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Herzberg’s theory of the motivation to work

Category: Staff’s Motivation

The initial study and the concepts

The American psychologist Frederick Herzberg has propounded a theory of motivation at work that concentrates on Job Satisfaction.

He identified two basic categories of need systems: the need to avoid unpleasantness and the need for personal growth. He suggested factors that could be offered by organisations to satisfy both types of need: “material” and “motivator” factors, respectively.

Satisfiers — motivating factors

The most important factors, which motivate people to do their job well, and which produced satisfaction are:



Work itself



These factors relate to the jobs that people do.

Dissatisfiers — hygiene factors

Company policy and administration

Type of supervision


Fringe benefits

Relations with others

Working conditions

These second kind of factors relate to the job environment.

Herzberg called these hygiene factors (because, using the analogy of drains and refuse collection, they made the job environment fit to occupy), or maintenance factors (because they tended to maintain an employee in his job). He said that an employee might leave a firm because he disliked its working conditions or thought the pension scheme inadequate, but he would not be motivated to work harder or better if working conditions or the pension scheme were improved.

On the other hand, the absence of achievement or responsibility, for example, would be unlikely to cause an employee to leave, but if these could be increased the employee would be more motivated in his work. Herzberg recognised that individuals varied in the relative importance they attached to motivators or hygiene factors; some were very concerned to seek achievement, recognition, etc., in their jobs, while others were interested particularly in pay, personal relationships, etc.

To summarise Herzberg’s findings, we could say that, for Herzberg there are two areas of “motivation”:

— Development needs linked to the work contents à Motivation, self realisation, responsibility, interest of the work, gratitude, esteem, consideration

— Support needed linked to the work context à Satisfaction, team spirit (inter-personal relations + information), work conditions, retirement, holidays, salary, grade, privileges, security

Motivation is not only material (remuneration, other advantages,…) or linked to competitive spirit (internal comparisons can be prejudicial to the team spirit). They are especially qualitative. Our colleagues find or don’t find in their work and in their managerial staff the possibility to fulfil their aspirations.

Principles for the job enrichment

Enrichment of functions relies mainly on:


— Interest in functions

— Homogenous work

— Obtaining a result

— Responsibilisation

— Feed-back from the results

— Recognition of the results

— Development of capabilities and responsibilities

— Promotion

Exercise based on the Work sheet

Motivation work sheet:

Would you consider your staff to be highly motivated or lacking motivation?

What provides you with the greatest satisfaction in your job?

What irritates you the most in your job?

List the jobs in your work which you find “challenging”

Describe the type of person you find most difficult to motivate

Why do you think he/she behaves that way?

Describe the morale of your staff

If morale is high, how are you going to keep it that way?

If morale is low, how could you improve it?

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