Yoshitha has been thinking about quitting her job for a while now. When she discusses this with her coworkers, they are taken aback. They aren’t sure why she would leave a high paying job that provides her with so many benefits.

People are often under the impression that monetary incentives alone can keep employees engaged in an organization. While there is some truth in it, high salary and bonuses alone can’t retain employees.

Frederick Herzberg explored this phenomenon in his Two-Factor Model. Want to explore the concept in detail? Read on!

The Origins Of The Two-Factor Theory

Frederick Irving Herzberg is a household name in business management. An American psychologist, Herzberg set out to understand the effect of attitude on motivation. In the late 1950s, he surveyed several employees to determine the factors that made them feel good or bad about their jobs. He found out that certain job factors are related to an individual’s job satisfaction while some factors contribute to job dissatisfaction.

The results from the study laid the foundation of Herzberg’s Theory. He went ahead to publish his findings in his book, One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees? (1968), which formed the bedrock of good motivational practices in the workplace. Herzberg divided job factors into ‘hygiene factors’ and ‘motivational factors’; this came to be known as the Two-Factor Theory of Motivation.

What Is The Two-Factor Theory?

Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory gets to the root of motivation in workplace settings. He based his two-factor theory on American psychologist Abraham Maslow’s ‘Theory of Motivation and Needs’. Maslow proposed that humans need to fulfill basic needs before they develop higher-level needs. Herzberg took some of these elements and applied them to professional environments.

The two factors that Herzberg used to define job satisfaction and dissatisfaction are:

  1. Motivational Factors

They are intrinsic or internal factors that represent emotional needs. These factors contribute to an individual’s growth in the organization. Managers should identify motivational factors if they want to strengthen team performance.

Herzberg’s Theory suggests that motivational factors should provide individuals with a greater sense of purpose and significance in their current roles. Motivational factors include:

  • Recognition: 

Job performance improves when you recognize someone’s performance and provide them with the necessary feedback. When you acknowledge and praise them for their efforts, they feel encouraged.

  • Autonomy: 

An important aspect of Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory is that individuals feel greatly motivated when given autonomy and responsibility. People tend to self-direct when they shoulder accountability.

  • Meaningful Work: 

Unless someone finds meaning in their work, they won’t be passionate about championing the cause of an organization. Individuals work with greater enthusiasm when they understand the organization’s mission and vision and how they play a part in driving business goals.

Other examples of motivation factors include achievement, empowerment and growth potential.

  1. Hygiene Factors

They are extrinsic or external factors that satisfy the basic needs of an individual. Managers should identify hygiene factors and meet the basic expectations of employees to keep them motivated in their roles.

Having a work environment with good hygiene is essential for employee satisfaction and minimizing turnover rates. Here are the primary hygiene factors of Herzberg’s Theory:

  • Salary: 

An organization should make sure that an employee receives fair remuneration. Low pay will quickly lead to dissatisfaction. Efforts should be made toward salary revisions and increments.

  • Job Security: 

When employees know that their jobs are safe, they’re more likely to be productive and efficient. The fear of losing their job only leads to dissatisfaction and employers should take measures to make them feel safe.

  • Work Conditions: 

Every employee expects a safe and comfortable work environment—it’s a basic need. There are no shortcuts when it comes to someone’s welfare and safety.

Other examples of hygiene factors include professional reputation, perks and benefits and company policies.

An Important Thing To Note…

A key point to remember about Herzberg’s Motivation Theory is that organizations, managers and leaders need to identify and address the basic needs of employees first. The presence of motivational factors is responsible for employee satisfaction but the lack of hygiene factors is responsible for job dissatisfaction. Only after employers provide for hygiene factors, will the employees start to feel motivated and achieve higher levels of performance. However, eliminating the conditions responsible for dissatisfaction alone can’t motivate employees.

Although the Two-Factor Theory of Motivation suggests that motivational and hygiene factors are two separate categories with entirely different contributing factors, you need to strike a balance to drive workplace motivation and morale. You must increase motivational factors in addition to improving hygiene factors at the same time.

What’s The Need For The Two-Factor Theory?

An organization or a team can typically find itself in four kinds of situations. Let’s explore these situations and check whether you need to rely on Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory.

  1. High Hygiene And High Motivation

It’s an ideal situation that every manager and employer hopes for. There are very few grievances and people are happy.

  1. High Hygiene And Low Motivation

Employees may have few grievances but aren’t very motivated. For example, you provide competitive pay and good working conditions but the work is monotonous.

  1. Low Hygiene And High Motivation

Individuals are highly motivated but they have several grievances. For example, the work is really interesting but the pay is not at par with industry standards.

  1. Low Hygiene And Low Motivation

This is an absolute no-no for employers and managers. You don’t want people to feel demotivated with low levels of morale and job satisfaction.

How To Apply Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory

As a manager, you need to constantly look out for your team and find ways to keep them motivated in their roles. By doing so, you’re not only helping them find purpose in their work but also increasing their productivity and efficiency. If you want a high-performing team, you can use Herzberg’s Motivation Theory. There are two steps involved in the application of this theory.

  1. Eliminate Dissatisfaction

Start by removing the hygiene factors or elements that contribute to dissatisfaction. Here are some useful ways to identify and navigate such factors:

  • Identify any complaints from your team or employees in general and check whether their basic expectations are met

  • See how people interact with each other and encourage teamwork and collaboration

  • Identify non-effective and problematic policies and bring them to the management’s attention

  • Ensure that the pay is competitive and matches industry or competitive standards

  • Assign meaningful responsibilities that will help your team find purpose in the work

  1. Create Conditions For Satisfaction

Start by focusing on motivational factors to create conditions for satisfaction. Here are some helpful ways to implement these factors:

  • Provide opportunities that will help people grow in their roles and careers

  • Acknowledge an individual’s achievements and efforts, either personally or publicly

  • Allow for opportunities that will help you team upskill or reskill themselves

  • Give your team as many responsibilities as they can handle; don’t overdo or understate it

  • Trust someone to do their job; delegate responsibilities among your team and increase accountability

Now that we’ve established how to use the theory in life, here are some tips that will help you navigate the two factors more efficiently:

  1. People won’t be necessarily happy by removing only hygiene factors

It’s a huge misconception that only by eliminating the hygiene factors can you achieve employee satisfaction. For example, the lack of perks and benefits alone can’t be responsible for someone’s happiness.

  1. Use Herzberg’s Motivation Theory in different ways

The theory only acts as a guiding principle to identify and eliminate factors that contribute to employee unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Always talk to your team before you identify the source of dissatisfaction. Be open to taking critical feedback.

  1. Always address hygiene factors first

Remember to remove the factors contributing to unhappiness before you create conditions for satisfaction. Bring people to a neutral state and then focus on ways to boost motivation and morale.

If you’re still confused about applying Herzberg’s Motivation Theory, consider this example:

You’re a senior manager leading the Marketing department in your organization. You observe that your team is doing the same kind of work as part of the current campaign. You can boost employee morale by eliminating the hygiene factors and offering perks or raises. To improve motivation, you can have a weekly celebration, where you congratulate the top-performing employee during your team meeting.

The Flip Side Of Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory

The Two-Factor Theory has faced criticism over the years, some of which includes:

  • The theory focuses too much on increasing employee engagement and satisfaction but doesn’t necessarily boost productivity

  • There is no objective way of measuring or keeping track of employee satisfaction; it all depends on the subjective individual experience

  • The theory isn’t free from bias; someone is likely to give themselves credit when things go well but blame it on external factors (or the organization) when things don’t

  • The theory is best-suited for teams; an individual’s particular perception or situation isn’t taken into account

To apply the Herzberg Model, you need to understand how your team functions and the underlying factors that drive them to perform and excel in their roles. Harappa Education’s Managing Teamwork course will help you assess your team’s skills and willingness to do tasks. Learn more about your team culture and promote collaboration and cooperation by using the GRIN (Goals, Roles, Interdependence and Norms) Framework. Learn to align your work to your team’s goals and expectations and help them fulfill their true potential.


Explore Harappa Diaries to learn more about topics related to the COLLABORATE Habit such as Job Satisfaction, the Importance of Employee Engagement & Building Interpersonal Relationship and navigate various factors associated with job motivation.

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