Theory by John Adams argues that the individual subjectively determines the ratio of the received reward to effort spent and then correlates it with the rewards of other people who perform similar work.
If the comparison turns out to be an imbalance or injustice that is the person believes that another individual received a higher reward for the same work, he experience psychological tension. As a result, it is necessary to motivate this person to remove tension and restore justice by fixing imbalance. There is also possible situation where the compensation exceeds the effort spent to achieve it, in this case the individual feels a sense of shame in relation to the employer. In this case, the next time it will be motivated to perform better that is demanded by the level of remuneration on an effort spent.
Inputs and outcomes are set by the individual subjectively in relation. The ratio is set on the basis of these of colleagues in a similar or the same working conditions. If the comparison shows fair relationship, there is no motivational effect. If the person has a fixed inequality, there is a tension.
Proponents of the theory are sure that each of the two negative feelings (injustice and shame) affect the motivation and cause an individual to act to restore a sense of justice. Then the individual will act according to the following possible scenarios:
The person who received for his labor the remuneration higher than efforts spent will try to work better (to get rid of the feeling of shame), or will put less effort and feel great.
The person who felt the injustice to himself, either may exert less effort because of resentment or seek to perform better, to finally get the reward, or perhaps he could try to change the behavior of his colleagues.
In the final case, the person can simply change his views on the comparative assessment of the value of efforts and rewards either by the revaluation of his priority requests, or through mental defense mechanism – rationalization.
Equity theory in the field of social privilege justification shows that there are people earning less than the efforts the put in their work, who believe that they work is worth less than the same of others. In this way, the perceived balance can be maintained in spite of unequal pay.
Numerous studies show the following results: if an individual believes his work to be underestimated, he put less efforts and works less intensively. If he believes this her efforts are overrated and overcompensated, he is less likely to change his behavior and activities.
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