Frederick Herzberg's two factor theory

Motivation-Hygiene Theory by Frederick Herzberg: Understanding Employee Satisfaction and Dissatisfaction

Motivation-Hygiene Theory, Political Science, Public administration, Society, Two Factor theory

Motivation-Hygiene Theory developed by Frederick Herzberg, posits that employee satisfaction and dissatisfaction are driven by separate factors, with motivation factors (like achievement and recognition) leading to satisfaction, while hygiene factors (such as salary and working conditions) prevent dissatisfaction.


In the realm of workplace psychology and employee motivation, Frederick Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory, also known as the Two-Factor Theory, stands as a seminal framework that provides insights into the factors that drive job satisfaction and dissatisfaction among employees. This theory, which emerged from Herzberg’s empirical research conducted in 1959, aimed to uncover what truly motivates individuals to work effectively. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of the Motivation-Hygiene Theory, its origins, and the key factors it identifies.

Empirical Investigation by Frederick Herzberg

Frederick Herzberg’s journey into the realm of employee motivation began with a groundbreaking empirical investigation. He studied 200 accountants and engineers in the vicinity of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with the objective of understanding the underlying factors that influence employee motivation. The outcome of this extensive research culminated in his renowned book, “Motivation to Work,” which was published in 1959.

The Two-Factor Theory 

At the core of Herzberg’s theory lie two distinct categories of factors that influence employee satisfaction and dissatisfaction: motivation factors and hygiene factors.

Motivation Factors: Herzberg identified motivation factors as those elements that lead to job satisfaction. These factors encompass aspects like achievement, recognition, the nature of the work itself, responsibility, and opportunities for advancement. Essentially, they represent the positive aspects of work that stimulate employees and enhance their job satisfaction.

Hygiene Factors: In contrast, hygiene factors, as Herzberg termed them, are potential dissatisfiers within the workplace. They encompass aspects such as company policies and administration, supervision, salary, interpersonal relationships, and working conditions. These factors, when lacking or inadequate, can lead to job dissatisfaction among employees.

Uni-polar Traits

One of the groundbreaking aspects of Herzberg’s theory is his assertion that the factors that create job satisfaction are fundamentally different from those that create job dissatisfaction. He referred to these factors as “uni-polar traits,” emphasizing that they operate independently. In other words, an individual within an organization can be easily satisfied through motivation factors, and the impact of these factors tends to be long-lasting. On the contrary, achieving satisfaction through hygiene factors can be challenging, as the absence of these factors tends to create dissatisfaction more readily.

Illustrating the Concept

To illustrate this concept, consider the following scenario: Suppose an employee receives constant supervision from their superior, which is a hygiene factor. According to Herzberg’s theory, this constant supervision may not yield substantial results in terms of job satisfaction when compared to the positive impact that can be achieved through motivation factors, such as recognition of their work.


Frederick Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory, or the Two-Factor Theory, has significantly contributed to our understanding of employee motivation and job satisfaction. By identifying motivation and hygiene factors as distinct categories, Herzberg highlighted the complexity of human motivation in the workplace. Understanding these factors can help organizations create environments that foster job satisfaction and reduce job dissatisfaction, ultimately leading to a more motivated and engaged workforce.

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