Satisfaction Motivation Hygiene

True motivation comes from achievement, personal development, job satisfaction and recognition. This statement constitutes the core proposal of the important theorist we will be discussing. Frederick Herzberg was an important psychologist who became one of the most significant names in management on the 60s. His theories are still recognized as having been crucial to the development of the managerial sciences.

The purpose of this paper is to analytically discuss the impact and consequences that his theories have had in the field of modern management.

He is most recognized for his work on job enrichment and for his Motivation-Hygiene Theory.

Frederick Herzberg was born on April, 19th of 1923 in Lynn, Massachusetts. Herzberg was a student at the City College of New York. He interrupted his studies midway to enlist in the army, returning to graduate in 1946. He died in Salt Lake City in early 2000. Witnessing a concentration camp in World War II, as well as talking with Germans he encountered during the War, were the catalysts he believed to be responsible for his interest in motivation.

He expressed this interest in motivation by considering the factors that influence people’s behaviour in organisations. His Motivation-Hygiene Theory or Two Factor Theory of Job Satisfaction was published in 1959. The two factors influencing people according to his theory were:

  • Satisfaction – as a result of motivating factors such as: achievement, recognition, promotion, responsibility, growth.
  • Dissatisfaction – as a result of hygiene factors including: pay and benefits, company policies, relationship with co-workers, the work environment, job security, employee status, supervision, company assets. (Herzberg, 1959)

He deemed that motivating factors will improve satisfaction, but their impact on dissatisfaction will be insubstantial. (Herzberg, 1959)

On the other hand, if hygiene factors are not present they will cause dissatisfaction, yet their presence does not significantly affect satisfaction in the long-term.

Central to the interpretation of this theory will be the recognition of the existence of factors that truly motivate (motivating factors) and others that could lead to dissatisfaction (hygiene factors).

Herzberg considered human needs on two levels: the animal instinct of avoiding pain, and the necessity of personal psychological development.

Similarly, long ago, Maslow understood perfectly and endeavoured to instruct managerial principals that even today, many organisations have failed to institute.

Herzberg’s theory remains as relevant now as it was when it was first published. Excepting the fact that responsibility, justice, fairness and compassion are global standards in contemporary business.

Apart from his main theories, it is important to understand that Herzberg’s primary concern was the well-being of organisational workforces. He was determined to introduce more humanity and caring principals into the workplace. He focused on explaining how to manage people humanely, in the interest of their comfort.

So the question we could pose is: ‘How important are high wages for us to feel satisfied?’ Intriguingly, the answer will be that although people complain about their earnings constantly, surveys and research have proven that there are factors that have more motivational power than money when making decisions concerning the workplace. In surveys, the reasons that tend to top the list are lack of job stimuli and poor prospect of advancement.

Herzberg believed that these motivators would generate positive work attitudes because they satisfy one of Maslow’s hierarchical needs: the need for self-actualization – the ultimate human need (Maslow, 1954). However, the presence of these factors can cause satisfaction, yet when they are not present, it does not lead to dissatisfaction. By contrast, hygiene factors which simply cause temporary results, posses the power of creating great dissatisfaction, but lack of these factors in the workplace does not cause a large degree of satisfaction. For Herzberg, the opposite of satisfaction in the workplace will not be dissatisfaction, just simply lack of satisfaction. Likewise, the opposite of dissatisfaction in your job will not be satisfaction but no dissatisfaction.

As a practical example of this assumption: if the college water were to stop running for a week, this would represent a work conditions hygiene factor, and it would give cause for our professors to feel very dissatisfied. However, since our professors are normally accustomed to the water running and working properly, it does not give them reason to feel particularly motivated or satisfied.

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In 1968, Herzberg presented a work called KITA (a polite acronym for “kick in the ass”), where he differentiated between motivational and movement factors (Herzberg, 1968) He classified KITA into three different possible types:

  • Negative physical KITA
  • Negative physiological KITA
  • Positive KITA

Certainly, in modern society, managers infrequently deal with their employees using negative KITA, which is the use of physical contact on a member of the staff to enforce work. Negative KITA is indeed fairly useless as a tool to motivate workers. Positive KITA conversely can be summarised in the word reward. It is the act of rewarding an action with bonuses or incentives.

Although this is a common practice for modern managers, according to Herzberg, positive KITA is not motivational. Positive KITA will make movement much faster, encouraging the worker to perform at his best in a certain task. However, he considered that there were no facts to prove that the effects of this reward were going to have long-lasting results. He believed that individuals were not actually motivated to work harder after completing the task, as a consequence of a reward. He judged that the workers were merely temporarily moved, and hence their performance did not persist once the bonus was received. So he considered rewards to be a mere movement factor.

Referring to the motivational factors previously cited in this essay, he concludes that only the achievement of these factors can create long-lasting satisfaction for the employees, and therefore a better work attitude. Additionally, when the workforce finds this stimulation internally in the workplace, they will perform more efficiently.

Herzberg’s theory has been criticized by the theorist, Locke. (Locke, E. 1976) He proposed alternate sources for the generation of job satisfaction. He believed the mind and the body to be inextricably related. And therefore, the objective should be to satisfy them both. As an example, he gives the biological need of hunger, and he specifies that an act like eating can serve not only to quell hunger pangs, but also as pleasure for the mind. Herzberg placed emphasis on the number of times a particular factor was cited in reaching his conclusions, believing that those more encountered on the lists were the most satisfying or dissatisfying factors. However, even if a dissatisfying factor was registered numerous times, it does not necessarily follow that this was a major problem or even that the employees found it more irritable than infrequent problems, which tend to create higher levels of dissatisfaction for them.

Conversely, Locke suggests the prioritisation of intensity over frequency. He recognized that an employee could reach his maximum levels of intensity when either achieving or failing a task. (Locke, E. 1976)

Analysing the statements in Herzberg’s theories, it becomes clear that they are rather simplistic. One might easily imagine that what gives cause for motivation to one person, could well be the cause of dissatisfaction in someone else. For example, the enlargement of responsibilities can be a clear motivator for some people as they can thereby develop in their careers. At the same time, it can be dissatisfying for other people, especially if their wages are not proportionally linked to the responsibilities that they have assumed.

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It might be necessary to consider the reality that employees should not be seen as an homogeneous group, but as a compilation of individuals, of whom only a proportion will be motivated by any given factor. It will therefore be prudent upon every manager to take the time to try to determine the unique characteristics of each member of his workforce. Thus, will he comprehend what is necessary to gain the satisfaction of his employees.

Although Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory, when analysed deeply, might seem somewhat incomplete or basic, it is impossible to disregard that it is given credence and has been studied from shortly after its initial publication up until the present day. Consequently, it can be affirmed that, even with its faults, there is a lot of truth in the theory, and that the different factors he cited are generally more likely to cause satisfaction/dissatisfaction to the workforce of an organisation.

Undoubtedly, Frederick Herzberg’s main contribution to modern management has been his recognition of the factors that could motivate or dissatisfy a workforce.

It was through his ideas and research that we now know that people endeavour to get “hygiene needs” merely as a reaction of discomfort, caused when the factors to achieve those needs are absent. Then and now, unsuccessful organisations fail to understand that it its very difficult to truly motivate their staff by concentrating on meeting their hygiene needs.

At the same time, people are truly motivated, and hence perform at their best, when the motivational factors are achieved (i.e.: personal growth, development, etc.) which come to differentiate themselves from the hygiene factors because of the self-fulfilment they create for individuals.

In the analytical study of the details of Herzberg’s theory, we might consider an actual example drawn from daily life.

Let’s take the example of someone who inherits a large amount of money from a relative, enabling that person to live a comfortable life thereafter.

For some people, this will represent the opportunity of a lifetime, since they can stop working and start enjoying a pleasant lifestyle, making use of their new wealth.

However, there will be other people who, though giving-up their old jobs, will take the opportunity to create their own business. According to Herzberg’s theory (and not really questioned today), these people who begin working on perusing their own desires will be satisfied and truly motivated, regardless of the money which they make, or that which they have already. People achieve these kinds of goals when they are truly motivated by factors such as: personal growth, responsibility, attainment, etc.

If we examine the situation, it appears most certain that these people are not solely motivated by mere monetary desires. Since the venture of creating a new business, especially when you do not need it, involves persistent effort and a considerable level of commitment. Following the logic that the project has no guarantee of success, it would be erroneous to believe that they were motivated by potential income alone.

Without resting importance on the value of money, we would consider it highly probable that the life of the person who stopped working would become rather empty and monotone. And at the same time, if the person does not know what to do with their money, it could easily vanish.

On the other hand, if someone takes the opportunity to do whatever he enjoys or is good at, it is likely that he is going to achieve success.

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So based on this example, we can opine that the money itself will not be a significant motivator.

Also for us as students, Herzberg’s theory provides a pattern for us to follow. We certainly need some sense of satisfaction in order to be interested and feel motivated in our studies. It is always fulfilling when professors (our managers technically) endeavour to implement factors which might encourage motivation (i.e. feedback, advice, etc.)

In opposition, when our hygiene needs are not meet: (i.e. deteriorated classrooms, unusable computers, etc.) , it can be a great cause of dissatisfaction. However, when these factors are in order, it is not a cause for us to show appreciation.

In conclusion, at first glance it might appear that Herzberg’s theory is simple and rather incomplete. Yet all critics agree that his theory encompasses a number of facts that were ignored before Herzberg came into play. He discovered certain fundamental problems that needed to be addressed in order to maintain employee well-being in a company. Herzberg contributed tremendously to the understanding that managers could create an hygienically effective environment, and he provided them with the important factors that he considered to be fundamental to the pursuit of improvement in staff performance.

Even though his theory is a general one, focusing as it does on the frequency rather than on the intensity of problems, it certainly provides an excellent guide for managers in their aim of discovering and setting standards in factors that, if present, would benefit their business. Obviously, as discussed earlier, each person or company will react differently to any given action or situation. For this reason, rather than applying Herzberg’s theory textually, managers should dedicate some time to investigating and understanding the individual reasons that might motivate or could cause dissatisfaction to a member of their staff. Putting this strategy into practice, managers could easily identify the problems that might be affecting the staff’s well-being, as well as directly make use of those factors which they reckon might improve employee performance. Following on from this idea, it should also be easy to satisfy the hygiene needs of their employees. In case of a shortcoming in these factors, managers should work together with their staff to address and resolve these deficiencies.

Equilibrium and well-being is best achieved through striving always for a constant balance when making our decisions. Hence, every person must evaluate their own individual reasons and fulfilment factors to give a meaning to their lives.

Managers, in addition to finding these individual meanings, must in order to be successful, take-on the responsibility of establishing the best possible working circumstances, both for themselves and for their employees. Applying the basis of Herzberg’s theory, certainly has the potential to create harmony, and hence a workforce motivated and satisfied with their jobs. It is highly probable that the output of the organisation will thereby be optimised as well.


Ajzen, I. & Fishibein, M (1980), Understanding Attitudes and Predicting Social Behaviour, Pentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ

Hertzberg, Frederick (1959) The Motivation to Work, New York.

Herzberg, F. (1987) ‘One More Time: How do you motivate your Employees? New York.

Locke, E.A. (1970) ‘The supervision is a motivator’, Washington DC

Locke, E. A. (1975) ‘The nature and cost of job satisfaction’ Chicago, Illinois.

Maslow, A.H (1954) ‘Motivation and Personality’, Harper & Row Publisher, New York, NY. 04 Nov 16:30 “Management for the rest of us” 15 Nov 12:00 26 Nov 14:30

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