Frederick Herzberg Theory Explained


Frederick Herzberg was an American psychologist who was influential in the field of business management. One of his most significant contributions was to introduce the concept of job enrichment into the employment sector. As part of his efforts, he would also publish the Motivator-Hygiene theory.

According to the Frederick Herzberg theory, people are motivated by dual factors when considering the satisfaction they each experience with their employment: motivation and hygiene. The idea, at its core, is somewhat simple.

Dissecting the Frederick Herzberg Theory

Hygiene within the workplace will not motivate a person to work harder or be more productive, but if it is not present, it will lower the motivation a worker will experience. Hygiene can be literal, such as the difference between a clean or dirty toilet. It can also refer to the level of job security a worker may experience, the level of pay that is available, or the potential for promotional opportunities.

The hygiene component deals with satisfaction or dissatisfaction that occurs with needs which are independent of one another. It challenged the thinking at the time that dissatisfaction was the result of an absence of factors that would encourage satisfaction.

As for motivation, there are factors that may not lower it, but they can be responsible for increasing it. Basic actions, such has offering job recognition for a worker, providing the opportunity for a promotion, or simply thanking someone for the work that is being done can be enough to increase motivation.

For some workers, the ability to do their job on a daily basis is a motivational factor in itself. Helping people get over an illness as a doctor, for example, could be its own motivation and provide an individual with the job satisfaction they desire.

Growth factors that are included in the theory involve achievements, advancements, and additional responsibilities. Although workers may see money, competition, or accolades as a way to ensure their standing in their position, real rewards come through motivational factors that provide internal and external rewards simultaneously.

To be completely satisfied with a job, a worker must have both factors met in their own unique way on a consistent basis.

There Are 4 Possible Combinations in the Frederick Herzberg Theory

According to Herzberg, there are four potential combinations that can be found in every workplace environment.

1. High Hygiene and High Motivation.This is the ideal situation and employee complaints will be few.

2. High Hygiene and Low Motivation. Employees do not complain, but are not highly motivated to be productive. Think of this as a place where someone goes to earn a paycheck and nothing more.

3. Low Hygiene and High Motivation. Employees will have a high level of complaint, but they are also highly motivated to be productive. They see their job as being exciting, but other conditions, such as their paycheck, are under-whelming.

4. Low Hygiene and Low Motivation. In this setting, employees are not motivated to work and offer regular complaints about working conditions.

Although Herzberg’s theory focuses on the individual and how their internal job factors motivate or de-motivate them, there are certain work-arounds that are part of the theory that can help to counter some of the negative experiences that workers may be encountered. He suggests that workers be able to plan, perform, and evaluate their own work.

To do these, he offers 4 steps that can be implemented in the workplace.

  • Remove some of the controls that managers have over their direct reports and increase the responsibility and accountability of individual workers.
  • Create natural working units that can be pursued to completion instead of segmenting duties.
  • Provide continuous and regular feedback regarding worker performance and productivity instead of relying on first-level supervisors to do so.
  • Encourage workers to take on challenging tasks or refine their expertise.

Imagine an easy job that pays well, but provides zero internal benefits beyond the paycheck being earned. A worker is more likely to quit this job because they experience a low motivation factor. A challenging job with a similar pay, however, could result in the same experience if the worker feels like they are not being compensated enough for what they’re being asked to do.

Everyone goes into a job with certain expectations. As they get to know the work and experience the social aspects of employment, the Motivation-Hygiene two-factor theory by Frederick Herzberg comes into play. Because satisfaction and dissatisfaction act independently of one another, it is possible to balance them so that workers can stay happy, productive, and motivated.