be obtained from exit interviews. The federal government, for instance, has spent a considerable amount of effort trying to understand the reasons behind attrition in the Senior Executive Service (SES). Interviews with SESers who have just quit consistently demonstrate that inadequate advancement opportunities are a major disincentive to remaining in the service ( U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board 1989; U.S. General Accounting Office 1992). This finding has been applauded by both former and current executives, and is a major consideration in the Office of Personnel Management's efforts to revitalize the SES career system.
Perhaps the most important lesson that can be learned from these disparate experiences with exit interview data is the need for prudence. Information gleaned from departing workers must be thoughtfully assessed within the context in which it is offered. The reliability of worker reports should ordinarily be cross-checked and verified before any decisions are made on that basis alone. Identifying the "real" problems that contribute to a worker's decision to quit an organization will almost certainly require sensitivity and skill on the part of the interviewer.
These limitations notwithstanding, most managers would rather ask than not ask; they would at least like to give workers an opportunity to discuss their experiences and share their opinions. Where the workers' stories reiterate the same general themes, the organization has an obligation to investigate and follow up. Coupled with other sources of administrative intelligence, exit interview responses are, at an absolute minimum, a starting place for administrative action.
STEVEN W. HAYS
Cundiff, Victoria, 1993. "How to Conduct an Exit Interview: An Intellectual Property Law Perspective." Employee Relations, vol. 19 (Summer): 159-168.
Fisher, Cynthia, Lyle Schoenfeldt, and James Shaw, 1993. Human Resource Management. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Grensing-Pophal, Lin, 1993. "Exit Interviews as a Tool for Examining Turnover." Security Management (June): 20-21.
U.S. General Accounting Office, 1992. Senior Executive Service: Opinions About the Federal Work Environment. Washington, DC: Comptroller General (May).
U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, 1989. The Senior Executive Service: Views of Former Federal Executives. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office (October).
Zarandona, Joseph, and Michael Camuso, 1989. "A Study of Exit Interviews: Does the Last Word Count?" Personnel, vol. 62 (March): 36-38.
Zima, Joseph, 1983. Interviewing: Key to Effective Management. New York: Macmillan, and Science Research Associates.
EXPECTANCY THEORY. A theory of work motivation based on the proposition that behavior is regulated by choices influenced by goals (represented by the valence of possible outcomes) and beliefs about the consequences of choices (represented by expectancies).
The importance of human motivation in the workplace received relatively little attention until the 1930s when an Australian psychologist, Elton Mayo, then at the Harvard Business School, began a set of studies at the Hawthorne plant of the Western Electric Company. The results of this research were published in 1939 by Roethlisberger and Dickson in an influential book called Management and the Worker. The next two decades were characterized by a great amount of research on motivation by a number of psychologists, including Kurt Lewin, Abraham Maslow, and David McClelland, and a smaller number of psychoanalysts, such as Eric Trist. The implications of this research for management and administration were the focus of modified "theories" of management advanced by Rensis Likert and Douglas McGregor, published in the 1960s.
However, the research was fragmented and not grounded in any solid conception of underlying theoretical processes. As Mason Haire noted in a chapter written in 1954, "Unless there is a real advance here soon, the very richness of the empirical data threatens to be overwhelming in its systematic unintelligibility" (p. 1120).
Expectancy theory was first introduced by Victor Vroom ( 1964) in a book entitled Work and Motivation. The purpose of expectancy theory was to organize existing research into a systematic framework to "show us where we now stand in our efforts to find principles and generalizations, and to indicate promising avenues for new research" (p. 5).
Expectancy theory utilizes four concepts: force, valence, instrumentality, and expectancy. The last three concepts are responsible for the frequent reference to it as VIE theory. The theory is stated in formal mathematical terms, but I will not dwell on such formality here.
The theory holds that behavior is determined by the relative strength of forces acting on the person to move in different directions. Each force varies with the product of the valence of outcomes and the strength of the expectancy that the outcome will be obtained from that choice. It follows from this proposition that highly valent outcomes will have no effect on the generation of forces or on behavior unless there is some expectation that the probability of their attainment is affected by one's actions. The second proposition asserts that the valence of outcomes is dependent not only on its terminal or intrinsic properties but also on its instrumentality for the attainment of other outcomes. Specifically, the valence of an outcome increases with the product of its instrumentality for and the valence of other outcomes.
Expectancy theory is similar to and borrowed liberally from theories that had been advanced by other psychologists who had found such concepts useful in explaining other bodies of empirical evidence. Lewin ( 1938), Tolman ( 1959)