Herzberg Motivation Theory

How hygienic is your change initiative?

Are your people satisfied and motivated?

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Herzberg Motivation Theory is the work of Frederick Irving Herzberg [1923 - 2000], who was an American psychologist who is most famous for introducing job enrichment and the Motivator-Hygiene theory.

His 1968 publication "One More Time, How Do You Motivate Employees?" had sold 1.2 million reprints by 1987 and was the most requested article from the Harvard Business Review.

Here is Herzberg [filmed in the 70s] explaining his theory.

Hygiene Theory

Herzberg motivation theory proposes the Hygiene Theory, also known as the Two Factor Theory of job satisfaction.

    The name Hygiene factors is used because, like hygiene, the presence will not make you healthier, but absence can cause health deterioration.

According to his theory, people are influenced by two sets of factors:

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Motivator Factors

  • Achievement
  • Recognition
  • Work Itself
  • Responsibility
  • Promotion
  • Growth

Hygiene Factors

  • Pay and Benefits
  • Company Policy and Administration
  • Relationships with co-workers
  • Supervision
  • Status
  • Job Security
  • Working Conditions
  • Personal life

    Hygiene factors are needed to ensure an employee is not dissatisfied.

    Motivation factors are needed in order to motivate an employee to higher performance.

The Herzberg motivation theory was based around interviews with 203 American accountants & engineers in Pittsburgh, chosen because of their professions' growing importance in the business world.

The subjects were asked to relate times when they felt exceptionally good or bad about their present job or any previous job, and to provide reasons, and a description of the sequence of events giving rise to that positive or negative feeling.

The proposed hypothesis in the Herzberg motivation theory appears verified. The factors that led to satisfaction [achievement, intrinsic interest in the work, responsibility, and advancement] are mostly unipolar; that is, they contribute very little to job dissatisfaction.

Conversely, the dis-satisfiers [company policy and administrative practices, supervision, interpersonal relationships, working conditions, and salary] contribute very little to job satisfaction.

Unlike Maslow, who offered little data to support his ideas, Herzberg and others have presented considerable empirical evidence to confirm the Herzberg motivation theory.

Herberg's Satisfiers - Dissatisfiers

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He proposed several key findings as a result of this identification:

  1. People are made dissatisfied by a bad environment, but they are seldom made satisfied by a good environment

  2. The prevention of dissatisfaction is just as important as encouragement of motivator satisfaction

  3. Hygiene factors operate independently of motivation factors - an individual can be highly motivated in his work and be dissatisfied with his work environment

  4. All hygiene factors are equally important, although their frequency of occurrence differs considerably

  5. Hygiene improvements have short-term effects - any improvements result in a short-term removal of, or prevention of, dissatisfaction

  6. Hygiene needs are cyclical in nature and come back to a starting point - this leads to the "What have you done for me lately?" syndrome

  7. Hygiene needs have an escalating zero point and no final answer.

Practical Application of Herzberg Motivation Theory to change leadership and management

Impact on change initiative programme planning

At the planning stage of a change initiative, and especially when reviewing the full impact of the change initiative on the people who will be affected by it, Hygiene theory [just as with ERG theory] informs the stakeholder mapping and analysis process and influences the communication strategy.

It focuses change leaders on the impacts of these 2 dimensions of human needs - motivators and dissatisfiers.

Leadership and communication

Again, as with ERG Theory, from a change management and change leadership perspective, understanding and recognising these needs can influence and shape a communication strategy and a leadership style.

There will be circumstances where, in the interests of business survival - such as in major restructuring and business turnarounds where redundancies and major change to working practises are announced - that neither sets of needs are going to met particularly well, or even at all.

People are flexible and will adjust and accept this - at least for a while - is if it is communicated honestly and accurately and if leadership is acting effectively by addressing the emotional dimension.

It is my view that the framing or positioning of a situation by the change leader is extremely important – especially in knowing how to focus and present a communication about a difficult situation with lots of dissatisfiers in such a way that it does address motivation factors needs at the earliest opportunity.

I say this because in my view, people will be more likely to tolerate difficult circumstances if they are led well and in such a way that their aspirational and higher motivational needs are addressed.

I am not talking about “spin” deception or any other form of manipulation here, rather I am referring to a leadership style that is based on the qualities and characteristics of transformational leadership and primal leadership, and that takes full and honest account of the impact of change on people and especially acknowledges and leads them through the transitions that they have to move through if the change is to be successful.

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Leadership skill

In my view, a key change leadership skill is knowing how to make the "judgement call" on how and when to communicate to people news that in terms of Herzberg motivation theory is going to dissatisfy them and demotivate them.

And - here's the key to this I feel - having the capacity to "reframe" the situation fairly quickly in such a way that people's motivation needs [or at least some of them] are addressed.

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Further Resources

Motivation in the workplace - People are motivated when they are inspired

Motivation Theories - Getting people to take action

Maslow's hierarchy of needs - A paradigm shift

ERG Theory - Practical application to leading change

Acquired Needs Theory - Goal seeking achievers

Process theories of motivation - Personal needs drive behaviour

Employee motivation techniques - How to achieve peak performance

Myers Briggs Personality Types - Why so important

Inspirational motivation - How to inspire your people in tough times

Return from Herzberg Motivation Theory to "Define Motivation"

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