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Social Exchange and Expectancy Theory Effects in Human Resource Development Research Paper


Before looking at the effects of both social exchange theory and expectancy theory on human resource development, it will be paramount to, first, describe what the theories are all about.

Social exchange theory is actually both a social psychology and a perspective of sociology that debunks the social changes and also the stability as a progression in relation to bargained social exchanges between two or more groups of individuals or parties (Rosenberg 1990).

Social exchange theory argues that all relationships between human beings are informed by what is referred to as subjective analysis of cost and benefits; this also involves the comparison of the best available alternatives. Social exchange theory is rooted in the ideologies of economics, sociology and psychology (Schellenberg 1996).

Social exchange theory utilizes some of the assumptions made in both structural and rational choice theories (Turner 2006). Social exchange theorists posit that human behavior is informed by the kind of reward associated with a given behavioral style. This implies that rewards play a significant role in determining a particular manner in which an individual should behave given a specific situation or condition (Rew 2005).

Meanwhile, expectancy theory is major associated with mental or cognitive processes that relates to making of choices or just choosing. It gives an explanation of the process an individual goes through in order to make a choice or choose from available alternatives. Both social exchange and expectancy theories are greatly related to each other. This paper examines the effects the theories have on human resource development (DuBrin 2008).

Effects of social exchange theory on human resource development

It is important to note that the personnel of every organization have some minimum expectations to achieve; in case they fail to get these minimum expectations, they are likely to be de-motivated or under-perform in their organizational duties. In the process of human resource development, it is important to realize that the fact the human resource must be assured of their own benefits as they continue to be part of the organization.

The reality is that the more the employees are sure of getting out of their relationship with organization the more their productivity and the more the effort they put into their work (Dalkir 2005).

The performance of individuals within an organization is very much dependent on favors they get from participation towards achieving the goals of an organization. For instance, for every achievement, every employee expects some favors that are comparable to the input they put in order to make the achievements successful (Marcic & Daft 2008).

Individuals within an organization, especially the employees, normally experience strong motivation to reciprocate the favors they get from their employers or team leaders (Airriess & Miyares 2007).

It therefore means that for the executives of an organization to motivate employees, they must ensure that the employees are appropriate assured of benefits they stand to enjoy by involving themselves in certain activities that lead to the growth of the organization. For instance, during training, employees should be awarded certificates and also be given promotion depending with their competence (Jackson & Mathis 2008).

Again, the employees can be given some study leaf so that they can increase their academic and intellectual capacities; in many cases, companies or employers have always offered promotion and salary increment to employees who return from further studies, especially in cases where the study is crucial for the company or organization’s growth.

In this case, the employees will feel that they stand a great chance to get more rewards for every effort they make towards the growth of the organizations they work for; in other word, they give the company or organization their expertise and get more finances and promotion in return (Dransfield 2004).

Conversely, in cases where employees are not convinced of any benefits they are likely to get in exchange for their services, they are most likely to under-perform or become less motivated to work for the organization in question.

For instance, situations whereby the employees are just expected to deliver on their tasks without varied motivation in terms of compliments or favors; they will be become bored and hence lower their performance or even quit the organization and seek other employers from whom they are likely to get more rewards from their transactions with employers or stakeholders of an organization.

In most cases, employees are concerned with the extent to which an organization is concerned with their wellbeing; this enables them to demonstrate an appropriate level of demonstration. According to theory, employees will most likely demonstrate desirable behavior when they perceive the organization has significant concerns for their wellbeing or welfare.

In relation to this, employees are likely to be motivated to perform more than their task description when they perceive the organization as serving their plights beyond the legal obligation. Contrary to this will definitely make the employees to lose their morale and hence lower organizational productivity (Rao 2004).

How Expectancy Theory Affects Human Resource Development

As has been discussed earlier, expectancy theory gives an explanation on the processes an individual has to undergo in order to make a rational choice or choose the best from available alternative. It was first proposed by Victor Vroom from the Yale School of Management.

According to this theory, employees of a given organization will only get motivation to dedicate their efforts to the organizational activities when they are sure that reward they are receiving is sufficient enough and commensurate with the amount of work they perform within a given period of time and the predictions they have organizational rewards are likely to be of sufficient benefits to them (Wilson 2005).

Expectancy theory therefore requires that organizations or employers should associate their rewards to employees directly to the employees’ performance; moreover, they should ensure that the rewards offered are actually those that are deserved by the employees (Boag 2008). Furthermore, the expectant theory gives an emphasis of employees’ self interest in close relation to the expected outcome (Lussier 2008).

In other words, it emphasizes the alignment of employees expected rewards, expected behavioral traits and the goals of the organization.

In the process of human resource development, especially during training process, the employees will be keen on learning only what they are sure will offer them less pain and more pleasure in terms of rewards; they will choose to learn what if they apply in their daily task requirements will definitely improve their welfare.

Hence, the managers and other organizational executives should employ the strategy of training employees in order to improve their work capability and enhance their belief that marginal effort will definitely lead to enhanced or improved performance (Lussier 2008).

According vroom, motivating employees to enhance their performance lies within the link amongst effort, employees’ performance and motivation. However, the theory posits that for these links to work, the employees must have sufficient resources, the right skills and the necessary support from the organization.

It therefore means that the process of human resource development should offer employees to choose to learn the skills they deem best and that which will be able to enhance their performance and hence accord them more rewards (Longest 2004).

Nonetheless, an important point to put into consideration is that the functioning of the expectancy theory is premised on an individual’s perception. This means that even though an employer or organization may assume it has availed appropriate in terms of motivating employees, it may not work with some employees; others may find the resources motivating while others may not find any motivation in the same resources or motivation.


Social exchange theory is all about social transactions in which an individual or individuals in a group interact with one another on the basis of what he or she is likely to get from such interactions. It means that an individual engages in a social process depending on how much reward is at stake for him or her.

In terms of human resource development, it is crucial to note that employees will only be committed to the organizational goals only if there are some perceived benefits (Schellenberg 1996).

This is the same ground on which expectancy theory forwards its arguments; however, expectancy theory further argues that individuals employ rationality while attempting to make choices on what is likely to offer them more or appropriate rewards.

Both social exchange and expectancy theories are very relevant in terms of human resource development as they both offer a benchmark on which managers and organizations can ensure effectiveness and efficiency of their employees (DuBrin 2008).

References List

Airriess, AC & Miyares, MI 2007, Contemporary ethnic geographies in America, Rowman & Littlefield, United States.

Boag, S 2008, Personality Down Under: Perspectives from Australia, Ova Science Publishers, United States.

Dalkir, K 2005, Knowledge management in theory and practice, Butterworth-Heinemann, New York.

Dransfield, R 2004, Business for Foundation Degrees and Higher Awards, Heinemann, United States.

DuBrin, JA 2008, Essentials of Management, Cengage Learning, London.

Jackson, HJ & Mathis, LR 2008, Human resource management, Cengage Learning, London.

Longest, BB 2004, Managing health programs and projects, John Wiley and Sons, New Jersey.

Lussier, NR 2008, Management Fundamentals: Concepts, Applications, Skill Development, Cengage Learning, London.

Marcic, D, & Daft, LR 2008, Understanding Management, Cengage Learning, London.

Rao, TV 2004, Performance management and appraisal systems: HR tools for global competitiveness, SAGE, New York.

Rew, L 2005, Adolescent health: a multidisciplinary approach to theory, research, and intervention, SAGE, New York.

Rosenberg, M 1990, Social psychology: sociological perspectives, Transaction Publishers, New York.

Schellenberg, AJ 1996, Conflict resolution: theory, research, and practice, SUNY Press, United States.

Turner, HJ 2006, Handbook of sociological theory, Springer, New York.

Wilson, PJ 2005, Human resource development: learning & training for individuals & organizations, Kogan Page Publishers, New Jersey.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Social Exchange and Expectancy Theory Effects in Human Resource Development." January 27, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/social-exchange-and-expectancy-theory-effects-in-human-resource-development/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Social Exchange and Expectancy Theory Effects in Human Resource Development'. 27 January.

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