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Herzberg Motivation-Hygiene Theory

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Herzberg Motivation-Hygiene Theory

            Every individual has their own basic need. Meeting some of the said needs can satisfy an individual, while not being able to achieve it can leave some dissatisfied. However, there are some instances when it does not thoroughly satisfy one although those needs are met, but rather, it prevents an individual from being dissatisfied. Such perspective is the primary tenet behind Frederick Herzberg’s theory regarding the two factors that affect people’s way of motivation and attitude.

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While Maslow was concerned of the sources of human motivation in a generalized perspective, Herzberg focused on the motivation sources operating in the job context. Herzberg’s theory, which is known as the Motivation-hygiene theory or Two-factor theory, is an attempt to explain why people at work are experiencing satisfaction and dissatisfaction (Montana & Charnov, 2000).

            In the latter part of the 1950’s, an American psychologists named Frederick Herzberg spearheaded a study that analyzes the foundations behind the motivation that guides workers in their jobs through reviewing large scale literature together with Bernard Mausner and Barbara Snydeman.

In order to have first-hand accounts of the area being studied and to better understand the motivations and attitudes of the employees,  the team conducted a survey in Pittsburgh area participated by 200 engineers and accountants (“Motivation-Hygiene Theory,” 2009). The researchers also did interviews to the employees wherein the subject were asked to relay matters from their present or previous jobs that pleased or displeased them as well as the descriptions of the events where they felt positive and negative emotions. The result of the findings was published in Herzberg’s 1959 book entitled “The Motivation to Work.”

Based from the study, Herzberg found out that the factors causing job satisfaction and dissatisfaction were distinct from each other (“Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory: Two Factor Theory,” 2009). Due to this perspective, Herzberg and his team challenged the traditional belief that workers are only satisfied and dissatisfied by their job alone and not by any other factors at all. Hence, Herzberg developed the theory of motivation-hygiene in order to explain the results of the study. Motivation-hygiene theory is a system made up of “dual continuums of satisfiers (motivation) and dissatisfiers (hygiene)” (n.p.). Motivation factors are identified as those that can provide satisfaction leading an individual to a higher level of work motivation. If not activated, such factors remain neutral causing no satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Basically, motivation factors include “achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility and advancement” (n.p.). On the other hand, the term “hygiene” is used by Herzberg to identify dissatisfiers because he considered such factors as necessary to be maintained. Their absence can lead to work dissatisfaction although they do not provide satisfaction at all. The said factors are identified as policy and company administration, conditions at work, relationship with other employees, salary, status and security (“Motivation-Hygiene Theory,” 2009, n.p.). To further understand the theory, take the following instance: A working employee needs to be paid on time each month in order to pay for his or her expenses. If the person is not paid on time, he or she will be unhappy. However, if the salary comes in time, the person would hardly notice it (“Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory,” 2009b).

Based on the said concept, Herzberg reasoned out that, although the causes of satisfaction and dissatisfaction are different from each other, the two approaches are not the opposite of each other. Hence, satisfaction is not the opposite of dissatisfaction or vice versa; rather, satisfaction is opposite of no satisfaction, as dissatisfaction is to no dissatisfaction. He also added that the theory portrayed two of the most distinct needs of human: (1) physiological, which can be fulfilled by money and (2) psychological achievement and growth, which can be attained through activities that contribute to personal development. It could also be observed that dissatisfaction is not based from the work itself but rather from external factors. Hence, it can be perceived that dissatisfaction is the result of providing incentives and a threat of punishment for the employee to do something. While it may appear successful in the beginning, Herzberg pointed out that dissatisfiers are only short-run successes unlike motivation factors which are intrinsic in nature (“Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory: Two Factor Theory,” 2009). It is noteworthy that although satisfiers and dissatisfiers are two distinct approaches, their interdependence with each other should be taken into account as well. If the hygiene factors are not properly met, the motivation factors lose their ability to motivate. The same thing happens when a job exceeds the needed hygienic factors but the employee does not perceive any opportunity for personal development, the motivators will not attract the employees either (Montana & Charnov, 2000). If applied to an organization, a management ought to rearrange work by not only focusing on providing the company with hygiene factors to prevent dissatisfaction, but also carrying out and promoting motivation factors for the satisfaction of the employees. Herzberg posits that to have a continuous management process, the promotion of job enrichment that applies both motivation and hygiene factors should be practiced. As such, he and his colleagues suggested three possibilities: (1) the job should extend itself in a way that it posts enough challenges for the employees to put their time, energy and ability in full use; (2) employees who are able to show increased level of capabilities should have increased level of responsibilities; (3) if the job is not designed for the use of an employee’s full abilities, the organization should consider alternating workers, wherein the said job is done by an employee with a lower level of skills. Hence, if the person’s abilities cannot be fully employed, it is expected to have an issue regarding motivation (“Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory,” 2009). In short, the adequacy of both hygiene and motivation factors is where an effective job performance depends (Montana & Charnov, 2000).

The Motivation-hygiene concept was both well regarded and criticized. Some of its advantages over other work environmental motivational theories is not only associated with its definition of the elements surrounding job satisfaction, but it also served as a template for the development of other job attitude related researches. This was evident in the technique used by Herzberg to draw out the results of his satisfaction and dissatisfaction study which is known as the “critical incident technique.” The theory has also proved that participation is an imperative management style among the staff of professional firms and that salaries are important, but they are not enough to achieve the goal of motivating the whole organization (Motivation-hygiene theory, 2009, n.p.). Likewise, it is seen as a theory that recognizes motivation as a factor that comes from within the person and not from any extrinsic factors (“Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory: Two Factor Theory,” 2009).

Although portions of Herzberg’s theory are useful, it also posit flaws wherein it does not take into account the perspective of blue collar workers and is biased towards professionals. Recent studies also suggest that the independence of each approach is not totally distinct from each other; rather, the causes of job satisfaction and dissatisfaction can be related to each other, and that job satisfaction does not always result in higher motivation and productivity.

In the modern field organizational behavior study, it may have been already recognized that the causes of satisfaction and dissatisfaction are connected with each other; eliminating the split between motivation and hygiene factors of Herzberg. However, although few reviewers support such theory, it could not be disregarded that Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory contributed in the pursuit of further understanding several behavioral paths of today.


Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory. (2009). Changing Minds. Retrieved January 20,

2009 from http://changingminds.org/explanations/needs/herzberg_needs.htm.

Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory: Two Factor theory. (2009). Net Management and

Business Administration (NetMBA). Retrieved January 20, 2009 from


Montana, P.J. & Charnov, B.H. (2000). Management. Hauppage, NY: Barron’s educational       series.

Motivation-Hygiene Theory. (2009). Proven Models. Retrieved January 20, 2009 from



Cite this Herzberg Motivation-Hygiene Theory

Herzberg Motivation-Hygiene Theory. (2016, Oct 05). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/herzberg-motivation-hygiene-theory/

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