Herzberg's Motivators and Hygiene Factors

Learn How to Motivate Your Team

Hygiene Factors

Hygiene factors are not the same as motivators!

© iStockphoto/Feverpitched

What do people want from their jobs? Do they want just a higher salary? Or do they want security, good relationships with co-workers, opportunities for growth and advancement – or something else altogether?

This is an important question, because it's at the root of motivation, the art of engaging with members of your team in such a way that they give their very best performance.

The psychologist Fredrick Herzberg asked the same question in the 1950s and 60s as a means of understanding employee satisfaction. He set out to determine the effect of attitude on motivation, by asking people to describe situations where they felt really good, and really bad, about their jobs. What he found was that people who felt good about their jobs gave very different responses from the people who felt bad.

These results form the basis of Herzberg's Motivation-Hygiene Theory (sometimes known as Herzberg's Two Factor Theory.) Published in his famous article "One More Time: How do You Motivate Employees", the conclusions he drew were extraordinarily influential, and still form the bedrock of good motivational practice nearly half a century later.

Motivation-Hygiene Theory

Herzberg's findings revealed that certain characteristics of a job are consistently related to job satisfaction, while different factors are associated with job dissatisfaction. These are:

Factors for Satisfaction Factors for Dissatisfaction



The work itself




Company policies


Relationship with supervisor and peers

Work conditions




From 'One More Time: How do You Motivate Employees?' by Frederick Herzberg. Harvard Business Review © 1968.

The conclusion he drew is that job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction are not opposites.

  • The opposite of Satisfaction is No Satisfaction.
  • The opposite of Dissatisfaction is No Dissatisfaction.

Remedying the causes of dissatisfaction will not create satisfaction. Nor will adding the factors of job satisfaction eliminate job dissatisfaction. If you have a hostile work environment, giving someone a promotion will not make him or her satisfied. If you create a healthy work environment but do not provide members of your team with any of the satisfaction factors, the work they're doing will still not be satisfying.

According to Herzberg, the factors leading to job satisfaction are "separate and distinct from those that lead to job dissatisfaction." Therefore, if you set about eliminating dissatisfying job factors you may create peace, but not necessarily enhance performance. This placates your workforce instead of actually motivating them to improve performance.

The characteristics associated with job dissatisfaction are called hygiene factors. When these have been adequately addressed, people will not be dissatisfied nor will they be satisfied. If you want to motivate your team, you then have to focus on satisfaction factors like achievement, recognition, and responsibility.


Despite its wide acceptance, the theory has its detractors. Some say its methodology does not address the notion that when things are going well people tend to look at the things they enjoy about their job. When things are going badly, however, they tend to blame external factors.

Another common criticism is the fact that the theory assumes a strong correlation between job satisfaction and productivity. Herzberg's methodology did not address this relationship, therefore this assumption needs to be correct for his findings to have practical relevance.

To apply the theory, you need to adopt a two stage process to motivate people. Firstly, you need eliminate the dissatisfactions they're experiencing and, secondly, you need to help them find satisfaction.

Step One: Eliminate Job Dissatisfaction

Herzberg called the causes of dissatisfaction "hygiene factors". To get rid of them, you need to:

  • Fix poor and obstructive company policies.
  • Provide effective, supportive and non-intrusive supervision.
  • Create and support a culture of respect and dignity for all team members.
  • Ensure that wages are competitive.
  • Build job status by providing meaningful work for all positions.
  • Provide job security.

All of these actions help you eliminate job dissatisfaction in your organization. And there's no point trying to motivate people until these issues are out of the way!

You can't stop there, though. Remember, just because someone is not dissatisfied, it doesn't mean he or she is satisfied either! Now you have to turn your attention to building job satisfaction.

Step Two: Create Conditions for Job Satisfaction

To create satisfaction, Herzberg says you need to address the motivating factors associated with work. He called this "job enrichment". His premise was that every job should be examined to determine how it could be made better and more satisfying to the person doing the work. Things to consider include:

  • Providing opportunities for achievement.
  • Recognizing workers' contributions.
  • Creating work that is rewarding and that matches the skills and abilities of the worker.
  • Giving as much responsibility to each team member as possible.
  • Providing opportunities to advance in the company through internal promotions.
  • Offering training and development opportunities, so that people can pursue the positions they want within the company.

Tip 1:

Here we're approaching the subject of motivation in a very general way. In reality, you'll need "different strokes for different folks" – in other words, different people will perceive different issues, and will be motivated by different things. Make sure you talk with your people regularly on a one-to-one basis to find out what matters to them.

Tip 2:

This theory is largely responsible for the practice of allowing people greater responsibility for planning and controlling their work, as a means of increasing motivation and satisfaction. To learn more about this, see the Mind Tools article on job enrichment  .

Key Points

The relationship between motivation and job satisfaction is not overly complex. The problem is that many employers look at the hygiene factors as ways to motivate when in fact, beyond the very short term, they do very little to motivate.

Perhaps managers like to use this approach because they think people are more financially motivated than, perhaps, they are, or perhaps it just takes less management effort to raise wages than it does to reevaluate company policy, and redesign jobs for maximum satisfaction.

When you're seeking to motivate people, firstly get rid of the things that are annoying them about the company and the workplace. Make sure they're treated fairly, and with respect.

Once you've done this, look for ways in which you can help people grow within their jobs, give them opportunities for achievement, and praise that achievement wherever you find it.

Apply This to Your Life

If you lead a team, take a little time with each of the members of your team to check that they're happy, that they think they're being fairly and respectfully treated, and that they're not being affected by unnecessary bureaucracy.

You may be horrified by what you find once you start probing (bureaucracy, in particular, has a way of spreading), however you may be able to improve things quickly if you put your mind to it.

Then find out what they want from their jobs, do what you can to give this to them, and help them grow as individuals.

If you do this systematically, you'll be amazed by the impact this has on motivation!

To explore how you can apply this at work, take our Bite-Sized Training session on Motivating Your Team.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter, or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career!

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Comments (16)
  • zuni wrote Over a month ago
    Hi all,

    I consider Herzberg's two-factor theory, Expectancy theory and Adams Equity theory as "old friends". If you look behind all of the research on Employee Engagement and retention, you will find strong ties to these theories. Compensation strategy also uses these theories as the foundation of sound practice.

  • bigk wrote Over a month ago

    Value and worth are always good to highlight and give better interaction and feedback among people. They do need good reward.

    Better options to help give incentive and motivation are not always just that money item, giving and creating opportunity and development help people to assess their contributions and interactions.

  • Midgie wrote Over a month ago
    Hi Bronte,
    Thanks for sharing that info.
    The top motivator was "informal feedback from a knowledgable source."

    That re-affirms my personal belief that money isn't everything which motivates employees to do well!! Plus, in these economic times where increase in salaries and bonuses may not be on the cards, a well-deserved praise and acknowledgement from the boss (or even the boss' boss) goes a long way!

  • Bronte wrote Over a month ago
    The Washington based Corporate Leadership Council did a global survey of around 24,000 employees in hundreds of companies, about what were the greatest motivators for improving performance. The top motivator was "informal feedback from a knowledgable source." That sounds like Hertzberg's recognition to me. Interesting to see if verified by such a large survey, which covered differenct industries and countries. This reinforces for me the value of finding a good boss!
  • Rachel wrote Over a month ago
    Hi All

    I've chosen our article on Herzberg's Motivators and Hygiene Factors to be our Featured Favorite this week, because it's such a fundamental concept in the area of motivating others.

    And that's why it's often one of the first topics taught on MBA classes! So make sure you're "in the know" by clicking the link below to read more.

    Best wishes

  • cobberas wrote Over a month ago
    Well, wilya look at that! It's almost exactly 2 years since I first read and commented on this article. My, how my work environment has changed!!

    My thoughts about the article this time around are - why wait for the boss to make sure our motivators and hygiene factors are being met? There's a lot we can do for ourselves.

    (whose boss is the most hands-off non-manager I've ever seen)
  • cobberas wrote Over a month ago
    Thanks for pointing those out to me Helena. There really is SOOOOOO much terrific stuff on this website that I figured they must be in here somewhere!
  • Helena wrote Over a month ago
    Hi Cos

    We entirely agree with you about how interesting Martin Seligman's work is! Have you spotted our Book Insight of his book "Learned Optimism" here:

    http://www.mindtools.com/community/Prem ... d_Optimism

    And also Bruna Martinuzzi's article on Optimism which discusses some of his ideas:

    http://www.mindtools.com/community/page ... LDR_72.php

    Best wishes

  • cobberas wrote Over a month ago
    I had a few thoughts / quandaries about this article when I read it in view of helping a work colleague with motivation:

    Re: Factors for Satisfaction and Factors for Dissatisfaction

    What about outside-of-work factors, such as personal issues, health issues, etc? They may not be within the bounds of what an employer can address directly but surely they need to be taken into consideration when considering improving a person's motivation at work.

    Some say its methodology does not address the notion that when things are going well people tend to look at the things they enjoy about their job. When things are going badly, however, they tend to blame external factors.
    This notion holds for some, but not all, people. According to Martin Seligman's theory of optimism/pessimism, people who blame external factors for things going badly are inherently optimistic; conversely, inherently pessimistic people tend to blame internal factors (ie. themselves) for negative events. In short, people's response to things going well or badly appears to depend on their style of explaining the positive and negative events that happen in their lives. The correlation between Seligman's theory and Herzberg's model is therefore probably a case-by-case phenomenon.

    the theory assumes a strong correlation between job satisfaction and productivity.
    There's much evidence for a strong correlation between optimism (according to Seligman's model) and productivity. So perhaps the correlation between job satisfaction and productivity again occurs on a case-by-case basis, depending on a person's response to positive/negative events. I wonder if anyone's tested this theory. It would be very interesting given Seligman's proposal that optimism (by his definition) can be learned by inherently pessimistic people, and improved in already-optimistic thinkers.

    Perhaps our motivation can be improved by simply learning to adopt a more optimistic framing of a situation - and by that I don't mean simply looking at the situation through rose-coloured glasses. Seligman's definition of pessimistic / optimistic framing is very specific ... and I think worthy of a presentation on this website!

  • James wrote Over a month ago
    Just a note to link this tool with Expectancy Theory, as explained at http://www.mindtools.com/community/pages/article/newTMM_73.php For me, these are probably the two most important ideas in motivation!
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