Herzberg’s Theory

Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory: Two-factor

Businesses and organizations have long sought for answers on how to boost employee production, and therefore, profits. Fortunately, many researchers have extensively studied human motivation to try and understand what drives humans to work. Herzberg’s two-factor theory outlines that humans are motivated by two things: motivators and hygiene factors (see Figure 1). These two factors are both critical to motivation: motivators encourage job satisfaction and hygiene factors prevent job dissatisfaction.

Frederick Herzberg
Frederick Irving Herzberg (April 18, 1923 – January 19, 2000[1]) was an American psychologist who became famous for the Motivator-Hygiene theory.
  • Motivation factors: factors that are related to workplace satisfaction. They cover intrinsic needs such as achievement, recognition, and advancement. Motivation factors allow employees to be content in their jobs and promote growth.
  • Hygiene factors: factors that are not related to workplace satisfaction but must be present in the workplace in order to prevent dissatisfaction. Hygiene factors cover extrinsic needs such as pay grade, workplace policy and relationships with their peers.

See also: Model of Motivation: ARCS Instructional Design

Figure 1: Motivators & Hygiene Factors

Many are familiar with Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which outlines the basic, psychological and self-fulfillment needs of humans. His theory explored the needs that human have, particularly growth and connection with others. Herzberg conducted his studies at the same time as Maslow, and built on his theory to address motivation in the workplace. Herzberg focused on the attitudes of workers and job satisfaction (Figure 2). He made some interesting discoveries, including the lack of linear relationship between intrinsic and extrinsic needs. His most dramatic discovery, however, was that the result of his studies was reliant on what the researcher was looking for. He then changed his factors to discover both the satisfiers and the dissatisfiers in the workplace.

Figure 2: Herzberg’s Hygiene Factors and Motivators Diagram


There is one key idea that one must keep in mind when using Herzberg’s theory: intrinsic needs and extrinsic needs are distinct things. An individual will not suddenly become satisfied with their job if you suddenly change the environment or remove what is bothering them. Similarly, an individual will not be suddenly satisfied with their job if you make the work more enriching (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Herzberg’s Theory Terminologies:

Categories Root cause Connectors Byproducts
Hygiene Factors extrinsic needs job context dissatisfiers
Motivators intrinsic needs job content satisfiers

In order to apply Herzberg’s theory in the workplace, one must examine the hygiene factors. As stated above, hygiene factors do not contribute to workplace satisfaction but must be present in order to prevent workplace dissatisfaction. Hygiene factors are closely related to extrinsic needs:

Hygiene factors consists of a set of 10 factors:

company policies and administration, quality of technical supervision, quality of interpersonal relations among peers, subordinates, and superiors, salary, job security, personal life, working conditions, and status.

If any of these factors are lacking or missing, a worker is much more likely to be dissatisfied with their job. Workers who consistently file complaints often have one or more of their needs that is not being met. Similarly, examples of dissatisfiers would be poor workplace policy, aggressive management, or a negative workplace environment.

Managers can often increase workplace satisfaction by simply having a conversation with their colleagues to find out what they are unhappy with. Some problems have easy solutions, such as keeping supplies organized or having more materials in stock. An employee’s pay is often a more challenging issue to rectify, but supervisors should still evaluate their business plan and compensation strategy. Supervisors should also reach out to employees to discover if there are any factors in their personal lives that may affect their job satisfaction. Overwhelmed and stressed employees are rarely productive or happy. It is vital that workplaces offer emotional support and maintain positive relationships with their employees.

There is a small play in words in the use of “hygiene” factors. Medically speaking, this means maintaining good personal hygiene in order to prevent disease. Having good hygiene does not mean that you will never die; it means that you can hold off discomfort or disease in your lifetime. In an organization, maintaining good “hygiene” means that your employees remain productive; it does not mean that you will grow. Hygiene factors allow corporations to maintain their employees. This leads us to the second part of the two-factor theory: motivation. Just because employees are satisfied does not mean that they are motivated to brainstorm new ideas or take on a new project.

The dating of the two-factor theory is believed to be particularly important. Like Maslow, Herzberg established his theory in the 1960’s, a time where the culture believed that people were mostly motivated by money. Herzberg rebuked this traditional idea, believing that it was actually the content, not the context, of a job that caused satisfaction. If a corporation is looking to develop new products and expand into new areas, they need to understand what motivates people to be more productive. They can begin with looking at the intrinsic needs of workers:

The six motivators that fulfill employee intrinsic needs:

achievement, recognition, growth, advancement, responsibility, and the work itself.

Essentially, managers will need to reevaluate the ‘human’ aspect of their employees, including their goals, value and hobbies. They will need to invest emotionally into the relationship by taking the time to talk to them, thank them for their loyalty, or send a card acknowledging their hard work. Managers can also celebrate an employee’s creativity or an important milestone in their career. Above all, they need to be good leaders by helping their subordinates develop to their full potential.

Like the hygiene factors, the motivation factors do not lower the level of dissatisfaction. Even if employees are motivated to work on new projects, they are still affected by extrinsic needs. Potential problems, such as pay rate or low amounts of office supplies, still need to be addressed. This is why both factors are necessary in the two-factor theory.

See also: Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction

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