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Herzberg's Two-Factor Theory

In a study published in 1959 titled “The Motivation to Work,” Frederick Herzberg, Bernard Mausner and Barbara Snyderman proposed, based on a series of interviews, that job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction were related to two separate sets of variables. As a result, an increase in “satisfiers” would have very little affect on an employee's feelings of dissatisfaction. Vice versa, an increase in "dissatisfiers" wouldn't necessarily have an affect on how satisfied an employee felt about his or her work.

This contradicts traditional notions of job satisfaction. We typically assume that an increase in a variable that contributes to job satisfaction would have a similar effect on reducing job dissatisfaction; we assume that job satisfaction and dissatisfaction lie on the same continuum. In fact, an extensive literature review by the three researchers two years before their own study reinforced this traditional view.

In this study, variables that lead to job satisfaction relate to the work itself, including challenging and meaningful work, responsibility, advancement and achievement, personal growth, and recognition.

These variables are extrinsic to the work itself, and do not lead to job satisfaction on their own; however, their absence can cause job dissatisfaction. These factors are often related to company policy or job design (job security, pay and benefits, and working conditions) as well as supervisory relationships and practices.

The primary lesson from Herzberg’s study is that managers cannot simply address all variables that affect job satisfaction as if they are on the same continuum. Both motivators and hygiene factors should be addressed separately in job design. For example, an increase in challenging work may lead to more job satisfaction, but it will not make up for job dissatisfaction felt because of low pay or an unfair boss.

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