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Herzberg's Two-Factor Theory: Hygiene Factors & Motivation

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  • 0:11 Introduction
  • 0:57 Herzberg's Two-Factor Theory
  • 3:30 Applying Herzberg's Theory
  • 6:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sherri Hartzell

Sherri has taught college business and communication courses. She also holds three degrees including communications, business, educational leadership/technology.

This lesson describes Frederick Herzberg's two-factor theory, which is based on the idea of how hygiene factors and satisfiers or motivators are used to provide satisfaction to employees in work environments.

Finding Balance

The peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a staple of American children's diets everywhere. If you have ever made one or had the pleasure of eating one, you know it is all about finding the right balance between the peanut butter and the jelly. Too much peanut butter and your mouth is going to be sticky. Too much jelly will leak out of the sides and make a mess. Likewise, too little peanut butter and you lose that salty effect, whereas too little jelly and you lose the sweetness. Indeed, it is all about finding that right balance of salty and sweet without leaving you thirsty and wearing jelly on your shirt. Balance is a challenging thing to find in many aspects of life. This is also true of employee satisfaction and motivation. One person who was interested in helping managers find out how to offer that balance for their employees was Frederick Herzberg.

Herzberg's Two-Factor Theory

Frederick Herzberg was a psychologist interested in the correlation between employee attitude and workplace motivation. He wanted to find out what made people feel satisfied and unsatisfied when it came to the workplace. After spending countless hours interviewing employees about what made them feel both good and bad about their jobs, Herzberg developed a theory of workplace motivation called the two-factor theory. The two-factor theory is based on the assumption that there are two sets of factors that influence motivation in the workplace by either enhancing employee satisfaction or hindering it.

The first of the two are called hygiene factors and no, I am not talking about the personal hygiene of your co-workers, though that can certainly be questionable at times. Rather, Herzberg used the term 'hygiene' to describe factors that cause dissatisfaction in the workplace, are extrinsic (or independent of the work itself), and are linked to things such as compensation, job security, organizational politics, working conditions, quality of leadership, and relationships between supervisors, subordinates, and peers.

According to Herzberg, these factors do not motivate employees. However, when they are missing or inadequate, hygiene factors can cause serious dissatisfaction. Just think about how unhappy you would be in a job where you were underpaid, were in fear of losing your job, dealt constantly with gossip, lacked effective leadership, and were surrounded by coworkers whom you despised. Hygiene factors are all about making an employee feel comfortable, secure, and happy. When hygiene factors are not fulfilled, it feels like something is missing or not quite right, kind of how you would feel if you couldn't shower, brush your teeth, or wash your hands after using the bathroom.

The second factor is motivators or satisfiers. These are linked to employee motivation and arise from intrinsic, or dependent, conditions of the job itself. Factors for satisfaction include responsibility, job satisfaction, recognition, achievement, opportunities for growth, and advancement.

Applying Herzberg's Two-Factor Theory

One would think that an easy way to improve employee motivation would be to decrease things that cause dissatisfaction and increase those things that cause satisfaction. However, it is not that simple. Herzberg argued that remedying the causes of dissatisfaction does not lead to satisfaction. Nor will adding satisfiers eliminate dissatisfaction. That is because the opposite of satisfaction is no satisfaction, and the opposite of dissatisfaction is no dissatisfaction.

Frederick Herzberg developed the two-factor theory.
Frederick Herzberg

While I understand Herzberg did not put this into the simplest of terms, a clearer explanation of this idea can be seen in this scenario: You work in an office where the roof is constantly leaking, the computers are always shorting out, and you never seem to be able to catch up on your work because of it. Suddenly, you are informed that you will be receiving an award for meeting last month's sales quota. The award, which is a satisfier, would not eliminate your dissatisfaction with the inadequate working conditions. While you might be happy for a short moment when you receive your award, once you return to your office and realize that the roof is still leaking, your computer doesn't work properly, and you're still behind, you will quickly remember how unhappy you are.

A manager must be sure to provide sufficient hygiene factors while at the same time building satisfiers or motivators into employee jobs. In essence, hygiene factors are necessary to be sure a subordinate is not dissatisfied, and satisfiers are needed to motivate an employee to work towards a higher level of performance. Much like making your peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it's all about finding the right balance.

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