Herzberg: True Motivators vs. Hygiene Factors

A friend mentioned Herzberg’s theory of motivation to me today. Herzberg says there are two kinds of motivational concerns: true motivators and hygiene factors:

Herzberg  (1959) constructed a two-dimensional paradigm of factors affecting people’s attitudes about work. He concluded that such factors as company policy, supervision, interpersonal relations, working conditions, and salary are hygiene factors rather than motivators. According to the theory, the absence of hygiene factors can create job dissatisfaction, but their presence does not motivate or  create satisfaction.

The key idea here is that dissatisfaction and satisfaction can exist on different scales.

This theory can be extended beyond workplace content. For example, when a venture capitalist is considering an investment, s/he must be assured that the hygiene factors are taken care of — the founders’ resumes are truthful, references give thumbs up, the company is incorporated and able to receive investment, and so forth. If these factors don’t check out, it definitely precludes investment. If these factors do check out, it doesn’t mean the investment is prudent; just possible.

Whether you’re an employer trying to motivate employees, or an investor doing due diligence, it seems important to figure out whether you’re focusing on a hygiene factor or a true driver.

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