Frederick Herzberg (1959), extending the work of Maslow, developed the Content Theory of Motivation. His study is based on responses of 200 accountants and
engineers, drawn from eleven industries in Pittsburgh area in the USA. Using critical incident method, he had asked the samples to respond on two aspects as follows:
(i) When did they feel particularly good about their job?
(ii) When did they feel exceptionally bad about their job?
Herzberg found that the samples described different types of conditions for good and bad feelings. Factors responsible for job satisfaction are quite different from the factors they perceive as contributors to job dissatisfaction. It means that employees are dissatisfied about their jobs not because of the absence of the factors that they consider to be satisfying in their jobs.
Their reported good feelings were found to be associated with job experiences and job content. While, their reported bad feelings were found to be associated with the peripheral aspects of job. Since, his study was based on a two-factor hypothesis; we call his theory two-factor theory. As his study established that opposite of satisfaction is not dissatisfaction and removing dissatisfying elements from a job does not necessarily make the job satisfying, he has classified the factors into two categories:
(i) Motivation factors
(ii) Hygienic or Maintenance factors
Herzberg mentioned six motivation factors as given in the following:
(v) Possibility of growth
(vi) Job content or work itself
Presence of these factors in the job creates a motivating environment but the absence of these factors does not cause dissatisfaction.
Similarly, Herzberg mentioned ten hygiene or maintenance factors as follows:
(i) Company policy and administration
(ii) Technical supervision
(iii) Interpersonal relations with subordinates
(v) Job security
(vi) Personal life
(vii) Working conditions
(ix) Interpersonal relations with supervisors
(x) Interpersonal relations with peers
These factors are context factors. Their existence just creates an environment for doing work. However, factors by itself cannot motivate people to work. In Herzberg’s words, their absence can dissatisfy people but their presence, per se, cannot satisfy people.
The crux of the Two-factor Theory of motivation therefore, is that managers should be concerned about both the satisfying and dissatisfying factors. Mere improvement of hygienic factors cannot guarantee a motivating environment. In Figure 5.7, we have presented the essence of Herzberg theory, using a diagram.
Critical Evaluation of Herzberg’s Theory:
Herzberg’s theory is first of its kind based on field research unlike Maslow’s work, which was based on clinical observations (laboratory-based findings), Herzberg did his study to understand motivation in work environment. Secondly, Herzberg’s study recommends actions for managers to improve motivation in work environment.
His emphasis on content factors shifts the focus from traditional concept, where money was viewed as the most potent factor for work motivation. Thirdly, Herzberg had also contributed to the alternative approach to motivation by job enrichment. Finally, Herzberg had considered two dimensions of the employees’ needs, instead of the absolute categorization into five distinct levels, as was done by Maslow.
Despite all the above listed merits, Herzberg’s theory has also been subjected to following criticisms:
(i) It is limited by its methodology. When things go well, people tend to take credit for the success. Contrarily, they attribute failures to the external environment.
(ii) Herzberg’s theory is also method bound. We cannot get the same results by using other methods. Critical incident method, by nature, may cause people only to recall the recent incidents or experiences. Moreover, while narrating a critical incident, respondents get wide flexibility to give vent to their opinions rather than the realities. Thus, according to many survey findings were more of opinions than actual happenings.
(iii) Herzberg’s model talks more about job satisfaction than job motivation.
(iv) The theory ignores situational variables as it is not backed by adequate research in different work environments.
(v) Even though the theory assumes a relationship between job satisfaction and productivity, the methodology applied by Herzberg limits its focus only on job satisfaction and not on productivity.