What is Two Factor Theory? Definition, Factors, and Pros/Cons

What is Two Factor Theory?

Psychologist Frederick Herzberg extended the work of Maslow and proposed a new motivation theory, popularly known as the Motivation Hygiene theory, two-factor theory, or Herzberg’s motivation theory. He conducted a widely reported motivational study to enquire about the factors that influence the satisfaction and dissatisfaction of employees on the job.

He tried to identify what satisfies people and what does not on the job. He identified and labeled job satisfiers as motivators, and job dissatisfiers as hygiene or maintenance factors.

Herzberg asserts that dissatisfaction is not the reverse of satisfaction. The fundamental rationale is that eliminating unsatisfactory elements from a work does not guarantee that it will become more satisfying. He thinks that there is a dual continuum, meaning that many levels of needs could exist simultaneously.

Here, the opposite of ‘satisfaction’ is ‘no satisfaction’ and the opposite of ‘dissatisfaction is `no dissatisfaction. Herzberg asserts that today’s motivators may turn out to be tomorrow’s hygiene since they may subsequently quit influencing people’s behavior once they are satisfied. Accordingly, one’s hygiene may be the motivator for another employee.

What are Hygiene Factors?

In the absence of such elements, a person becomes unhappy. Hygiene factors are those factors that, even when they are present, do not satisfy the person. Employee unhappiness in the workplace results from hygiene-related variables when they are not there.

Related: ERG Theory of Motivation

Hygiene factors are also called dissatisfiers or maintenance factors. Herzberg classified some of the hygiene factors in the workplace as follows:

  • Company policy and administration
  • Supervision
  • Interpersonal relation
  • Working condition
  • Salary
  • Status
  • Security, etc.

Management must make sure the hygiene factors are eliminated, i.e. adequately assured, in order to reduce employee unhappiness in a work environment. There are many ways to get rid of the issues that lead to dissatisfaction, but some of the most crucial ones include providing fair compensation, guaranteeing employees’ jobs, and fostering a happy work environment.

What are Motivating Factors?

Motivating factors are job satisfiers. Such factors presence increases the satisfaction level of employees. Motivators give positive satisfaction arising from intrinsic conditions of the job itself, such as recognition, achievement, or personal growth. Herzberg classified some motivators in the workplace as follows:

Also Read: Equity Theory of Motivation

  • Achievement
  • Recognition
  • Responsibility
  • Advancement
  • Growth
  • The job itself, etc.

To obtain the best performance out of staff, motivational factors are necessary. These are elements of employment content, meaning that the work itself may be inspiring, challenging, and goal-oriented. To inspire workers, managers must make a concerted effort to provide a rewarding work environment with many opportunities for professional development.

The Four Situations

There can be a high and low situation of both hygiene and motivation factors in each organization. These conditions form the following four possible sets of situations:

High Hygiene and High Motivation

This situation is the ideal situation where employees are highly satisfied and motivated. As there are no dissatisfiers because of this there will be no problem of dissatisfaction. In this situation, there will be no or very few complaints.

High Hygiene and Low Motivation

In this situation, employee dissatisfaction remains low as there are sufficient factors to reduce employee dissatisfaction. Employees have few complaints. But employees are not highly motivated. Employees view the job as a paycheck but not the tools for personal growth and advancement.

Low Hygiene and High Motivation

This situation may occur if the job is exciting and challenging but salaries and work conditions are not up to par. In this situation, employees make their best effort but have a lot of complaints. Only the employees with high achievement needs can continue the job.

Low Hygiene and Low Motivation

This is the worst situation where employees are not motivated and have many complaints. This situation may occur if the job environment along with the job content factors is too poor. Management must initiate their earliest possible effort to improve the situation.

Implication of the Two-Factor Theory of Motivation

The content of work motivation is now more understood thanks to Herzberg’s theory. Managers will be able to introduce appropriate and relevant motivating approaches to encourage people to choose performance with the use of the differentiation between motivational and maintenance factors.

The most fundamental conclusion of this theory is that it is imperative to meet employees’ maintenance needs and provide them the chance to gratify their motivational needs in order to enhance human output.

Maintenance needs can be fulfilled by providing hygiene factors. The key to employee motivation lies in structuring meaningful, challenging, and rewarding jobs that provide increased opportunities for achievement, responsibility, growth, and recognition.

Critical Evaluation of Two-Factor Theory

Herzberg’s motivation theory also has some drawbacks, they are:

  • People generally tend to take credit for themselves when things go well. But they blame the external environment for failure.
  • This theory basically explains only job satisfaction, not motivation. Thus, the validity of this theory is still questionable.
  • Even job satisfaction is not measured on an overall basis. It is not unlikely that people may dislike a part of their jobs, and still think the job is acceptable.
  • The theory ignores situational variables to motivate people.

Read Next: Theories of Motivation

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