Herzberg's Two-Factor Theory of Motivation

Motivation to Work, written by Redrick Herzberg and co-authors Mausner and Snyderman, is where the groundwork for the motivation-hygiene theory was first laid. According to Herzberg, who was influenced by Maslow's hierarchy of requirements, it is impossible to compare feelings of contentment and discontentment in the workplace. He then set out to find out what parts of work life make people happy or unhappy

What is Herzberg's Two-Factor Theory of Motivation?

A "two-factor theory" hypothesis attempts to explain what makes an individual happy and what drives them to work hard. What are these two elements?

  • Happiness at work (emotional and physical)

  • Discontentment in One's Current Employment (motivational)

As soon as American psychologist Frederick Irving Herzberg published his theory in the Harvard Business Review in 1968, it became the most sought-after piece in the journal's history. According to Herzberg, there was a clear distinction between these two effects on worker productivity. Individuals might be affected in different ways by effective and motivational variables. A person can be happy in their job yet still lack the drive to pursue their ambitions.

Motivation Factors

It includes


According to Herzberg, success in the workplace is defined as improving one's standing or position. Promotion may be risky if you receive a negative or indifferent review at work.

The work itself

Depending on the specifics of their professions, employees may experience either a favorable or negative emotional influence. How satisfied or dissatisfied one is with one's job often depends on how interesting and challenging the work is.

Possibility for growth

Like Maslow's idea of self-actualization, the opportunity for promotion exists so that people can keep growing as professionals. Putting time and money into improving one's character can lead to more job opportunities, better access to training, and more knowledge about one's chosen field.


We allude to someone's responsibilities and authority when discussing their responsibilities. People thrive when given autonomy. Unhappiness at work is linked to inequitable tasks and power distribution.


Workers feel acknowledged when praised for achieving goals or producing excellent results. Negative recognition includes apologies and reprimands.


Completing a challenging task on time, resolving a work-related issue, or observing positive outcomes directly from one's efforts are all achievements. Not accomplishing anything at work or making terrible decisions in the workplace are examples of negative achievements.

Hygiene Factors

Those things that make people more comfortable at work are called "hygiene factors" here. According to Herzberg, concerns about personal hygiene are motivated by a "want to avoid discomfort" rather than by a need to get the job done effectively. Hygiene elements are less likely to be task-specific and more likely to be related to the worker's interactions with others, the company's policies and administration, the quality of their working communication with management, and also the working environment itself.

Interpersonal relations

A person's interpersonal relationships consist of interactions with his or her superiors, peers, and subordinates in the workplace. This can be seen, for instance, in conversations about business and more casual conversations about personal matters during breaks.


Wage rises and decreases in hoped-for wage hikes are both aspects of salary

Company policies and administration

The clarity of a company's organizational and managerial policies and standards also affects how well they are administered. Unhappiness on the job can be caused by needing to pass on responsibilities, having clear policies and procedures, and the inability to communicate well.


An employee's assessment of his or her supervisor's competency and fairness is an important part of supervision. Examples of such qualities in a supervisor are knowledge of the task at hand, openness to receiving responsibility, and willingness to delegate. Dissatisfaction with one's job might increase when management and leadership are subpar.

Working conditions

Finally, "working circumstances" refers to the standard (or lack thereof) of the real workplace. Things like the amount of work, the size of the office, the quality of the ventilation system, the availability of necessary equipment, the weather, and the level of security can make or break a workplace.

Critical Evaluation

There is scant evidence to support the two-factor paradigm. Herzberg's technique and assumptions are at the heart of most of the complaints against his thesis. Some people have said that if personal hygiene and motivational factors are both important, they should be just as good at getting people to do their best. When businesses were more formal and hierarchical, Herzberg was a pioneer in studying organizational motivation. As the focus of businesses shifted from mass production to innovation, new theories of motivation emerged, such as those with roots in behaviorism

Many further studies followed the publication of Herzberg's results. Studies using more conventional research methods, such as questionnaires, lend credence to the idea that job pleasure and discontentment are opposite ends of the same spectrum. However, studies using Herzberg's methodology, the critical incident framework, corroborated his original findings. Soon after Motivation at work came out, a well-known critique of this phenomenon was made. When people were asked to remember good and bad work moments, they tended to protect their egos by attributing good moments to their accomplishments, skills, and bad moments to work.


Perhaps, approximately 200 participants in Herzberg's first qualitative study were biased in recalling positive and negative prior experiences with job satisfaction. Skeptics, however, struggled to fathom how Herzberg's method could produce such uniform results. On the other hand, Skeptics kept saying that Herzberg's results were due to social confirmation bias and differences in people's personalities

Updated on: 06-Jan-2023


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