Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory: Definition, Relationship, And More.

The theory of motivation -health Herzberg , sometimes known as the theory of two factors, where Frederick Herzberg was a psychologist interested in the correlation between the attitude of the employee and motivation in the workplace, wanted to discover what made people felt satisfied and dissatisfied when it came to the workplace.

After spending countless hours interviewing employees about what made them feel good and bad about their jobs, Herzberg developed a theory of motivation in the workplace called two-factor theory.

What is Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory?

This is based on the assumption that there are two sets of factors that influence motivation in the workplace, either by improving employee satisfaction or by hindering it.

The attitude your employees have towards their jobs can tell you a lot about your company culture and current work environment. Obviously you would love to have a team full of people who are happy with their jobs and enjoy the challenge of coming to work every day, however that reality is not always a goal for everyone.

In his Hygiene and Motivating Factors, Fredrick Herzberg tries to identify exactly what it is that will make employees satisfied or dissatisfied with their jobs.

The findings revealed that certain characteristics of a job are consistently related to job satisfaction, while different factors are associated with job dissatisfaction.

Motivation or Satisfaction Factors

It is linked to the motivation of employees and arises from conditions intrinsic or dependent on the job itself. Satisfaction factors include:

  • Achievement: Employees must have a sense of achievement, this depends on the job.
  • Recognition: Employees should be praised and recognized for their achievements by managers.
  • Job satisfaction:  The job itself must be meaningful, interesting and challenging for the employee to perform and be motivated
  • Responsibility: Employees must take responsibility for the work. Managers must give them ownership of the work, they must minimize control but retain responsibility.
  • Growth: There must be opportunities for growth and advancement in an organization to motivate employees to perform well.

Employees are more satisfied with a work environment that allows them to advance to higher positions, feel regularly fulfilled, and be recognized for their efforts. All of these things are commonly associated with a positive work experience, so it makes sense to consider them as positive factors of satisfaction.

Hygiene factors or dissatisfaction

With regard to Herberz’s motivation-hygiene theory, we found that with hygiene factors we are not referring to the personal hygiene of co-workers, although it can sometimes be questionable. On the contrary, Herzberg used the term ‘hygiene’ to describe the factors that cause dissatisfaction in the workplace, are extrinsic (or independent of the work itself) and are linked to aspects such as compensation, job security, organizational policy , working conditions, leadership quality, and relationships between supervisors, subordinates, and peers.

According to Herzberg, these factors do not motivate employees, however, when they are lacking or inadequate, hygiene factors can cause great dissatisfaction. Just think how unhappy you would be in a job where you are poorly paid, afraid of losing your job, constantly gossiping, lacking effective leadership, and surrounded by coworkers you despise.

Hygiene factors have to do with making an employee feel comfortable, safe and happy, when hygiene factors are not met, it feels as if something is missing or not quite right, as it would feel if it could not shower , brush your teeth, or wash your hands after using the bathroom.

  • Company policies and administrative policies: Company policies should not be too rigid, they should be fair and clear, they should include flexible working hours, dress code, breaks, vacations, etc.
  • Additional benefits: Employees must be offered health care plans, benefits for family members, employee assistance programs, etc.
  • Interpersonal relationships:  Employees’ relationships with colleagues, superiors, and subordinates must be appropriate and acceptable. There should be no conflict or element of humiliation present.
  • Working conditions: They must be safe, clean and hygienic, work equipment must be updated and kept in good condition.
  • Salary:  The salary or salary structure must be appropriate and reasonable. It must be equal and competitive for those in the same industry in the same domain. All employees will believe that they are worth more than they are paid, so, in turn, salary is rarely considered a positive factor. Everyone wants to be paid more, so it is natural to view salary as a point of dissatisfaction.
  • Status:  The status of employees within the organization must be familiar and preserved.
  • Safety: Everyone feels better in a work environment where they can be safe.

Dissatisfaction is related in many ways to micromanagement and a lack of trust in the workplace, employees like to be trusted, and they don’t want someone to look down on them at all times. When they are given control of their own responsibilities, dissatisfaction tends to decrease.

Job satisfaction or dissatisfaction? How to motivate employees

You’re probably thinking of job satisfaction and dissatisfaction as opposites, however, according to Herzberg, that’s not really the case. In this theory, it is proposed that job satisfaction and dissatisfaction are actually two separate things that are not closely related. In other words, if your company takes steps to eliminate some of the factors that cause dissatisfaction, your employees may be less dissatisfied, but that does not mean that they are really satisfied with their jobs, this may sound like a semantic point, but it is crucial to build a healthy and productive work environment.

For a company to properly motivate its employees in the future, there are two steps that can be taken. First, the company can work to eliminate job dissatisfaction. Then, once it’s complete, the company can work to promote greater job satisfaction. Ultimately, the goal is to create an environment where employees are happy, motivated, and able to perform at their best.

Eliminating job dissatisfaction

Not surprisingly, the process of eliminating the greatest job dissatisfaction comes down to addressing the items on the list above. For example, a good place to start would be to review company policies and eliminate or adjust those that hinder productivity and happiness. Is there an excess of ‘red tape’ in your company that is simply causing stress with no real benefit? If so, simplifying the company manual is a big step in the right direction.

Other basic steps that can be taken to eliminate dissatisfaction include adjusting wages to keep them in line with industry standards, providing as much job security as possible, allowing all employees to complete meaningful work, and more.

Overall, the key to this initiative is to remove as many frustrating and counterproductive elements from the job as possible, free of distractions and points of contention, your teams should be better able to produce excellent work.

Promote satisfaction

With the work in the previous section out of the way, you can now turn your attention to increasing satisfaction. Your employees should now be happier overall with their jobs thanks to the process above, but that doesn’t mean they will be truly satisfied with their job.

In the pursuit of satisfaction, you can do a number of different things depending on your business, your teams, and your resources. A simple step is to regularly acknowledge the efforts of specific team members when they go beyond their standard job description, spreading responsibility throughout the company, and making sure everyone feels they have a keen interest in the business is crucial. If your company employees want to move forward over time, provide them with the training and resources necessary to make this happen.

It really is no secret that employees who are satisfied with their jobs are going to work harder and be more productive, however, you cannot expect them to be satisfied because they are being paid at home, you must give them reasons to be motivated. and excited every day. Using the factors included in this theory by Herzberg is a great way to move your business in the right direction from an employee satisfaction standpoint.

Relationships of motivators and hygiene factors

Simple combinations of motivators and hygiene factors can produce useful matrix measurement motivation for an employee and subsequently the success of a company. Below is the set of those possible combinations:

  • High motivation and high hygiene:  As it sounds, it’s an idyllic combination, and everyone would want to achieve this. From an organization perspective, it results in high motivation and few complaints among employees.
  • High motivation and low hygiene: Employees are significantly motivated, but still have numerous complaints. For example, consider a job that is challenging and rewarding, but the policies and working conditions are not well accepted.
  • Low motivation and high hygiene:  In such situations, employees are happy doing their job, earning wages at the end of the day, but lacking the desire to take initiative and make a difference for their organization, work is synonymous with pay.
  • Low motivation and low hygiene:  The worst position for any organization, this can be compared to the vision of a bankrupt organization reducing its presence and operations, while every employee is looking for practically no incentive to work.

Criticisms and support for Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory

The major criticism facing the theory is that hygiene and motivational factors are described as independent and must be measured on different scales. To give an example, compensation is one of the most important factors that in today’s world can easily influence satisfaction levels and turn into dissatisfaction if deemed inappropriate.

Also, the theory is not tailored to individual personalities, which can make one respond clearly to motivators or hygiene factors.

There are scientists who have challenged the basic principle of this theory, that happy and satisfied employees are more productive, while in the real world it is not necessary, it is argued that it is quite the opposite, productive workers are happier and more satisfied.

On the other hand, there are studies that support the theory and its principles. A book called “First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do” includes the results of a study conducted by the Gallup Organization, where twelve questions were prepared that demonstrate a framework for determining individuals and organizations, these Questions fully correspond to Herzberg’s motivational factors, while hygiene factors had little or no effect in motivating better performance.

Georgia Tarrant
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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.