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The Simple Theory of Motivation That Helps Workers Succeed


Want to motivate your team to do their best work? One of the easiest ways to do it is with Hertzberg’s two-tiered theory of motivation, which focuses on motivator and hygiene factors to improve job satisfaction and commitment.

finish line 

(Photo Credit: JefferyTurner/Flickr)

A basic tenet in human psychology is that we all seek pleasure and avoid pain. This pleasure-pain principle is one of the most commonly accepted theories of Sigmund Freud, who is considered the father of modern psychology.

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Of the various theories of motivation that apply to the workplace, Hertzberg singled out the various elements of working that either give pleasure or satisfaction, the motivators, or offered pain or dissatisfaction, which he called the hygiene factors. By increasing motivators and controlling hygiene factors, you can motivate your team toward greater productivity.

(Photo Credit: Strategic Leadership Institute)


Elements of employment that are in this category tend to increase pleasure and job satisfaction.

  • Achievement. When workers have a chance to achieve, they also have a chance to feel good about themselves. 
  • Recognition. By recognizing (either publicly or privately) a worker’s achievement, managers and co-workers reinforce the desire to do well. 
  • The work itself. People have to work, and all of the jobs need to be done. However, we have different skills and interests. When people are matched via skill set to job duties, they are more likely to enjoy, find satisfaction, and be motivated to do a good job. 
  • Responsibility. A sense of responsibility for the work increases motivation and helps workers fell like worthwhile and important members of a team; people generally like to feel important or needed. Sometimes, this means allowing an employee to help with decision-making. The sense that his opinion is considered valuable increases his job satisfaction and, therefore, motivation. 
  • Advancement. The knowledge that you can advance and receive raises is a motivator many employees work toward gladly. 
  • Growth. This ties in with advancement — when we advance, we grow, and develop new skills for further advancement.

Hygiene Factors

Remember, hygiene factors are related to dissatisfaction. These elements are often difficult to remove from the workplace. For example, even if a company has unnecessarily strict policies, the answer isn’t as easy as getting rid of them altogether or revising them all at once. Rather, managers and team leaders should attempt to  control hygiene factors as much as possible to create a workplace that is productive and pleasant.

  • Company policies. Some companies’ policies may seem more draconian than others. Ask yourself how you feel about the policies where you work. 
  • Supervision. Most of us need some supervision, but there is a difference between offering guidance and micromanaging. Micromanaging may increase job dissatisfaction and, therefore, motivation.  
  • Relationship with supervisor and peers. People who are nice and get along with others at work create a pleasant working environment. Unpleasant people create dissatisfaction for everyone around them. 
  • Work conditions. A windowless office may create job dissatisfaction for some people; others won’t mind. Ask yourself if you are happy and comfortable in your current work conditions. 
  • Salary. Money is an obvious factor, although harder to control if you’re not upper management. If you don’t set the budget, see if you can provide other perks that boost your reports’ income or work-life balance. 
  • Status. This is an interesting one. Some people want to be in charge, others just want to be shown respect. 
  • Security. People need to feel safe. If you don’t feel safe, you will likely be distracted and not satisfied.

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