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Adams’ theory of equality is a powerful tool for motivating employees

Study guide

Employee motivation and increasing their satisfaction is an important issue for organizations and businesses. Employee apathy leads to various consequences such as reduced productivity, increased termination of cooperation and, most importantly, poor performance and profitability of the organization. There are several tools to increase employee motivation. In this article, we talk about Adams’ theory of equality, which is a powerful tool for motivating employees.

What is Adams’ theory of equality?

In 1963, American psychologist John Stacy Adams first proposed Adams’ theory of equality. This theory talks about the balance between employee effort (input) and the reward they receive for it (output).

Equation input includes perseverance, skills and interest. Output can take many forms, such as salary, recognition, and scope of responsibility. The right balance between input and output leads to employee satisfaction and thus increases motivation and increased productivity.

Adams’ theory is still applicable after more than 50 years. Understanding this theory is important for organizations because it helps to create an effective organizational structure. In an effective structure, employees are encouraged to perform tasks with commitment and enthusiasm.

Like other motivational theories, including Maslow and Herzberg, Adams ‘theory confirms the influence of some intangible elements on employees’ approach to their jobs and how they do it. According to Adams, if employees feel that they are getting more than they get, they lose motivation.


According to Adams, salary and rewards are not the only motivating factors for employees; Rank promotion rarely brings the desired result. These may even have a negative effect on the motivation of other employees! For employees, fair treatment and equality are very important. Justice and equality motivate employees.

Different and unfair treatment of employees causes employee discomfort and destroys motivation. We all want fair treatment. Failure to meet this requirement will lead to employee frustration. This annoyance manifests itself in various forms; For example, employees reduce the quality of their work or leave the organization. Therefore, fair treatment of all employees is essential for the organization.

Introduction to Adams’s theory of equality

In Adams’ theory, input includes the quality and quantity of employees. Employees spend their time, energy and commitment on work. They work hard, share their ideas, trust their bosses and support their co-workers. What matters is what they offer to the organization.

The list of various forms brought by employees is endless, but the most common types are:

1. زحمت

Employee toil is one of the most common inputs to Adams' theory of equality

Employees work hard every day, go to work and do their job duties. Nothing can be done without effort. This is the most basic form of input.

2. special skills

Employees use specialized skills to perform their duties in a competent and professional manner. They have acquired these skills through training and experience.

3. Knowledge

This valuable input is achieved through education, continuous interest in the field of work, personal growth and development.

4. Experience

Employees can not use their knowledge well without gaining experience. That is why experience is one of the most valuable inputs. In addition, experience is not something that can be easily replaced.

5. social skills

Employees create a pleasant work environment in relation to each other; Conversation with each other, birthday greetings and participation in various ceremonies are among these relationships. By empathizing with each other, employees accept that they are part of the co-workers’ group and therefore part of the organization. Accepting the behavior of others and adapting to it creates mutual respect.

6. Loyalty

Loyalty means individual self-sacrifice. Is a loyal employee who continues to work with the organization despite a job offer from another company. An employee who works late and spends his or her free time is loyal.

Output in Adams’s theory of equality

Output is usually classified into two categories: financial rewards and intangible rewards. The most common types of output in these two categories are:

1. Financial rewards

Financial reward is one of two types of output in Adams' theory of equality


For employees, pay is the most important output. For all their inputs, they receive a certain amount per month.


Another financial reward is the extra amount received in addition to the salary. The surcharge may be paid on a fee or for a specific purpose. The harder the employee works, the more money he receives.

Share of profit

When the organization and all employees make a profit as a result of their hard work, this profit (or part of it) is shared among all at the end of the year.

2. Intangible rewards


Recognition is one of the immaterial outputs of Adams' theory of equality

Employees like to be motivated. This means that it is important for them to see their trouble. When one employee’s effort is written off by another employee, the balance is noticeably lost. Managers should be aware of this factor and constantly show signs of recognizing employees and their efforts.

Job Challenge

Employees welcome exciting and important work challenges. These challenges make them proud of their work and increase their commitment to the organization.


Assignment of responsibility leads to the creation of a sense of ownership over work and freedom of action. Responsibility boosts employees’ self-confidence and frees them to manage their own affairs. Responsibility is inherently motivating because it makes employees feel important and valuable to the organization.

the balance

A key element of Adams’ theory of equality is balancing input and output for employees. Employee contributions must be reasonably proportionate to what they receive. When the input weight is heavier, it means that there is no balance and this leads to employee dissatisfaction.

When employees feel they are not being treated fairly, they feel frustrated about the organization. This frustration may lead to apathy, disobedience, absenteeism, or finding a new job. Every employee seeks to balance their inputs and outputs. This is the foundation of equality: people seek just and equal treatment. There are several ways to create equality. Managers and supervisors can find out by talking to employees what motivates them; Then use these factors to inspire employees and increase productivity.


Employees always care about equal and fair behavior. They always compare the effort (input) and reward (output) they receive with their colleagues. Of course, they know that the type and amount of skills and effort to serve at different levels of the organization will vary, and as a result, the rewards will be different.

However, employees should not feel that they are not being rewarded as much as they are working for a higher position! In other words, the duties and responsibilities of employees at different levels should be commensurate with the rewards they receive. Employees are constantly comparing themselves to each other, and this complicates Adams’ theory of equality.

What do you think?

What methods do you know to increase employee motivation? Do you think Adams’ theory of equality can be used to motivate employees? How do you use it? If you have experience using this theory, your experimental advice and learning can probably be helpful to many audiences. It is good to share them with us.




Adams' theory of equality is a powerful tool for motivating employees

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