Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory of Work Motivation

prabodh tuladhar
3 min readJun 2, 2020

According to the two factor theory, the primary determinants of job satisfaction are intrinsic aspects called motivators and the primary determinants of job dissatisfaction are extrinsic aspects called hygienes. The theory states that job satisfaction and dissatisfactions are affected by two different set of factors that act independently of each other, and, hence cannot be measured in the same continuum.

The theory challenged the dominant assumption prevailing at that time which was that job satisfaction and dissatisfaction could be presented in the same continuum. The previous theory held the belief that the midpoint of the continuum would indicate that an individual was neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. An improvement in a set of factors would incline the individual towards the satisfied spectrum of the continuum whereas the deterioration of those factors would have the opposite effect.

Traditional vs Herzberg’s Views

The two factor theory came about as a result of an original study conducted by Herzberg, Mauser, and Snyderman in 1959. The study was conducted on 203 accountants and engineers at nine sites in Pittsburg. The participants were asked to describe specific instances when they felt exceptionally good or exceptionally bad about their jobs. The participants were then asked to rate their experiences.

Herzberg’s Theory suggests that job satisfaction and dissatisfactions are independent. The managers must attend to both the factors that cause satisfaction and dissatisfaction. The manager should not assume that an increase in satisfaction leads to a decrease in dissatisfaction.

In his research, Herzberg found that a large number of factors can be a source of dissatisfaction whereas only a small number of factors contributed to the satisfaction. He classified these factors into two categories: Motivators (factors of satisfaction) and Hygienes (factors of dissatisfaction). The satisfaction of hygiene needs can prevent dissatisfaction and poor performance while the fulfillment of motivators leads to productivity improvements. Logically four different combinations of Motivators and Hygiene can exist.

  • High hygiene and high motivation
  • High hygiene and low motivation
  • Low hygiene and high motivation
  • Low hygiene and low motivation
Motivators and Hygiene factors Matrix

In conclusion,

  • The theory states that the satisfaction and dissatisfaction are caused by different sets of factors.
  • These factors (motivators and hygienes) are independent of each other.
  • The increase in satisfaction may not lead to the decrease of dissatisfaction