Herzberg’s Theory of Motivation

Herzberg’s theory is that Employee Motivation is affected both by the employee’s level of satisfaction and dissatisfaction and that, importantly, these two elements are independent of one another. That is to say that although an employee can be satisfied by the elements of their job which are intrinsic to the job itself, such as achievement and recognition, while at the same time being dissatisfied by the elements which are secondary factors of the work – pay and benefits, job security and relationships with co-workers.

This was described by Herzberg as the Motivation-Hygiene Theory. Elements which are done because they are essential to the job were considered the “motivation” part of the theory. They were done because they had to be done; therefore the worker was “motivated” to carry them out. Carrying these tasks out was considered to be the motivation of the employee, because they were required or compelled to do them. Having work to do demand that the worker rise to – and meet – a challenge, their motivation was set in stone.

The “hygiene” element, rather than a reference to personal hygiene and cleanliness as one might assume, was actually a reference to the upkeep of personal determination. They were things that needed to be constantly maintained because they were not intrinsic to the job. Herzberg’s assertion was that the opposite of satisfaction was not Dissatisfaction, but rather an absence of satisfaction. Similarly, the opposite of dissatisfaction was an absence of dissatisfaction rather than simply satisfaction. In terms of motivating employees, it is important to encourage satisfaction on the one hand, and avoid dissatisfaction on the other.