Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory In A Nutshell

Herzberg’s two-factor theory argues that certain workplace factors cause job satisfaction while others cause job dissatisfaction. The theory was developed by American psychologist and business management analyst Frederick Herzberg. Until his death in 2000, Herzberg was widely regarded as a pioneering thinker in motivational theory. 

DefinitionHerzberg’s Two-Factor Theory, developed by Frederick Herzberg in the 1950s, is a psychological model that explores the factors that contribute to job satisfaction and dissatisfaction in the workplace. It posits that there are two categories of factors influencing employee motivation and job contentment: Hygiene Factors (also called Maintenance Factors or Dissatisfiers) and Motivational Factors (also known as Satisfiers or Intrinsic Factors). The theory suggests that the absence of hygiene factors leads to dissatisfaction, while the presence of motivational factors is essential for job satisfaction and increased work performance. Herzberg’s model has had a significant impact on management and human resources practices, emphasizing the importance of addressing both hygiene and motivational factors to enhance employee engagement and overall job satisfaction.
Key ConceptsHygiene Factors: These are the basic elements in the workplace that, when lacking or inadequate, lead to job dissatisfaction. Examples include salary, job security, working conditions, company policies, and quality of supervision. – Motivational Factors: These are factors that, when present, contribute to job satisfaction and motivation. Examples include recognition, achievement, responsibility, advancement opportunities, and the work itself. – Two-Factor Theory: Herzberg’s theory divides workplace factors into two distinct categories, each with its impact on job satisfaction.
CharacteristicsDual Approach: Herzberg’s model distinguishes between factors that prevent dissatisfaction (hygiene factors) and factors that promote job satisfaction (motivational factors). – Focus on Intrinsic Motivation: The theory highlights the role of intrinsic, rather than extrinsic, factors in fostering job satisfaction. – Individualized Needs: Recognizes that individuals may be motivated and satisfied by different factors, and a one-size-fits-all approach may not be effective. – Long-Term Perspective: Emphasizes the long-term impact of motivation and satisfaction on employee performance and retention.
ImplicationsDissatisfaction Mitigation: Addressing hygiene factors can help prevent employee dissatisfaction and turnover. – Enhanced Job Satisfaction: Focusing on motivational factors can lead to increased job satisfaction, engagement, and productivity. – Customized Approach: Recognizing individual preferences and tailoring incentives and rewards accordingly can be more effective in motivating employees. – Employee Retention: Understanding and fulfilling motivational factors can contribute to employee retention and reduced turnover. – Continuous Assessment: Regularly assessing and adapting to employees’ changing needs is vital for long-term motivation and satisfaction.
AdvantagesComprehensive: Provides a comprehensive framework for understanding the complexities of employee motivation and satisfaction. – Practical Application: Offers actionable insights for managers and HR professionals to improve workplace conditions and employee engagement. – Long-Term Focus: Emphasizes the enduring impact of motivational factors on employee performance and commitment. – Individualized Approach: Recognizes that different employees are motivated by different factors, allowing for customized incentives and recognition. – Employee Retention: By addressing both hygiene and motivational factors, organizations can enhance employee retention and reduce turnover costs.
DrawbacksSimplicity: The model may oversimplify the complex nature of motivation, and individual preferences can vary widely. – Limited Empirical Evidence: Some critics argue that Herzberg’s theory lacks strong empirical support, as research findings have been mixed. – Changing Work Environments: The theory was developed in the 1950s and may not fully account for the dynamics of modern workplaces. – Inflexibility: Applying the theory may be challenging in organizations with limited resources or rigid structures. – Overemphasis on Satisfaction: Some argue that job satisfaction does not necessarily lead to increased performance.
ApplicationsHuman Resources: HR professionals use Herzberg’s theory to design employee recognition programs, compensation structures, and benefits packages that address both hygiene and motivational factors. – Management Training: Managers receive training on applying the theory to enhance employee motivation, engagement, and job satisfaction. – Performance Management: Performance appraisal and feedback processes can be aligned with motivational factors to encourage continuous improvement and development. – Organizational Culture: Companies incorporate elements of Herzberg’s theory into their organizational culture and values to foster a positive work environment. – Employee Surveys: Employee surveys and feedback mechanisms help organizations identify and address factors related to satisfaction and motivation.
Use CasesEmployee Retention: A company facing high turnover rates conducts employee surveys to identify dissatisfaction with hygiene factors (e.g., inadequate compensation or poor working conditions) and takes corrective actions to retain valuable employees. – Motivating a Sales Team: A sales manager recognizes the achievements of team members, provides opportunities for skill development, and delegates responsibilities to boost their motivation and performance. – Customized Rewards: An HR department tailors rewards and recognition programs to acknowledge individual employee preferences, such as career advancement opportunities, to improve overall job satisfaction. – Performance Enhancement: A manager engages in regular performance feedback sessions with employees, focusing on their intrinsic motivation factors, to encourage higher levels of engagement and productivity. – Company-Wide Culture Shift: An organization undergoing a cultural transformation incorporates Herzberg’s principles into its core values and practices to create a workplace where both hygiene and motivational factors are prioritized.

Understanding Herzberg’s two-factor theory

Frederick Herzberg became interested in studying the effects of employee attitudes on motivation in the workplace.

After surveying employees on when they felt good and bad about their jobs, Herzberg categorized the results according to two factors:

Motivating factors

Or intrinsic motivators that tend to be less tangible and more emotional.

Recognition, growth potential, responsibility, and sound working relationships are examples of motivating factors.

These factors – sometimes called satisfiers – motivate employees to give superior performance.

Hygiene factors

Or extrinsic motivators that tend to be more tangible needs such as job security, salary, physical working conditions, and fringe benefits.

Hygiene factors are commonly referred to as maintenance factors because they must be present in sufficient enough to avoid job dissatisfaction.

Implications for Herzberg’s two-factor theory

Herzberg’s two-factor theory differs from similar models because it incorporates employee expectations.

These expectations drive an inverse relationship between intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

That is, intrinsic motivators reduce motivation when they are present, while extrinsic motivators reduce motivation when they are absent.

For example, extrinsic motivators such as job security do not increase motivation when present.

But they do cause dissatisfaction when they are missing.

Crucially, hygiene factors will never result in an employee becoming highly satisfied – regardless of their strength or abundance.

Motivating factors, on the other hand, help an employee becoming highly satisfied. But their absence will never result in high levels of dissatisfaction

To better explain how each factor interacts with the other, Herzberg outlined four possible combinations:

High hygiene/high motivation

Where employees have high motivation and few complaints.

This is an ideal scenario for employees and businesses alike.

High hygiene/low motivation

Where there are few complaints but employees are not motivated.

Employees see their role as a means to an end or a “paycheck” job.

Low hygiene/high motivation

Common in many start-up businesses.

The job may be relatively exciting and challenging but there is not yet sufficient remuneration or satisfactory working conditions.

Basic job security and adequate salaries should be established as quickly as possible.

Low hygiene/low motivation

The most undesirable combination which often leads to high employee turnover.

Limitations of Herzberg’s two-factor theory

Unfortunately, Herzberg’s theory is not immune to limitations. 

Some of these include:

  • A focus on broader workplace contexts, thereby ignoring situational variables that could also contribute to job satisfaction.
  • Uncertain reliability. The theory relies on employee survey data which could be biased or inaccurate.
  • No consideration for blue-collar workers. However, the theory can be adapted for blue-collar industries if required.
  • A framework based on an assumed correlation between job satisfaction and productivity – without adequate research to confirm such a correlation.

Herzberg two factor theory vs. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was developed by American psychologist Abraham Maslow. His hierarchy, often depicted in the shape of a pyramid, helped explain his research on basic human needs and desires. In marketing, the hierarchy (and its basis in psychology) can be used to market to specific groups of people based on their similarly specific needs, desires, and resultant actions.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs focuses on basic human needs and desires. In short, that is a theory that argues individual development moves along a few levels in a pyramid:

Instead, Herzberg’s two-factor theory looks at the motivation of employees within a work environment.

Thus, focusing on the interactions between the employee and the organization, in a sort of more complex psychological dynamic of employees’ self-development.

Key takeaways

  • Herzberg’s two-factor theory argues that employee job satisfaction is influenced by intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Examples of intrinsic motivators include recognition and growth potential. Examples of extrinsic motivators include job security and salary.
  • Herzberg’s two-factor theory is driven by employee expectations in the workplace. Businesses should focus on providing satisfactory working conditions and understand how each combination of factors influences job satisfaction.
  • Some limitations of Herzberg’s two-factor theory include reliance on subjective survey data and an assumed correlation between satisfaction and productivity.

Key Highlights

  • Understanding Herzberg’s Theory: Developed by psychologist Frederick Herzberg, the two-factor theory examines workplace factors that contribute to job satisfaction and dissatisfaction. This theory differentiates between intrinsic (motivating) and extrinsic (hygiene) factors that impact employee motivation.
  • Motivating Factors: Intrinsic motivators, like recognition, growth potential, responsibility, and positive relationships, lead to job satisfaction and superior performance. These factors are less tangible and more emotional, driving employees to excel.
  • Hygiene Factors: Extrinsic motivators, such as job security, salary, working conditions, and benefits, prevent job dissatisfaction. These factors are tangible and essential for maintaining a satisfactory work environment.
  • Interaction and Expectations: Herzberg’s theory considers employee expectations, showing an inverse relationship between intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Intrinsic factors, when present, do not increase motivation but absence leads to dissatisfaction. Conversely, extrinsic factors, when absent, cause dissatisfaction. The absence of motivating factors doesn’t lead to dissatisfaction, and their presence enhances satisfaction.
  • Possible Combinations and Implications:
    • High Hygiene/High Motivation: Ideal scenario with high motivation and few complaints.
    • High Hygiene/Low Motivation: Few complaints but low motivation, often seen as a “paycheck” job.
    • Low Hygiene/High Motivation: Common in start-ups, where motivation is high but working conditions and remuneration need improvement.
    • Low Hygiene/Low Motivation: Undesirable, leading to high turnover due to dissatisfaction.
  • Limitations of the Theory:
    • Focus on broader contexts may overlook situational variables.
    • Reliability concerns as it relies on subjective survey data.
    • Limited consideration for blue-collar workers.
    • Assumption of correlation between satisfaction and productivity without solid evidence.
  • Herzberg vs. Maslow: While Herzberg’s theory focuses on workplace motivation, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs addresses basic human needs and desires. Maslow’s theory spans physiological, safety, belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization needs. Herzberg’s theory focuses on the dynamic interaction between employees and the organization within a work environment.

Types Of Leadership

Agile Leadership

Agile leadership is the embodiment of agile manifesto principles by a manager or management team. Agile leadership impacts two important levels of a business. The structural level defines the roles, responsibilities, and key performance indicators. The behavioral level describes the actions leaders exhibit to others based on agile principles. 

Adaptive Leadership

Adaptive leadership is a model used by leaders to help individuals adapt to complex or rapidly changing environments. Adaptive leadership is defined by three core components (precious or expendable, experimentation and smart risks, disciplined assessment). Growth occurs when an organization discards ineffective ways of operating. Then, active leaders implement new initiatives and monitor their impact.

Delegative Leadership

Developed by business consultants Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey in the 1960s, delegative leadership is a leadership style where authority figures empower subordinates to exercise autonomy. For this reason, it is also called laissez-faire leadership. In some cases, this type of leadership can lead to increases in work quality and decision-making. In a few other cases, this type of leadership needs to be balanced out to prevent a lack of direction and cohesiveness of the team.

Distributed Leadership

Distributed leadership is based on the premise that leadership responsibilities and accountability are shared by those with the relevant skills or expertise so that the shared responsibility and accountability of multiple individuals within a workplace, bulds up as a fluid and emergent property (not controlled or held by one individual). Distributed leadership is based on eight hallmarks, or principles: shared responsibility, shared power, synergy, leadership capacity, organizational learning, equitable and ethical climate, democratic and investigative culture, and macro-community engagement.


Micromanagement is about tightly controlling or observing employees’ work. Although in some cases, this management style might be understood, especially for small-scale projects, generally speaking, micromanagement has a negative connotation mainly because it shows a lack of trust and freedom in the workplace, which leads to adverse outcomes.

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