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Equity Theory

John Stacey Adams


John Stacey Adams proposed that an employee's motivation is affected by whether the employee believes that their employment benefits are at least equal to the amount of the effort that they put into their work. Adams' categorised employment benefits and rewards as outputs and an employee's work effort as inputs.

The Diagram below illustrates the components making up Adams' Equity Theory and why they need to be balanced against each other

Diagram showing Adam's Equity Theory Diagram

Input (Employee's Work Contributions) Examples

The list below provides examples of things that could be categorised as examples of things that are work inputs.

This list is not exhaustive and also includes things in addition to the work an employee physically does. The list includes an employee's behaviours and attitudes such as loyalty and flexibility. These things are categorised as inputs because they will help the employer to complete their activities but may need the employee to sacrifice something in order to be flexible and loyal.

Output (Employee Benefits And Rewards) Examples

The list below provides examples of things that could be categorised as Output Examples

The list includes more than a monetary reward as they contribute towards an employee's health and wellbeing. Recognition of an employee's achievements and positive work appraisals increase job satisfaction and motivation, whilst annual leave provides essential respite.


Adams' stated that if an employee believes that their work outputs are not equal or greater than their inputs then the employee will become de-motivated. Adams' theory includes the assertion that when an employee is assessing whether the outputs they receive are fair the employee will often compare their colleague's work inputs and outputs with their own to make the assessment. The comparison will often be made with an employee at a similar level in the organisation to the employee.


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