American Business


Two-factor theory of motivation

Management theorist Fredrick Herzberg’s two-factor theory of motivation suggests that there are two components to employee motivation in the workplace. In 1959 Herzberg suggested that the sets of circumstances that make people unsatisfied at work (hygiene factors) are a different set from the sets of circumstances that make people satisfied (motivating factors). This was the result of interviews he conducted with 200 engineers and accountants in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who were asked what made them feel bad about their jobs (dissatisfier) and what made them feel good about their jobs (satisfier). Hertzberg concluded that man has a dual set of needs, “his need as an animal to avoid pain and his need as a human to grow psychologically”; thus, the two-factor theory of motivation.

The first factor is the dissatisfier (or hygiene) factor. Hygiene is something that preserves and promotes the physical, mental, and emotional health of an individual and community; the lack of it creates a dissatisfying situation. The existence of hygiene creates an equilibrium in which satisfaction is maintained and pain is avoided. In the work environment, hygiene includes company policies, supervision, salary, interpersonal relations, and working conditions, a list that Herzberg compiled from responses given to the question “What makes you feel bad about your job?” The items on this list need to be present to avoid pain. More of any of them does not promote happiness, and a lack of one or more of them will promote unhappiness. For example, a lowered salary, or one perceived as lower than one’s coworkers, would certainly create dissatisfaction. As professor Gerald Blair writes, “Once a fair level of pay is established, money ceases to be a significant motivator for long term performance.”

The second factor, motivators, includes achievement, recognition, nature of work, responsibility and advancement, all of which created satisfaction for the 200 engineers and accountants. Motivators intrinsically promote satisfaction, and according to Herzberg, managers encourage these factors in order to “increase profitability through greater creativity and commitment in employees.” Without motivators, employees will perform their jobs as required, but with them, employees will exceed the minimum requirements. Add to salary the incentive of recognition and/or advancement, and employees will probably perform to the best of their ability and derive a high level of personal satisfaction.
The difference between hygiene and motivators is indicated in the following table.

Herzberg reported, “In the motivator factors, the underlying dynamic is psychological growth. It is the human source for happiness.” He acknowledged that not all jobs can be stimulating but thought that employees should be chosen for their particular position. Some people are hygiene seekers and some are motivation seekers. Often managers ignore this reality and rely on less-sophisticated means for motivating hygiene seekers. According to Herzberg, they attempt to apply the “kick in the a**” approach, or KITA, which leads to “short-range results, but rarely generates any actual motivation. . . . KITA yields movement—the avoidance of pain—not motivation. . . . KITA techniques fail to instill self-generating motivation in workers. Job content factors, such as achievement and responsibility, are motivators, while job environment factors are hygiene or KITA factors. Motivators are the key to satisfaction.”

Hygiene Factors  Motivating Factors
 Company Policies  Achievement
 Administration  Recognition
 Supervision  Growth
 Working Conditions  Advancement
 Interpersonal Relations  Interest in Job
 Salary  Responsibility
 Status  Challenges
 External  Internal
 Animal  Human
 Maintain  Promote
 Basic  Added Value
Without  With  Without  With
 Dissatisfied  Not dissatisfied  Not satisfied  Satisfied
 Demotivated  Limited motivation  Not Motivated  Motivated

The two-factor theory of motivation is often associated with Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory. Maslow asserted that there are physiological needs (food and shelter), security needs (safety), social needs (acceptance), esteem needs, and the need for self-actualization. Once one set of needs is satisfied, these kind of needs cease to motivate. Both theories acknowledge different types of motivation and the need to surpass a minimum standard in order to motivate people. Managers, both in the United States and internationally, continue to try to find ways to improve morale within the work environment. Motivation theories abound, and Herzberg’s theory is not novel. However, it is considered one of the important contributions in the field.

See also motivation theory.