American psychologist Frederick Herzberg, in studying organizations, created one of the most fundamental theories in modern business management. The Herzberg Theory, also known as the Two-factor Theory or the Motivator-Hygiene Theory, argues that there are certain factors in one’s workplace that can cause job satisfaction, while a separate set of factors can lead to dissatisfaction. Each of these act independently of one another.
Herzberg used the work of Abraham Maslow’s theory of motivation as an intellectual foundation for his work, and discovered that individuals need higher-level psychological gratification in their work; a pleasant working environment is not sufficient. The Herzberg Theory adds to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs two factors, one of which leads to satisfaction, while the other leads to dissatisfaction. Both motivators and hygiene can contribute to these states.
Hygiene factors are those that can contribute to dissatisfaction. Herzberg used the term “hygiene” in the sense that these are maintenance, and that their absence will cause an employee to increasingly become dissatisfied. These include job security, salary, fringe benefits, and vacations. The Herzberg Theory therefore has four possible combinations. High hygiene and high motivation leads to an ideal situation. High hygiene and low motivation leads to few complaints but employees not motivated by more than the paycheck. Low hygiene and high motivation results in exciting work with numerous complaints. Low hygiene and low motivation is the least ideal, where non-motivated employees have numerous complaints.