#TheoryThursday: Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory

So I have set myself a little project of exploring the most prominent theories of motivation. The primary reason for this is because I am so currently set on the fact that we all act under the force of negative motivation that I thought this can’t always be the most driving factor for people. I need to educate myself.

Through exploring the works of some of the most respected psychologists, I am hoping to learn (and therefore share with you lucky lot) other reasons why we do what we do. Why we push our bodies and minds to the limit – sometimes with very little in return. I want to know why some people go above and beyond what is expected of them and why some people are content being unmotivated and plod along with seeming lack of conviction for anything.

So, first up – Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory.

Herzberg’s theory has been used across business’ to improve employee engagement and motivation for quite some time and is a well respected and widely spread motivation theory. Herzberg had close links with Maslow (hierarchy of needs), and he believed there were two factors which determines a person’s motivation.

In most cases, “the person” is referred to as “the employee”. He proposed that there were certain factors that businesses could implement which can directly motivate employees to work harder – motivators. BUT he also argued that there were hygiene factors which were essentially factors that would de-motivate employees if they were not present.

To explain further, MOTIVATORS are more closely linked to the job in hand. This can involve how varied and interesting the work is. It can also relate to how much opportunity it can provide for an employee in terms of career growth, recognition and opportunities – e.g. promotion.

HYGIENE FACTORS on the other hand, are more related to the external factors which aren’t necessarily related to the job itself. These factors can include; pay, working conditions, colleagues, and management. These are not things which will make a person motivated to work harder, however a LACK of these elements will have an adverse effect and de-motivate an employee.

In order to motivate employees (motivators), Herzberg suggested the following methods for employers to implement in their business:

  • Job enlargement – variety of tasks within a job role. This provides a more interesting scope of jobs to complete. These shouldn’t make the role more challenging, but instead more interesting.
  • Job enrichment – this mainly involves providing employees with responsibility for more complex and challenging tasks which gives them a sense of achievement and worth within the organisation. People feel valued if they feel they are engaging in a complex or more challenging role.
  • Empowerment – offering an employee the power to delegate may not come easy to some organisations where the management structure is already set. But giving employees choice over delegation and decision-making means they have more control over their working life.

So what can you take from this?

I suppose the conclusion Herzberg came to, is that job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction are not opposites. Because you aren’t dissatisfied doesn’t necessarily mean you are satisfied.

Simply remedying the causes of dissatisfaction won’t create satisfaction, and nor will adding elements of satisfaction make the bad “dissatisfying” elements any less hard to deal with.

I know I can personally relate to this in as much as I have tried to make the best of a bad situation at times by creating more opportunities out of it, instead of dealing with the root cause of dissatisfaction first. This sounds all so vague and hard to apply to particular situations. So here is an example – a job promotion with extra responsibility will not distract you from the dissatisfaction of working in a hostile environment or with lack of resources.

Although it can be used for a variety of situations, Herzberg’s theory of motivation has been used primarily for the workplace, and I think it offers plenty of ammunition for change once you have identified what it is that makes you dissatisfied in your job. What things can you change, and what can’t you change? Does this therefore mean that in order to be satisfied and motivated you need to seek a new career? Do you need to approach your manager about basic “hygiene factors”? Or perhaps your workplace is simply “ok” but not very stimulating and you need to consider taking more on.

Next week, I’ll be discussing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a slightly more elaborate version of this theory. But hopefully any readers have been given some food for thought J Happy working….

One thought on “#TheoryThursday: Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory

  1. Martyn says:

    Another really interesting blog, like you, I also have an interest in psychology, especially in relation to motivation and what drives us. I’ve been reading up on a subject which is extremely interesting and I thought I’d share with you- it’s called ‘negativity bias of the brain’ I’ll let you read into it as it’ll take me a while to explain but in a nutshell it’s how the human brain is simply built with a greater sensitivity to unpleasant news and negative situations. It really interesting and well worth a read. I’m currently still browsing through articles on this subject myself, I never realised I was such a geek but this stuff is so interesting and I’m bettering myself from it and learning loads in the process! Thumbs up for another great post!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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