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Business LibreTexts Herzberg's Motivator-Hygiene Theory

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    5. What are the basic components of Herzberg’s motivator-hygiene theory?

    Another important contribution to our understanding of individual motivation came from Frederick Herzberg’s studies, which addressed the question, “What do people really want from their work experience?” In the late 1950s, Herzberg surveyed numerous employees to find out what particular work elements made them feel exceptionally good or bad about their jobs. The results indicated that certain job factors are consistently related to employee job satisfaction, while others can create job dissatisfaction. According to Herzberg, motivating factors (also called job satisfiers) are primarily intrinsic job elements that lead to satisfaction. Hygiene factors (also called job dissatisfiers) are extrinsic elements of the work environment. A summary of motivating and hygiene factors appears in Table 9.2.

    One of the most interesting results of Herzberg’s studies was the implication that the opposite of satisfaction is not dissatisfaction. Herzberg believed that proper management of hygiene factors could prevent employee dissatisfaction, but that these factors could not serve as a source of satisfaction or motivation. Good working conditions, for instance, will keep employees at a job but won’t make them work harder. But poor working conditions, which are job dissatisfiers, may make employees quit. According to Herzberg, a manager who wants to increase employee satisfaction needs to focus on the motivating factors, or satisfiers. A job with many satisfiers will usually motivate workers, provide job satisfaction, and prompt effective performance. But a lack of job satisfiers doesn’t always lead to dissatisfaction and poor performance; instead, a lack of job satisfiers may merely lead to workers doing an adequate job, rather than their best.

    A photograph shows a car with a large, fuzzy, pink moustache attached to the front grill of the car.
    Exhibit 9.5: Flexibility has been a competitive advantage for ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft. Companies’ flexible work hours have been appealing to many workers who appreciate the flexibility that these jobs provide, either as a full-time job or a way to make supplemental income. According to Herzberg’s motivator-hygiene theory, what effect might Uber and Lyft’s work environment have on employee? (Credit: Alfredo Mendez/ flickr/ Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))

    Although Herzberg’s ideas have been widely read and his recommendations implemented at numerous companies over the years, there are some very legitimate concerns about Herzberg’s work. Although his findings have been used to explain employee motivation, in fact his studies focused on job satisfaction, a different (though related) concept from motivation. Other criticisms focus on the unreliability of Herzberg’s methodology, the fact that the theory ignores the impact of situational variables, and the assumed relationship between satisfaction and productivity. Nevertheless, the questions raised by Herzberg about the nature of job satisfaction and the effects of intrinsic and extrinsic factors on employee behavior have proved a valuable contribution to the evolution of theories of motivation and job satisfaction.

    Table 9.2: Herzberg’s Motivating and Hygiene Factors
    Motivating Factors Hygiene Factors
    Achievement Company policy
    Recognition Supervision
    Work itself Working conditions
    Responsibility Interpersonal relationships at work
    Advancement Salary and benefits
    Growth Job security


    1. What is Herzberg’s theory, and how does it relate to an understanding of motivation?
    2. How can a manager use an understanding of Herzberg’s theory to motivate employees?
    3. What are the limitations of Herzberg’s theory?

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