Frederick Herzberg interviewed 203 American accountants & engineers, chosen because of their professions growing importance in the business world. The subjects were asked to relate times when they felt exceptionally good or bad about their present job or any previous job, and to provide reasons, and a description of the sequence of events giving rise to that positive or negative feeling.
The research showed that responses tended to be consistent, revealing two different sets of factors affecting motivation at work. One set of factors if absent or weak caused dissatisfaction. These related to the job environment / the context in which the job was performed and thus extrinsic to the job itself, e.g. the quality of supervision, or level of pay. Herzberg labelled these as the Hygiene or Maintenance Factors. The second set of factors if present lead to feelings of satisfaction. These relate to the job itself, for example its complexity, or importance, which Herzberg named the Motivators or Growth Factors.
Fig 2 : Herzberg's Two Factor Theory
Herzberg argues that both factors are equally important, but that good hygiene will only lead to average performance, preventing dissatisfaction, but not, by itself, creating a positive attitude or motivation to work. To motivate the employee management must enrich the content of the actual work they ask them to do. For example, building into tasks set a greater level of responsibility, and the opportunity to learn new skills. In advocating making work more interesting, and improving the quality of the work experience for the individual, Herzberg coined the phrase 'Quality of Working Life'.
The table below lists the common hygiene factors and motivators identified within organisations.
Herzberg's Two-factor Theory
Level and Quality of Supervision,
Company Policy and Administration,
Nature of Work,
Sense of Achievement,
Personal Growth and Advancement
Herzberg and Money
It is often wrongly assumed that Herzberg did not value money, in the sense that he did not consider it a motivator. This is misleading, as Herzberg argues that the absence of good hygiene factors including money, will lead to dissatisfaction and thus potentially block any attempt to motivate the worker. Herzberg prefers us to think of money as a force which will move an individual to perform a task, but not generate any internal desire to do the task well. In fact to get an individual to perform the task again, he argues, we will need to offer more money.
Although the original studies have been repeated with different types of workers, and results have proved consistent with the original research, Herzberg's theory has been criticised. Critics point out that a single factor may be a satisfier for one person, but cause job dissatisfaction for another. For example increased responsibility may be welcomed by some, whilst dreaded by others. Whatever the criticisms, Herzberg has drawn our attention to the importance of job design in order to bring about job enrichment, emphasised in the phrase 'Quality of Working Life'.
One to Watch
'Jumping for Jelly Beans' video : See the man himself explain his theories to a group of British managers. O.k. so the clothes, hair styles, and attitudes are a little dated, but its still excellent viewing, look out for K.I.T.A. (you'll understand if you watch the video).