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Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory
Psychologist and management consultant Frederick Herzberg developed the two-factor
content theory of motivation .
29 The two factors are the dissatisfiers-satisfiers, the hygienemotivators, or the extrinsic–intrinsic factors, depending on who’s discussing the theory.
The original research testing this theory included a group of 200 accountants and engineers. Herzberg used interview responses to questions such as, “Can you describe, in detail,
when you felt exceptionally good about your job?” and “Can you describe, in detail, when
you felt exceptionally bad about your job?” Rarely were the same kinds of experiences
categorized as both good and bad. This systematic procedure resulted in the development
of two distinct kinds of experiences: satisfiers and dissatisfiers.
Herzberg’s initial study resulted in two specific conclusions. First, there’s a set of extrinsic conditions, the job context. They include pay, status, and working conditions. The
presence of these conditions to the satisfaction of the employee doesn’t necessarily motivate him, but their absence results in dissatisfaction. Because they’re needed to maintain at
least a level of “no dissatisfaction,” the extrinsic conditions are called the dissatisfiers, or
Second, a set of intrinsic conditions, the job content, is also present. These conditions
include feelings of achievement, increased responsibility, and recognition. The absence of
these conditions doesn’t prove highly dissatisfying. But when present, they build strong
levels of motivation that result in good job performance. Therefore, they’re called the satisfiers, or motivators.
Prior to Herzberg’s work, people studying motivation viewed job satisfaction as a unidimensional concept. That is, they placed job satisfaction at one end of a continuum and job
dissatisfaction at the other end of the same continuum. If a job condition caused job satisfaction, removing it would cause dissatisfaction; similarly, if a job condition caused job
dissatisfaction, removing it would cause job satisfaction. Herzberg’s model basically assumes
that job satisfaction isn’t a unidimensional concept. His research leads to the conclusion
that two continua are needed to interpret job satisfaction correctly. Figure 5.3 illustrates the
two different views of job satisfaction.
Herzberg’s two-factor theory of motivation View that job satisfaction results from the presence of intrinsic motivators and that job dissatisfaction stems from not having extrinsic factors.
Part Two Behavior within Organizations: The Individual Referring to Figure 5.3, several important managerial implications of Herzberg’s two-factor theory are apparent:
1. Low job dissatisfaction, high job satisfaction: An employee who is paid well, has job
security, has good relationships with co-workers and the supervisor (hygiene factors are
present 5 low job dissatisfaction), and is given challenging duties for which he or she is
accountable will be motivated. Managers should continue to assign challenging tasks and
transfer accountability to high performing subordinates. Pay raises, job security, and good
supervision need to be continued.
2. Low job dissatisfaction, low job satisfaction: An employee who is paid well, has
job security, has good relationships with co-workers and the supervisor (hygiene factors
are present 5 low job dissatisfaction) but is not given any challenging assignments and is
very bored with his or her job (motivators are absent 5 no job satisfaction) will not be
Managers should reevaluate subordinate’s job description and enlarge it by providing
more challenging and interesting assignments. Pay raises, job security, and good supervision need to be continued.
3. High job dissatisfaction, low job satisfaction: An employee who is not paid well,
has little job security, has poor relationships with co-workers and the supervisor (hygiene
factors are not present 5 high job dissatisfaction) and is not given any challenging assignments and is very bored with his/her job (motivators are absent 5 low job satisfaction) will
not be motivated.
To prevent low performance, absenteeism, and turnover, managers should make drastic
changes by adding hygiene factors and motivators.
High job dissatisfaction High job satisfaction
II. Herzberg’s two-factor view
Low job satisfaction High job satisfaction
High job dissatisfaction Low job dissatisfaction
• Feeling of achievement
• Meaningful work
• Opportunities for advancement
• Increased responsibility
• Opportunities for growth
• Job security
• Working conditions
• Fringe benefits
• Policies and procedures
• Interpersonal relations
Chapter 5 Motivation: Background and Theories 135
Critique of Herzberg’s Theory
Of all the available content theories, we believe the most criticized is Herzberg’s. Several
reasons account for this. First, the theory was originally based on a sample of American
accountants and engineers. Critics ask whether this limited sample can justify generalizing
to other occupational groups and to other countries. The technology, environment, and
background of the two occupational groups are distinctly different from those of other
groups, such as nurses, medical technologists, salespeople, computer programmers, clerks,
and police officers. 30
Second, some researchers believe that Herzberg’s work oversimplifies the nature of
job satisfaction, leading to the assumption that a manager can easily change hygiene factors or satisfiers and thus produce job satisfaction. This, of course, isn’t an accurate view
of how complex and difficult motivation and job satisfaction are in terms of workplace
Other critics focus on Herzberg’s methodology because it requires people to look at
themselves retrospectively. Can people be aware of all that motivated or dissatisfied them?
These critics believe subconscious factors aren’t identified in Herzberg’s analysis. Also,
the “recency of events” bias of being able to recall one’s most recent job conditions and
feelings better than those occurring in the past is embedded in the methodology. 31
Another criticism of Herzberg’s work is that little attention is directed toward testing the
theory’s performance implications. 32 In the original study, only self-reports of performance
were used, and in most cases, respondents were reporting on job activities that had occurred
over a long period. Herzberg has offered no explanation as to why the various extrinsic and
intrinsic job factors should affect performance.
When the available evidence is reviewed, it’s surprising that Herzberg’s theory has
withstood the test of time. The two-factor theory, not even mentioned by many academic
researchers, remains popular with managers, who continue to discuss the theory and attempt to increase motivation by using Herzberg’s identified motivators. 33 His theory spells
out specific job factors that managers can work with to create a motivational atmosphere.
(Job factors are discussed in more detail in Chapter 13 on job design.) Herzberg’s theory
brings out clearly the differences in perspectives held by practicing managers and academics. Instead of taking sides, we believe that Herzberg’s explanation will continue to be cited
and used by managers in the United States and around the world. 34 Of course, care must be
utilized in applying this or any other theory in international settings, as one study suggests
that Herzberg’s theory may have applied to a British sample but not to one from Nigeria. 35
However, the general perception of this theory is that it warrants discussion and consideration as a potential applied approach to motivation
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