Herzberg’s Theory of Motivation: Hygiene factors and Motivator factors


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One of my favourite management theory models is Herzberg’s Theory of Motivation. In this article I’m going to talk you through the model, and then describe how you can use it as a manager.

This post is part of my ‘models and theories’ series, of which previously I have posted about the unconscious and the competence in The Learning Cycle, and the SMART framework for setting objectives.

Herzberg's theory of motivationThe model in brief

Herzberg (1923-2000) was a management theorist, and his model looks at the various factors or conditions in the workplace, and how they impacted the motivation levels of the workforce.

Herzberg defined two types of factor; those that motivated (e.g. extra responsibility or recognition) and those that demotivated (e.g. salary, work conditions). He termed the former ‘motivating factors’ and the latter ‘hygiene factors’.

The key message is that different factors cause satisfaction and dissatisfaction. The presence of a motivator causes satisfaction, whereas the absence does not necessarily cause dissatisfaction. The absence of hygiene factors causes dissatisfaction, however the presence of these factors does not truly motivate.

So how do you use this theory in practice?

Hygiene factors: Blanket factors to make sure you’re achieving

Unless you are the CEO you’re unlikely to have much say over reward packages or office environment. However there are certain hygiene factors that are worth ensuring you achieve with your team.

  • Regular one to ones
  • Timely feedback on performance
  • Communication of company news or strategy
  • Open discussions about development
  • Work-life balance discussions

Check your management style – do you achieve these minimum factors? In today’s business world these are expected hygiene factors, and will cause a reduction in motivation if absent.

In my experience, team members are far more aware of the presence of poor hygiene factors than they are the lack of motivating factors.

Motivator factors: Individual factors to drive high performance

Every team is different, so knowing what can motivate can be difficult to define. Some examples might be:

  • Extra responsibility
  • Giving a presentation
  • Standing in for you when you’re on holiday

You know your team, it’s up to you to know what can motivate them. Many people are self-motivators, however it is a great skill for a manager to have the ability to create a motivated work-force, a skill that will get noticed quickly.

I would recommend you take an individual approach; i.e. make sure your ideas to motivate are directed at a team member, not the team. I’ve found that blanket team motivators don’t quite cut the mustard (and can become expected).

Be careful of blanket motivators – for example allowing everyone in your team to leave early every Friday. These have a motivational impact in the short term, but this quickly wanes. Also you might be creating ways of working that can become ‘custom’ and then be protected by tribunal. I’m not a lawyer, so get legal advice if you’re worried about this.

People are different

In your team you’ll be well aware that you’re individual members are very different. You need to use your judgement to motivate your team in different ways.

You can’t be Mr Motivator all of the time either, so pick your times wisely. Try to align your motivational activity to times when your team are receptive. If your team are working all hours to hit a deadline then the offer of extra responsibility is unlikely to make then feel motivated…


Make sure you avoid the classic hygiene factors to ensure your team are not demotivated. And make sure your next one-to-one includes some of those tasty motivators that will get your team on the road to high performance.


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