Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory of Motivation

Introduction to Herzberg’s Two-factor Theory

Frederick Herzberg, an American psychologist, established Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory—also referred to as the Motivation-Hygiene Theory. He stated this theory as a model for understanding job satisfaction and discontent in the 1950s. According to the hypothesis, motivational factors and hygiene variables both have an impact on a person’s level of job satisfaction or discontent.

Maintenance Demands and Development Demands

Hygiene consideration are the fundamental requirements for a happy employee. Hygiene elements includes a secure workplace, equitable compensation, and favorable working conditions. These elements are “maintenance” demands. If such elements aren’t satisfied, a person is likely to be unhappy with their employment.

On the other hand, motivators are things that encourage someone to give their best effort, like chances for advancement, acknowledgement, and accountability. These elements are seen as “development” demands, If such elements are satisfied, a person is likely to be satisfied with their career.

According to Herzberg’s hypothesis, addressing only the hygiene aspects won’t result in long-term job satisfaction, but addressing both the hygiene and motivational factors will.

Motivation Factors (Development Demands)Hygiene Factors (Maintenance Demand)
Nature of work
Advancement and Growth
Possibility of growth
Working condition
Company Policy & Administration
Job Security
Personal Life

Frederick Herzberg Research

Frederick Herzberg and his associates’ research from the 1950s served as the foundation for Herzberg’s Two-factor Theory. Employees from a range of sectors were surveyed on their work satisfaction and dissatisfaction.

Herzberg and his team asked the employees to recount certain times when they felt very happy or unsatisfied with their jobs throughout the interviews. Herzberg and his team deduced from these replies that there were two categories of elements that affected the employees’ sentiments: those that contributed to satisfaction and those that contributed to discontent.

Recognition, success, and growth chances were listed among the “motivators,” which are the elements that contribute to satisfaction. The “hygiene” elements that contributed to discontent included things like compensation, working environment, and business regulations.

According to this study, Herzberg hypothesized that work satisfaction and dissatisfaction are not on the same continuum but are instead impacted by several independent variables. Additionally, he asserted that while addressing solely the hygiene components would not result in long-term job happiness, doing so would result in total job satisfaction.

Herzberg’s Two-factor Theory Vs. Other Theories

According to F.W. Taylor (also known as the father of Scientific Management), the principles of scientific management could also be applied to management. This means that employees and corporations need to work in unison to achieve certain objectives of the company. Also, employees in turn gets rewarded with financial incentives in order to motivate them. However, this theory was then questioned by Frederick Herzberg. He believed that there were more factors involved in motivating an employee besides financial incentives.

In addition to that, Maslow’s theory of motivation was connected to emotions, attitudes, and their relationship to industrial mental health. His research had a significant theoretical and practical impact on how people view administration. In contrast to that, Herzberg asserted that people are not content with having their lower-order demands met at work, such as demands related to a minimal wage or secure and comfortable working circumstances.

Two Factor Theory and Four Conceivable Combinations
High HygieneLow Hygiene
High MotivationGreatly Motivated and Low CriticismsMotivated but Complaining
Low MotivationLess Motivated and Moderate ComplainsDemotivated and Lot of Complains

Criticism and Implications of Two-factor Theory

Herzberg said in 1968 that his two-factor theory study had been reproduced 16 times in a range of populations, some of which were in Communist nations. His study had been supported by studies that used other methodologies and agreed with his initial findings about intrinsic employee motivation, making it one of the most widely duplicated studies on work attitudes.

George Hines Study

George Hines carried out one such replication. Hines then published in the Journal of Applied Psychology in December 1973. Hines used ratings of 12 job characteristics and total job satisfaction from 218 middle managers and 196 salaried employees to test Herzberg’s two-factor motivation theory in New Zealand. 

Contrary to dichotomous motivator-hygiene assumptions, those with high work satisfaction ranked supervision and interpersonal interactions highly, and there was considerable agreement between pleased managers and salaried employees in regards to the relative importance of job aspects. Results were explained in context of New Zealand’s social and employment situations.

With respect to this study, satisfaction and dissatisfaction are typically no longer thought to exist on different scales, despite the fact that the Motivator-Hygiene paradigm is still highly recognized. The critical incident technique (CIT) that Herzberg utilized to record events has been shown to be an artifact, separating satisfaction from discontent. It has also been emphasized that the idea does not take into account individual characteristics, such as certain personality qualities, which might change people’s individual responses to motivating or hygienic stimuli.

Robbins and Judge Study

The two-factor theory has not received strong research backing. The theory is typically criticized for Herzberg’s methods and presumptions. According to Robbins and Judge (in their 2005 study), critics have argued that if motivational and hygiene aspects are equally vital to an individual, then both should be able to inspire workers. 

Basset-Jones and Lloyd Study

Furthermore, according to Basset-Jones and Lloyd (in their 2005 study), organizations during the time that Herzberg did his foundational motivation theory study tended to be inflexible and bureaucratic. New theories of motivation, such those grounded in behaviorism, emerged as businesses changed away from concentrating on mass-production and more towards innovation.  

After Herzberg’s findings, numerous replication studies were conducted. While study employing techniques like surveys backed the conventional notion that job happiness and discontent exist on the same continuum, those using Herzberg’s methodology, the critical incident framework, were consistent with his original findings.

Vroom Study

In addition to that, Vroom (1964), writing shortly after the publication of Motivation at Work, provided a notable critique of this phenomenon: when asked to recall both good and bad work experiences, people would naturally be inclined to protect their egos, attributing good experiences to their own personal accomplishment and capability and bad experiences to the workplace. As a result, participants in Herzberg’s original qualitative study, which included roughly 200 participants, might have been biased when recalling instances in the past in which they felt positive or negative about their jobs.

Advantages or Merits of Two-Factor Theory

  1. It aids in comprehending how employee motivation and job content are related.
  2. This theory clearly distinguishes between the elements that encourage employees to stay in their job and the elements that keep them there.
  3. It suggests particular actions (i.e. motivators) to better the motivation levels.
  4. This theory describes the impact of job enrichment on motivation and job redesign.

Limitations of Two-Factor Theory

  1. It is difficult to distinguish between job-context and job-content in many cases. There may be some elements of job-context in job-content.
  2. The methodology of Two-Factor Theory is questionable. There are different interpretations by different scholars on the responses in different ways.
  3. This theory ignores the impact of situational variables on motivations.
  4. It is sometimes argued that this theory simply states the obvious about the reasons for job satisfaction and dissatisfaction. It is more of a statement than a theory of motivation.
  5. This theory ignores the blue-collar workers.


  1. Analysis Project
  2. Simply Psychology

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