Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory of Motivation

Motivation Theory Counseling

One of the most discussed topics in counseling is how to increase personal motivation. Part of a counselor’s job is to elicit and enhance motivation because motivation is a key to change.

Research into motivation is inexorably linked to an understanding of personal change — a concept that has been scrutinized by modern psychologists and theorists in an effort to help people change unwanted behavior.

Most of us have periods of time where we decide we want to be more productive. However, getting sufficiently motivated in order actually get things done can seem impossible at times. Sometimes it is really easy to get motivated, and other times you may find yourself wrapped up in a whirlwind of procrastination.

Researchers have been studying motivation examining difference psychological theories of motivation in an attempt to increase productivity. To do so, it helps to understand what motivates our behavior. A number of psychologists have tackled this problem, including psychologist Frederick Herzberg.

Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory

In the 1950s, Herzberg developed his Two-Factor Theory of Motivation, also known the motivation-hygiene or as dual-factor theory. He theorized that there are specific factors in the workplace that trigger job satisfaction, while a separate set of factors are associated with job dissatisfaction. In other words, job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction act independently of each other.

In order to support his hypothesis, Herzberg studied 200 accountants and engineers who were asked about their positive and negative feelings about their work. After analyzing the subject’s responses, Herzberg suggested that two factors influenced employee motivation and satisfaction; motivation and hygiene. The following further explains Herzberg’s position on these factors with regards to the work environment.

Motivator Factors

Motivators are factors that lead to satisfaction and motivate employees to work harder. All of the below motivators have the potential to provide a sense positive satisfaction. Examples include the following:

  • Enjoying work
  • Feeling appreciated
  • Career advancement
  • Being challenged
  • Having responsibility
  • Doing meaningful work
  • Involvement in decision making

Hygiene Factors

The factors that Herzberg deemed to be related to hygiene are associated with job dissatisfaction and a lack of motivation if they are absent. He used the term “hygiene” because he believed them to be maintenance factors. Examples of hygiene factors include:

  • Salary
  • Company policies
  • Benefits
  • Relationships with managers and co-workers.
  • Status
  • Job security
  • Work conditions
  • Vacation Time

Motivation-Hygiene Theory in the Workplace

According to Herzberg’s findings, while both motivator and hygiene factors both influenced motivation, they typically work completely independently of each other. For example, while motivator factors increased employee satisfaction and motivation, the absence of the same factors didn’t necessarily trigger dissatisfaction. Likewise, the presence of hygiene factors did not necessarily increase satisfaction and motivation, but their absence did cause an increase in dissatisfaction.

Herzberg suggested that in order to create the happiest and most productive workforce, you need to work on improving both motivator and hygiene factors. To motivate employees, the employer needs to take action steps to ensure they feel appreciated and supported. This is done by doing this such giving positive feedback as an employee progress through the company.

To prevent job dissatisfaction, Herzberg suggested making certain that employees feel treated fairly with basic things such as the best possible working conditions and good pay. Additionally, he stressed the importance of teamwork and supporting work relationships.

Randi Fredricks, Ph.D.


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