Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory Theory of Motivation and Hygiene

Motivation is an individual’s direction to behavior, in other words, it is a cause behind either repeating a specific behavior or doing otherwise. A motive prompts the person to act in a particular way, or develop a tendency to certain behavior. “Motivation is a word that is part of the popular culture as few other psychological concepts are”, as per Maehr and Meyer.

Frederick Herzberg published his studies, on various aspects present in a work environment which have a significant impact on employees’ motivation levels, in the book ‘The Motivation to Work’ in 1959.

Satisfaction Factors Dissatisfaction Factors
Recognition Work conditions
Achievement Salary
Growth Company policy
Responsibility Relationship with colleagues
Advancement opportunities Supervision
Sense of importance Relationship with boss


Herzberg’s Theory of Motivation also known as the two- factor theory is based on the principle that job satisfaction and dissatisfaction act independent to each other. At any workplace, some particular factors can be attributed to job satisfaction while other factors are responsible for job dissatisfaction.

Factors for Satisfaction – Motivators

There are numerous factors which can motivate employees as identified in this theory. The factors commonly observed that positively influence satisfaction called Motivators include work nature, recognition to one’s achievement, advancement opportunities, responsibility, sense of importance, and inclusion in decision-making process.

Factors for Dissatisfaction – Hygiene

There are apparently more reasons causing dissatisfaction than satisfaction. Factors commonly observed that cause dissatisfaction as per the theory and are called Hygiene include unfair company policies, relationship with supervisor, micro management, compensation, working conditions, peer set, job security, status etc.

Both factors are independent of each other

It should be noted that as per the two-factor theory, above stated factors of satisfaction and dissatisfaction act independently and absence of one does not lead to the presence of another. For instance, the absence of responsibility does not lead to dissatisfaction, it is just not a state of satisfaction. And the absence of unfair company policies does not lead to satisfaction, it is simply not being dissatisfied.

Combinations of Motivators and Hygiene factors

Simple combinations of Motivators and Hygiene factors can produce a useful matrix gauging motivation of an employee and subsequently success for a firm. Following is the set of those possible combinations:

  • High Motivation and High Hygiene: As sounds, it is an idyllic combination, and everyone would want to achieve this. From an organization perspective, it results in high motivation and low complaints amongst employees.
  • High Motivation and Low Hygiene: Employees are significantly motivated but still pose numerous complaints. For instance, consider a job which is challenging and rewarding but policies and work conditions are not well accepted.
  • Low Motivation and High Hygiene: In such situations, employees are happy doing their job, earning salaries at the end of the day but lack the desire to take initiatives and mark a difference for their organization. The job is synonymous to a paycheck.
  • Low Motivation and Low Hygiene: Worst position to be in for any organization. This can be compared to a sight of failing organization reducing its presence and operations, while every employee is looking out for practically no incentive to work.

Criticisms and Support to the Theory

The biggest criticism faced by the theory is that Motivators and Hygiene factors are described as independent and guidance that they should be measured on distinct scales. To state an example, compensation is one of the biggest factor that in today’s world can easily influence one’s satisfaction levels and turn into dissatisfaction if considered inadequate.

Moreover, the theory does not accommodate individual personalities, which can make one distinctly respond to motivators or hygiene factors.

Furthermore, there are scientists who have challenged the very basic principle of this theory, that happy and satisfied employees are more productive, while in the real world it is not necessary. It is argued that it is rather opposite, productive workers are happier and satisfied.

On the other hand, there are studies which support the theory and its principles. A book in the name “First, break all the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently” includes results of a study by Gallup Organization, where twelve questions were prepared demonstrating a framework to determine performing individuals and organizations. These twelve questions completely map to Herzberg’s motivation factors, while hygiene factors resulted in having little or no effect on motivating better performance.

Other Comparable Motivational Theory

Maslow’s theory of motivation: This is another renowned theory in psychology, which is widely accepted and implemented in the modern world. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs sketches a five-level pyramid model defining human needs at different levels. Per the theory, human needs scale up from basic necessities to a stage of self-transcendence. Physiological needs sit at the bottom representing food, water, warmth, rest. A level up is Security needs, moving up to Belongingness and love needs, Esteem needs and Self-Actualization needs, in that order.

Maslow stated that rarely individuals reach self-actualization stage since the society primarily acknowledges motivation based on esteem, love and other social needs.