What is Two-factor theory of motivation?


Two-factor theory of motivation was proposed by Fredrick Herzberg. This theory is also well known with Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory. Herzberg suggested that the factors that make employees satisfied are different from the factors that make employees dissatisfied. To some it might be illogical as many believe that if factors that cause dissatisfaction are removed then automatically employee will become satisfied and happy. But Herzberg in his theory denied this fact.

Usually we take humans as either satisfied or dissatisfied and not any other state of mind beside these two psychological references. However, Herzberg in his two-factor theory suggested something different from this usual concept and that forms the basis of his whole new theory.

According to Herzberg in this theory proposed that humans are either satisfied, dissatisfied or neutral. Humans most of the time are neutral and are not always either satisfied or dissatisfied as was thought earlier. Therefore, the reasons causing dissatisfaction are if removed or improved then it does not promise that humans will become satisfied rather we should say that they will not be dissatisfied.

In simple words satisfaction and dissatisfaction, according to Herzberg, are not connected with each other. Herzberg suggested that in order to make humans satisfied first they should be brought out of dissatisfaction phase. Once dissatisfaction is at zero i.e. he is neutral only then he can be made satisfied.

Herzberg named the reasons that that cause dissatisfaction as Hygiene factors and the reasons that cause satisfaction as Motivators.

Hygiene factors can further be understood from its name as well. In lingual meanings hygiene refers to anything that prevent illness but it DOES NOT mean that this will make you healthy also. To be healthy you have to do more than just being hygienic. The same concept is used by Herzberg in his theory and he concluded that by improving or removing dissatisfying factors does not also promise that employees are now satisfied.

From the research conducted by Herzberg it was found that the reasons that make people satisfied is usually connected with the job directly and mostly the reasons are related to what they actually do or are required to do. Simply put most of the time these reasons were connected with the job content. And when asked why they are satisfied then most replies suggested the reasons that were connected to individuals themselves. In simple words they find themselves satisfied when their individual needs (or intrinsic factors) are fulfilled for example recognition, respect, achievement, growth, responsibility etc.

On the other hand the reasons that make people dissatisfied are usually those that surrounds the job itself. In other words the dissatisfaction is caused by the job context. And when asked what makes them dissatisfied then it is told that dissatisfaction is always caused by the factors other then the individuals themselves and mostly others were found responsible  for dissatisfaction (or extrinsic factors) for example, management, workplace colleagues, salary, working conditions, supervision and administration, company’s policies, technology etc.

Therefore, Herzberg suggested that if companies want employees not to leave company dissatisfied then they should work on extrinsic factors or in other words improve job context and if company wants to motivate employees to exert extra effort then they should take care of intrinsic factors or in other words improve job content. Also, companies should not forget that without improving job context even if the job content is attractive, employees cannot be motivated as first they should be brought out of the dissatisfaction phase and only then making them motivated is possible.