Herzberg Motivation Theory: Meaning, Factors, Examples, and Pros/Cons

What is Two Factor Theory?

It is Frederick Herzberg, a behavioral scientist who developed the two-factor theory of work motivation in 1959. It is also known as the motivation-hygiene theory, dual-factor theory, and Herzberg motivation theory.

He identified employee’s job satisfaction and dissatisfaction factors namely motivating factors and hygiene factors through interviews.

Herzberg is among the first behavioral scientists to look at motivating employees from different angles. His two-factor theory is based on the contents of interviews conducted with 200 engineers and accountants.

In carrying out the research, Herzberg and his associates asked participants to describe job experiences that produced good and bad feelings about their jobs. From his finding, he found that there are two sets of factors, viz. hygiene factors and motivating factors.

Factors in Herzberg’s Motivation Theory

Let’s understand the two factors of Herzberg’s motivation theory:

Two factor theory of motivation

Hygiene Factors

In Herzberg, two factor theory, hygiene factors are also known as dissatisfiers or maintenance factors. These are external to the job itself.

The presence of these factors does not motivate employees but the absence of it causes dissatisfaction. When these factors are adequate, people will not be dissatisfied but they either be satisfied. Examples of hygiene factors include:

  • Company Policy and Administration
  • Supervision
  • Relationship with Supervisor
  • Working Conditions
  • Salary
  • Relationship with Peers
  • Personal Life
  • Relationship with Subordinates
  • Job Security
  • Status
  • Security, etc.

These factors are necessary to maintain a minimum level of need satisfaction. They bring employees to zero levels of motivation from the negative direction.

Therefore, Herzberg felt that managers have to focus on hygiene or maintenance factors. If they do not focus on these factors, the desired behaviors will not be obtained from the employees.

Related: Maslow’s Motivation Theory

Motivating Factors

In Herzberg, two factor theory, motivating factors are also known as motivators, satisfiers, or job content factors. These factors are job-centered and relate directly to the job itself.

The presence of motivating factors causes a high level of motivation and job satisfaction, whereas their absence does not cause high dissatisfaction. Examples of motivating factors include:

  • Achievement
  • Recognition
  • Advancement
  • Work Itself
  • Personal Growth
  • Responsibility

Herzberg came to the conclusion that enriched jobs are the key to motivating employees. An employee is motivated to devote his best effort only when he finds challenging jobs, the scope of innovation, freedom, growth, and recognition of his efforts and achievement from the management.

According to Herzberg, satisfaction is affected by motivators and dissatisfaction is by hygiene factors. It should be noted that one’s hygiene factors may be the motivating factors of another.

Therefore, a manager needs to identify the behavior of subordinates to inspire them to get things done. He needs to know workers’ psychology and treat them accordingly.

Evaluation of Herzberg’s Motivation Theory

Many scholars appreciated Herzberg two factor theory of motivation whereas many criticized it. Some usefulness and criticisms of Herzberg two factor theory are as follows:

Usefulness/Importance of Two Factor Theory

An important contribution of the two-factor theory is that hygiene factors consisting of good monetary benefits, a better working environment, and other welfare activities of the job context do not lead to a high level of motivation, they are only preventive measures.

Motivating factors consisting of challenging jobs, job responsibility, achievement, recognition, etc. are crucial for employee motivation.

The application of Herzberg two factor theory includes:

  • Herzberg first introduced the concept of research and experiment on work motivation.
  • Financial incentives like salary, wage, and other fringe benefits only are not the motivating factors.
  • Hygiene factors prevent dissatisfaction whereas motivating factors provide satisfaction.
  • It emphasizes the value of job redesign and job enrichment in motivation.
  • It focuses on that job satisfaction is not the opposite of job dissatisfaction.

Related: Herzberg’s Vs. Maslow Motivation Theory

Criticisms of Two Factor Theory

Though Herzberg’s motivation theory has gained widespread popularity among businesses and other organizations, it is criticized by many management scholars. The following are the limitations of Herzberg two factor theory:

  • Herzberg drew conclusions from a limited experiment covering only engineers and accountants.
  • In his study, subordinates were asked to report exceptionally good or exceptionally bad moments. This methodology is defective as it creates a bias among human beings at the time of giving answers.
  • There may not be any direct cause-and-effect relationship between satisfaction and performance.
  • In this theory, too much emphasis has been given to job enrichment. However, on-the-job enrichment is not only motivational but off-the-job satisfaction of workers is also more important.
  • It is difficult to differentiate job context factors from job content factors because in many cases job context factors have elements of positive satisfaction to jobholders.

Example of Two Factor Theory of Motivation

Let’s imagine a scenario where you work at a company that produces innovative gadgets. One of your colleagues, let’s call him Alex, has been feeling demotivated and disengaged lately. They seem uninterested in their work, miss deadlines, and show a lack of enthusiasm. As their manager, you want to address this issue and find a way to boost their motivation.

Applying Herzberg’s two-factor theory, you understand that motivation is influenced by two factors: hygiene factors and motivational factors. Hygiene factors are the basic needs that, if unmet, can lead to dissatisfaction, such as salary, work environment, and company policies. On the other hand, motivational factors are related to personal fulfillment and growth, including recognition, responsibility, and achievement.

To help Alex regain motivation, you decide to take a comprehensive approach. Firstly, you review their work environment and address any hygiene factors that might be causing dissatisfaction. You ensure fair compensation, provide a supportive workspace, and improve communication channels. Additionally, you focus on the motivational factors by assigning challenging tasks, recognizing their achievements, and offering opportunities for growth and skill development.

By addressing both the hygiene and motivational factors, you aim to create a work environment where Alex feels valued, motivated, and inspired to contribute their best to the team and the project at hand.

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