Herzberg’s Motivators and Hygiene Factors

The psychologist Fredrick Herzberg introduced the Herzberg’s Motivators and Hygiene factors, also popular as the two-factor theory or a dual-factor theory. This theory emphasizes on two set of factors- one set of factors, which results in job satisfaction and another set of factors that causes job dissatisfaction. These two factors act independently of each other.

Herzberg Motivators and Hygiene Factors

Striking The Right Balance

The jelly sandwich and peanut butter is a staple American diet for children. If you have ever had an opportunity to savor one, you know it is all about striking the right balance between the two. Too much jelly can leak from the sides and get very messy; on the other hand, too much peanut butter can make your mouth very sticky. Similarly, too little jelly and there’s a loss of sweetness and too little peanut butter makes your sandwich less salty. It is about striking the balance between sweet and salt without wearing jelly all over your shirt. Balance is a challenging factor in many aspects of our lives. This holds good even for employee satisfaction and motivation.

Learning to Motivate

There are a few areas that require proper understanding to get to the roots of motivation, like what do people expect from their jobs? Do the employees just yearn for a higher pay scale? Do they seek good relationships and security among their co-workers? Do they want opportunities for development and growth, or is there anything else they seek altogether?

Based on these questions Fredrick Herzberg tried to analyze the effects of employee attitude on motivation. He asked employees to define situations that made them very happy and very sad with respect to their jobs. He found that people who were very happy about their jobs responded differently when compared to people who were sad and demotivated.

Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory

Herzberg’s research suggested that there are few characteristics of a job that are continuously linked to job satisfaction and that there are certainly other factors that are related to job dissatisfaction. The factors of motivation and dissatisfaction revealed by Herzberg are as follows:

Herzberg Motivators and Hygiene Factors

From this analysis, Herzberg concluded that characteristic features of job satisfaction involve competency, supportive and non-intrusive supervision, job security, etc.. On the other hand, dissatisfaction is a result of unfavorable job conditions like supervision, organization’s policies, salary, technical problems, working conditions, and interpersonal relations at the workplace.


According to Herzberg motivators (recognition of work, opportunity to do something meaningful, a sense of recognition in an organization and challenging work) are positive stimulants arising from the internal job conditions (achievement, personal growth, and recognition).

Hygiene Factors

Hygiene factors according to Herzberg are those that lead to dissatisfaction (salary, work conditions, fringe benefits, job security, status, insurance, and vacations) Hygiene factors are the maintenance factors, being the external factors of work (supervisory practices, company policies, and salary). Herzberg called the hygiene factors as the KITA factors, which mean Kick In The Ass Factors. These factors are the factors that furnish incentives or threat of punishment to compel employees to perform.

Hygiene Factor needs to be eliminated in order to dismiss dissatisfaction among employees at the workplace. There are various ways to do so and the most important ones are by paying a good salary, assuring job security, and a positive work culture. While dismissing dissatisfaction is just one half of the job, the other half is to improve satisfaction at the workplace, which can be accomplished by concentrating on motivational factors.

Herzberg further classified the actions of the employees and why and how they do them, for instance, if an employee performs a work related action because he has to do it, then it is called as “movement” and if an employee performs an action because he wants to do it, it can be called as “motivation.” Fredrick Herzberg concluded that it is crucial to dismiss job dissatisfaction before accommodating work conditions for job satisfaction because they work against each other.

Four Possible Combinations of Two-Factor Theory

  1. High Motivation + High Hygiene = An ideal situation where employees have fewer complaints and are highly motivated.
  2. Low Motivation + High Hygiene = Employees are not highly motivated but have lesser complaints.
  3. High Motivation + Low Hygiene = Employees have lots of complaints but are highly motivated. A condition where the job is challenging and exciting but the work environment and salaries are not up to the mark.
  4. Low Motivation + Low Hygiene = This is a situation where the employees have lots of complaints and have absolutely no motivation.

Implications of Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory

Herzberg’s theory concentrates on the significance of the internal factors. He defined them to improve job satisfaction levels of employees. Herzberg intended to furnish an opportunity for the employees to take an active part in planning, performing, and evaluating work by-

  • Dismissing some control that the management has over their employees and increasing responsibility and accountability, which would result in the improved autonomy of the employees.
  • Creating natural and complete work units wherever possible. For instance, allowing employees to create an entire unit rather than allowing just parts of it.
  • Furnishing continuous and regular feedback on job performance and productivity directly to employees and not doing so through supervisors.
  • Managers must ensure that the job is rewarding and motivating so that the employees perform and work better.
  • This theory stresses job enrichment; encouraging employees to take up new and challenging tasks.

Limitations of Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory

  • The dependability of the two-factor theory is unreliable.
  • This theory overlooks the situational variables and blue-collar workforces.
  • Herzberg’s two-factor theory fails to employ a comprehensive means to access productivity and satisfaction. Although an employee may dislike his job, he might find it satisfactory.
  • Herzberg’s theory focuses on the connection between productivity and satisfaction; the study instead only focuses on satisfaction levels and not on productivity.
  • The two-factor theory is not free from prejudice, since it is based on the normal responses of employees when asked about factors resulting in dissatisfaction and the motivators at work.


Herzberg’s two-factor theory argues that the two-factor theory is crucial for an efficient workforce. Motivation and hygiene factors require a strategic balance to approach the employees so that they feel satisfied with their job and be productive for the organization.

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