Herzburg Two Factor Theory – Definition

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Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory Definition

The Herzburg two-factor theory, also known as the Herzburg Hygiene Theory, posits that job satisfaction and dissatisfaction with employment are not opposites. The research underpinning this theory identifies characteristics of jobs that related to job satisfaction; while a different set of job factors lead to dissatisfaction. Thus, eliminating dissatisfaction will not necessarily create satisfaction and vice versa.

A Little More on What is Herzburg’s Two-Factor Theory

Frederick Herzberg proposed the two-factor theory based upon what employment characteristics satisfy employees. He was able to conclude that satisfying and dissatisfying characteristics are different.

  • Hygiene Factors – Dissatisfying factors are labeled as “hygiene” factors – as they are part of the context in which the job was performed (rather than functions of the job itself). Common hygiene factors include: word conditions, company policies, supervisions, salary, safety, and security.
  • Motivators – Satisfying factors were labeled as motivators. Motivators, in contrast to hygiene factors, are factors are intrinsic to the job. Common hygiene factors include: personal recognition, achievement, engaging work, meaningful responsibilities, career advancement, and personal growth opportunities.

Herzberg’s research found that motivators were fare more effective in motivating employee productivity.

This theory provided a way to motivate through improved work conditions – which lead to a burgeoning of “job enrichment” programs. These programs contained higher numbers of motivators.

The primary criticisms of this approach concern the definition of job satisfaction. Also, there are issues in the ability to differentiate hygienes from motivators. In some instances, variations of a factor could be each. Also, it fails to address the quality of the relationship between management and subordinates.

Even More on What is Hygiene Theory?

The theory originates from an article published by psychologist and researcher, Frederick Herzberg, “One More Time: How do You Motivate Employee”. The theory is foundational in modern leadership and management education and practice.

Dr. Herzburg undertook research to identify the factors that provide job satisfaction as well as the factors leading to dissatisfaction (referred to as hygiene factors). Surprisingly, they were different. The research further indicated that relieving factors causing dissatisfaction did not automatically result in satisfaction. Further, adding factors that add to satisfaction did not automatically reduce dissatisfaction. The conclusion was that to remove dissatisfaction, the manager must identify and remove the factors causing it. To improve satisfaction, you must add those desired factors. Though, this can only be effective after removing aspects of dissatisfaction. For example, adding more pay will not remedy dissatisfaction with the work environment.

Applying this theory to management practice requires developing a plan to remove dissatisfaction and then add factors for satisfaction. The first step requires identifying the hygiene or dissatisfaction factors. This can be difficult to do, as employees may be reticent to identify these factors. Further, employees may not sufficiently understand their long-term personal motivations adequately to identify their satisfaction factors.

References for Herzburg Hygiene Theory

Academic Research on Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory

Determinants of business student satisfaction and retention in higher education: applying Herzberg’s twofactor theory, DeShields Jr, O. W., Kara, A., & Kaynak, E. (2005). Determinants of business student satisfaction and retention in higher education: applying Herzberg’s two-factor theory. International journal of educational management19(2), 128-139. Using empirical data and Herzberg’s two‐factor theory, a modified version of the questionnaire developed by Keaveney and Young was administered to approximately 160 undergraduate business students at a state university in South Central Pennsylvania. Using path analysis, the hypothesized effects were tested empirically by incorporating a comprehensive set of independent variables and self‐reported experiential assessments to predict experience, which in turn related to student satisfaction.

Comparative study of Herzberg’s twofactor theory of job satisfaction among public and private sectors, Maidani, E. A. (1991). Comparative study of Herzberg’s two-factor theory of job satisfaction among public and private sectors. Public personnel management20(4), 441-448. The purpose of this study was to identify through hypothesis testing how Herzberg’s theory of job satisfaction applied to two different working populations using a questionnaire based on Herzberg’s classification scheme. The study was conducted using private and public sector employees for comparison analysis. The t-test technique was applied and the t-value was computed to test the four formulated hypotheses in order to determine whether any significant differences were revealed between the two employee groups.

Herzberg’s TwoFactor Theory of work motivation tested empirically on seasonal workers in hospitality and tourism, Lundberg, C., Gudmundson, A., & Andersson, T. D. (2009). Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory of work motivation tested empirically on seasonal workers in hospitality and tourism. Tourism management30(6), 890-899. The objective of this study was to understand work motivation in a sample of seasonal workers at a tourism destination strongly steered by seasonality. Furthermore, it was investigated whether seasonal workers could be divided into worker subgroups on the basis of their work motivation. A structural equations model tested Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory of work motivation empirically. The findings of the study support the Two-Factor Theory of work motivation.

Application of Frederick Herzberg’s TwoFactor theory in assessing and understanding employee motivation at work: a Ghanaian Perspective, Dartey-Baah, K., & Amoako, G. K. (2011). Application of Frederick Herzberg’s Two-Factor theory in assessing and understanding employee motivation at work: a Ghanaian Perspective. European Journal of Business and Management3(9), 1-8. This paper critically examines Frederick Herzberg’s two-factor theory and assesses its application and relevance in understanding the essential factors that motivate the Ghanaian worker. The two-factor theory of motivation explains the factors that employees find satisfying and dissatisfying about their jobs. This paper adds to the understanding of what motivates the Ghanaian worker most and creates the platform for a re-evaluation of the thinking and viewpoint that workers rate motivator factors higher than the hygiene factors in the work setting.

Is there a valid test of Herzberg’s twofactor theory?, Gardner, G. (1977). Is there a valid test of Herzberg’s two‐factor theory?. Journal of Occupational Psychology50(3), 197-204. This paper explores the several ways of stating Herzberg’s two‐factor theory of motivation, as well as the different methods of testing this theory. The paper argues that there is more than one valid test of Herzberg’s two‐factor theory, though some of these are likely to produce contradictory results.

The relationship between Herzberg’s twofactor theory and quality improvement implementation, Utley, D. R., Westbrook, J., & Turner, S. (1997). The relationship between Herzberg’s two-factor theory and quality improvement implementation. Engineering Management Journal9(3), 5-14. This paper documents a study which was conducted in nine organizations to investigate the relationship between the use of Herzberg’s two-factor theory of job satisfaction and the successful implementation of quality improvement management.

Herzberg’s twofactor theory of job satisfaction: An integrative literature review, Stello, C. M. (2011). Herzberg’s two-factor theory of job satisfaction: An integrative literature review. In Unpublished paper presented at The 2011 Student Research Conference: Exploring Opportunities in Research, Policy, and Practice, University of Minnesota Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development, Minneapolis, MN.

On the nature of attributional artifacts in qualitative research: Herzberg’s twofactor theory of work motivation, Farr, R. M. (1977). Journal of Occupational Psychology50(1), 3-14. This paper explores the concept of Herzberg’s notion of attribution.

Herzberg’s twofactor theory of job attitudes: a critical evaluation and some fresh evidence, Wall, T. D., & Stephenson, G. M. (1970). Herzberg’s two‐factor theory of job attitudes: a critical evaluation and some fresh evidence. Industrial Relations Journal1(3), 41-65. This evaluation of Herzberg’s theory of motivation discusses its ambiguities and the influence of the tendency for people to give “socially desirable” answers. The authors acknowledge that a policy of job enrichment derived from the application of the theory would be likely to promote satisfaction and allay dissatisfaction. A concise summary of their analysis and conclusions is given at the end of the article.

Herzberg’s two factor theory: Consistency versus method dependency, French, E. B., Metersky, M. L., Thaler, D. S., & TREXLER, J. T. (1973). Personnel psychology26(3), 369-375.

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