The "Met Expectations" Hypothesis

In the past, researchers in higher education highlighted the increasing research requirements at large, public universities (e.g., Bieber, Lawrence & Blackburn, 1992). However, calls for greater accountability and a nationwide investment in assessing and documenting the outcomes of undergraduate education have refocused universities\' attention on teaching and the instructional performance of faculty (Barr & Tagg, 1995). As a result, new faculty are entering a market that requires them to balance a variety of academic roles if they are to become successful and ultimately obtain tenure (Massy & Wilger, 1995). Unfortunately, many of these individuals do not have realistic views of what the faculty role actually entails prior to their [End Page 39] employment (Gaff & Lambert, 1996). This paper investigates the consequences of discrepancies between expectations and realities about work attitudes and tenure acquisition using Porter and Steers (1973) "met expectations" hypothesis.

The "Met Expectations" Hypothesis
At its most fundamental, the met expectations hypothesis predicts "that when an individual\'s [job] expectations--whatever they are--are not substantially met, his propensity to withdraw should increase" (Porter & Steers, 1973, p. 152). A more fully articulated and useful version of the hypothesis suggests a causal model in which fulfillment of work expectations affects employee job satisfaction, work commitment, and other job-related attitudes which in turn affect job performance and, ultimately, turnover. A number of recent studies have applied this form of the model to the work experiences of new employees in large organizations (e.g., Major et al., 1995; Pearson, 1995; Rosin & Korabik, 1995). A logical extension of this model has also been developed in the literature on "realistic job review." Research on realistic review seeks to demonstrate that information and experiences that enable job applicants and new employees to formulate more realistic expectations of their work result in greater job satisfaction, better performance, and, in general, improved "job survival" (Premack & Wanous, 1985). A very similar argument is made about the important influence of realistic work expectations on productivity in the current TQM literature (e.g., Longenecker & Scazzero, 1993).

The met expectations hypothesis may be usefully applied to research on faculty where, to date, there has been relatively little attention on how well faculty positions match faculty\'s professional expectations. Moreover, the question seems particularly relevant given the current debate over how well we are preparing the future professoriate, our graduate students, to take on faculty roles. What expectations of their academic career do students hold based on their graduate training? And what are the consequences for the individual and the institution if the faculty position obtained differs significantly from what was expected? As Wanous et al. (1992) indicate in their work on the met expectations model, the question of professional expectations is far from trivial. Expectations are central constructs in theories of both human motivation (e.g., Vroom\'s 1964 expectancy theory) and person-organization "fit" (e.g., Chatman, 1989; Wanous et al., 1992). More specific information is needed about how closely faculty expectations of their positions map onto the values, goals, and norms of the educational institutions they serve, what adjustments are required, and what personal and institutional costs are incurred when a mismatch occurs. [End Page 40]

The issue is particularly salient in the first year of an academic appointment when the expectations formed through graduate experience will be assessed for the first time in light of the realities of the academic work role. Since the ability to perceive and adapt to institutional demands and values is critical to later career success, professional expectations have also played an influential role in stage theories of career socialization (e.g., Feldman, 1981; Schein, 1968; Van Maanen, 1976). For example, Schein (1968) describes organizational socialization as

the process of learning the ropes, . . . the process of being taught what is important in an organization or some subunit thereof. The process occurs in school. It occurs again, and perhaps most dramatically, when the graduate enters an organization on his first job. (p. 2)
According to Feldman\'s (1981) developmental theory, newly hired faculty are at the "encounter" phase of their career where "the new recruit sees what the organization is truly like, and in which some shifting of values, skills, and attitudes may occur" (p. 310). A key task at this phase is role definition which involves clarifying responsibilities,