This theory was formulated by J.S. Adams. It is based on the assumption that members of an organization experience strong expectations of justice, balance and fairness in treatment by the organization. When a person feels that he is being treated unfairly by the organization, these feelings can have a variety of adverse affects on the person's motivation and performance on the job. The equity theory of motivation helps in understanding both the cause and the likely consequences of feelings of inequitable treatment among organization members.
According to equity theory, two variables are important, i.e. , inputs and outcomes. Inputs are the efforts and skills which a member of an organization perceives that he puts into his job. Outcomes are the rewards which the member receives from the organization and his job. Inputs and outcomes are important elements in the exchange relationship between the organization and its members. When the individual finds equity in the situation or feel that what he receives from the organization in terms of treatment and compensation is fair in terms of the effort and skills he contributes to the organization, he is satisfied with the arrangement, and is normally committed to the organization and its goals.
Four terms are important in the theory:
1) Person: the individual for whom equity or inequity exists.
2) Comparison other: any group or individual used by a person as a referent regarding inputs and outcomes. Comparison other is also called relevant other.
3) Inputs: characteristics which individuals bring with them to the job: education, skills, experience and the like, these are subjectively perceived by a person.
4) Outcomes: pay, promotion and fringe benefits received from a job. These are also subjectively perceived by a person.
The theory proposes that the motivation to act develops after the person compares inputs/outcomes with the identical ratio of the relevant other. Inequity is defined as the perception that person's job inputs/outcomes ratio is not equal to the inputs/outcomes ratio of the comparison other.
The basic equity proposal assumes that, upon feeling inequity, the person is motivated to reduce it. Further the greater the felt inequity, the greater the motivation to reduce to. Thus, equity as motivation force will act as follows:
When attempting to reduce inequity, the person may try a number of alternatives, some of which are:
1) Altering his or her inputs.
2) Altering his or her outcomes.
3) Distorting his or her inputs and outcomes cognitively.
4) Leaving the field.
5) Trying to alter or cognitively distort input and outcomes of the comparison , or force him or her to leave the field.
6) Changing the comparison other.