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Herzberg's Motivation-Hygiene Theory


Explanations > Needs > Herzberg's Motivation-Hygiene Theory

Description | Research | Example | So what? | See also



We have basic needs (hygiene needs) which, when not met, cause us to be dissatisfied. Meeting these needs does not make us satisfied -- it merely prevents us from becoming dissatisfied. The 'hygiene' word is deliberately medical as it is an analogy of the need to do something that is necessary, but which does contribute towards  making the patient well (it only stops them getting sick). These are also called these maintenance needs.

There is a separate set of needs which, when resolved, do make us satisfied. These are called motivators.

This theory is also called Herzberg's two-factor theory.


Herzberg asked people about times when they had felt good about their work. He discovered that the key determinants of job satisfaction were Achievement, Recognition, Work itself, Responsibility and Advancement.

He also found that key dissatisfiers were Company policy and administration, Supervision, Salary, Interpersonal relationships and Working conditions.

What struck him the most was that these were separate groups with separate evaluation, and not a part of the same continuum. Thus if the company resolved the dissatisfiers, they would not create satisfaction.


I need to be paid on time each month so I can pay my bills. If I am not paid on time, I get really unhappy. But when I get paid on time, I hardly notice it.

On the other hand, when my boss gives me a pat on the back, I feel good. I don't expect this every day and don't especially miss not having praise all of the time. 

So what?

Using it

Differentiate between hygiene needs and motivator needs. Ensure you address motivator needs when getting someone to do something. Attacking hygiene needs may be effective when trying to stop them doing something.


Beware of the person giving you what you really need. Ask 'What's in it for them?'  

See also

Operant Conditioning, Maslow's Hierarchy, Kano's needs, Attraction and avoidance


Herzberg, F., Mausner, B., Peterson, R.D. and Capwell, D.F. (1957). Job attitudes: Review of research and opinions. Pittsburgh: Psychological Service of Pittsburgh

Herzberg, F., Mausner, B., and Snyderman, B.B. 1959. The motivation to work. New. York: Wiley

Herzberg, F. (1966). Work and the nature of man. Cleveland, OH. Holland.

Herzberg, F. 1968. One more time: how do you motivate employees? Harvard Business Review (January-February):53-62.


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