent that an employee selects adds to the complexity of equity theory. There are four referent comparisons that an employee can use:
  1. Self-inside: An employee’s experiences in a different position inside his or her current organization
  2. Self-outside: An employee’s experiences in a situation or position outside his or her current organization
  3. Other-inside: Another individual or group of individuals inside the employee’s organization
  4. Other-outside: Another individual or group of individuals outside the employee’s organization
  • Which referent an employee chooses will be influenced by the information the employee holds about referents. as well as by the attractiveness of the referent.
  1. There are four moderating variables: gender, length of tenure, level in the organization and amount of education of professionalism.
  2. Men and women prefer same-sex This also suggests that if women are tolerant of lower pay, it may be due to the comparative standard they use.
  3. Employees in jobs that are not sex-segregated will make more cross-sex
    comparisons than those in jobs that are either male- or female-dominated.
  • Employees with a short tenure in their current organizations tend to have little information about
  • Employees with long tenure rely more heavily on coworkers for comparison.
  • Upper-level employees tend to be more cosmopolitan and have better information about people in other organizations. Therefore, these types of employees will make more other- outside comparisons.
  • When employees perceive an inequity, they can be predicted to make one of six choices:
  1. Change their inputs.
  2. Change their outcomes.
  3. Distort perceptions of self.
  4. Distort perceptions of others.
  5. Choose a different referent.
  6. Lease the field.
  • The theory establishes the following propositions relating to inequitable pay:
  1. Given payment by time, over-rewarded employees will produce more than will equitably pay employees.
  2. Given payment by the quantity of production, over-rewarded employees will produce fewer, but higher quality, units that will equitably pay employees.
  3. Given payment by time, under-rewarded employees will produce less or poorer quality of output.
  • Given payment by the quantity of production, under-rewarded employees will produce a large number of low-quality units in comparison with equitably paid employees.
  • These propositions have generally been supported with a few minor qualifications.
  1. Inequities created by overpayment do not seem to have a very significant impact on behavior in most work situations.
  2. Not all people arc equity sensitive.
  • Employees also seem to look for equity in the distribution of other organizational rewards.
  • Finally, recent research has been directed at expanding what is meant by equity or fairness.
  1. Historically, equity theory focused on distributive justice or the perceived fairness of the amount and allocation of rewards among individuals.
  2. Equity should also consider procedural justice, the perceived fairness of the process used to determine the distribution of rewards.
  3. The evidence indicates that distributive justice has a greater influence on employee satisfaction than procedural justice.
  4. Procedural justice tends to affect an employee’s organizational commitment, trust in his or her boss, and intention to quit.
  5. By increasing the perception of procedural fairness, employees are likely to view their bosses and the organization as positive even if they are dissatisfied with pay, promotions, and other personal outcomes.

Equity Theory demonstrates that, for most employees, motivation is influenced significantly by relative rewards as well as by absolute rewards, but some key issues are still unclear.

This can be illustrated by the following equation:

Individual’s outcomes / Individual’s own inputs = Relational partner’s outcomes / Relational partner’s inputs