When it comes to life, a job is necessary to meet all our needs. However, one of the most stressful things in life can be a person’s job, mainly because more than just sometimes, we feel stressed out and demotivated to complete our tasks. There have been many theories discussed regarding the reasons for de-motivation, among them, one of the most traditional ones is Adam’s Equity Theory.

When in comes to the topic of Motivation in Psychology, many theories of motivation have been presented. Adam’s Equity Theory is a very well recognized one in the Process Theories of Motivation, which basically deals with how a person is motivated.

As said above, there have been many theories presented to explain what motivates and demotivates an employee in a work place. The two other most famous are Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory and Vroom’s Expectancy Theory. However, the most traditional style theory is John Stacy Adam’s Equity Theory.

Adam’s Equity Theory, presented by John Stacy Adam, basically revolves around the balance between an employee and an employer. It talks of two factors which make up a whole working relationship: Input and Output. The balance and fairness is to be established between these two factors. The theory basically suggests that in order to increase a worker’s motivation for their job to their absolute maximum, one must establish an equity between his input and output.

Factors Included In Adam’s Equity Theory:

The two factors included in John Stacy Adam’s Equity Theory are as mentioned above, Input and Output. Let’s take a look at what these are exactly.

Factor #1: Input:

The word Input, in Adam’s Equity Theory, basically refers to the effort a worker puts into a task. This means, in the simplest of words, the time, energy, creativity, stress-consumption and performance the person invests into the job. In other words, when a person is given a job or task to complete, everything that that they do and invest from that time till the completion of the job, is known as Input.

Inputs can include:

a) Effort.

b) Hard work.

c) Skill.

d) Ability.

e) Commitment.

f) Loyalty.

g) Determination.

h) Adaptability.

i) Flexibility.

j) Acceptance of co-workers.

k) Enthusiasm.

l) Acceptance or adjustment of the working conditions.

m) Time.

n) Trust in superiors.

o) Support of co-workers.

p) Personal sacrifices.

Factor #2: Output:

The word Output, in Adam’s Equity Theory, basically refers to the reward an individual receives for their performance. This means, in the simplest of words, the recognition, payment or anything needed by the individual, gained after the task is successfully accomplished. In other words, when a person is given a job or task to complete, they put in their effort and contribution to achieve it and then what they gain from doing this specific task is the Output or the end result.

Outputs can include:

a) Rewards in form of finance (salary, payments, paycheck, etc.)

b) Recognition.

c) Reputation.

d) Responsibility.

e) Publicity.

f) Praise.

g) Sense of achievement.

i) Higher sense of the self.

j) Stimulus.

k) Internal and personal growth or advancement.

l) Polishing of skills.

m) Job security.

What’s the Catch?

As we previously said, John Stacy Adam’s Equity Theory aims to equalize the individual’s effort or input with the reward or output they receive to access their maximum motivation towards the given task. However, after seeing the list of outputs, we can observe that most of them are immeasurable values, and thus, a person studying this theory begs the question: “How do we equalize elements which cannot be measured?” The answer is simple: It all depends upon Perception.

An Employee’s Perception

So here we have, an employee working towards achieving a goal, contributing and investing into the performance to gain maximum rewards. However, how do we measure these rewards into being equal to the input the worker is investing into the job? The answer, as previously highlighted, is perception.

Each person has their own unique perception. In work places, the relationship of the worker’s input and that of his outputs depends largely on the perception one has about their “measurements”. The exchange relationship of efforts and rewards should be agreeable by both the parties, i.e. Employees and the employers.

Regardless, due to this perception, an employer may face complication in the context of the employee not agreeing to their exchange terms and demanding a much higher reward for his input as his individual, unique perception sees it fit. This complication can be efficiently tackled through communication between both the parties; both the parties getting to speak, present their views and then ultimately agreeing on the relationship terms.

Perception and Skills:

The individual skills and perception goes (or should go) hand in hand. A person must be accurately aware of the level of his skills, to demand a suitable reward. This aspect of Skills can also be used to tackle the complication mentioned above, as a detailed discussion of the worker’s skills can be thoroughly used to make a point.

Exchange Relationships:

There are three kinds of exchange relationship presented in Adam’s Equity Theory:

a) Overpaid Inequity:

This type of relationship, basically refers to when a person’s Input is less than that of the Output. This type can seriously conflict with the employee’s moral values and give birth to feelings of guilt, and thus, will lessen the motivation towards the completion of the goal.

b) Underpaid Inequity:

This type of relationship, basically refers to when a person’s Input is more than that of the Output. This type is by far, the most demotivating, as the individual feels that the job is not worth the effort.

c) Equity:

This type of relationship, basically refers to when a person’s Input is equal to that of the Output. This type of exchange relationship in John Stacy Adam’s Equity Theory is the most motivating. Here is when an employee’s motivation is maximized during the performance of the job, as neither is it conflicting with any moral values, nor is it demotivating as when the individual feels that the effort into the task is not worth the output.


19 year old undergraduate Psychology student, with an immense love for food, journals and cool socks.

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