Herzberg's Two-factor Theory

Herzberg's two-factor theory is a model of job satisfaction and motivation, developed by the American psychologist Frederick Irving Herzberg (1923– 2000).

The two-factor theory is also known as Herzberg's motivation-hygiene theory or dual-factor theory. “Hygiene” refers to extrinsic factors—such as pay, working conditions, safety, and benefits—that, if absent, are demotivating and cause dissatisfaction, but do not contribute to job satisfaction. Motivators are intrinsic factors—such as a sense of accomplishment, pride in work, recognition, and increased responsibility—that increase motivation and job satisfaction. The two-factor theory has influenced human resources and business management for more than 50 years.


Frederick Herzberg was a humanist behavioral psychologist determined to understand intrinsic motivation and how it could be put to the most productive use for employees and organizations. He earned his doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh and became a professor of management at Case Western Reserve University, establishing its Department of Industrial Mental Health. He spent the remainder of his career at the University of Utah.

Herzberg first began researching and consulting for organizations during the 1950s. He used a method of data collection that was relatively new at the time— an interviewing technique called “critical incident analysis,” in which employees were asked to describe their most satisfying and dissatisfying job experiences and to describe experiences that made them feel good about their work. His initial studies of accountants and engineers in Pittsburgh led to his two-factor theory: hygiene factors were the primary cause of unhappiness on the job; and motivation and satisfaction came from opportunities for learning and advancement, challenges, achievement, and recognition.

Herzberg and others eventually extended studies of employment motivation and satisfaction to professional women, lower-level supervisors, and a wide range of occupations including:

Herzberg developed and explained his two-factor theory in two influential books, The Motivation to Work (1959) and Work and the Nature of Man (1968). His 1968 essay “One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?” became the Harvard Business Review's most-requested-ever article.

The two factors

Herzberg discovered that job dissatisfaction and satisfaction were not a continuum—rather they were two separate categories or psychological dimensions: “dissatisfaction-no dissatisfaction” and “satisfactionno satisfaction.” Herzberg's two factors are those that cause dissatisfaction and those that create satisfaction. Although the two factors are completely different, the opposite of both job dissatisfaction and satisfaction is no job satisfaction. Therefore, simply resolving dissatisfactions do not lead to job satisfaction.

Hygiene factors are those that, if absent, decrease motivation and result in job dissatisfaction. Their presence does not increase motivation or satisfaction but simply avoids job dissatisfaction. The word “hygiene” was chosen specifically for its medical associations, since hygiene prevents illness but does not improve health. Hygiene factors correspond to Maslow's lower-order needs. They are also called maintenance needs or extrinsic incentives or factors and are associated with working conditions. Herzberg found that the five most important factors that lead to dissatisfaction are company policies and administration, supervision, salary, interpersonal relationships, and working conditions. These include company policies such as leave, benefits such as health care and vacation, status, and security. Hygiene factors must be fulfilled before motivating factors can positively affect commitment and productivity.

Motivating factors correspond to Maslow's higherorder needs. They are sometimes referred to as intrinsic rewards or growth factors and are associated with the work itself. Herzberg found that the most important factor for job satisfaction and a positive attitude is achieving at significant work: employee motivation results from achieving success through work that is both challenging and enjoyable. Thus, Hertzberg's five key determinants of workplace satisfaction are:

Once the extrinsic or hygiene factors are in place, Herzberg called for job enrichments to achieve motivation. He viewed job enrichment as an ongoing management function. However, human resource departments tend to focus primarily on hygiene factors, which add to organization costs. Once hygiene factors are provided, motivating factors can increase motivation and retention, which cut costs. Herzberg and others have suggested that affirmations of employees should exceed derogatory feedback by a ratio of about 10:1. The goals of motivating factors are employees who want to be on the job, who initiate taking on more responsibilities, and who brag about their challenging work. Suggestions for job enrichment include:


In Herzberg's two-factor or motivation-hygiene theory, the extrinsic factors of a job that must be met to prevent job dissatisfaction but that do not contribute to job satisfaction.
In Herzberg's two-factor theory, the intrinsic job factors that meet higher-order needs and contribute to job satisfaction.


Herzberg's two-factor theory was based on his empirical findings and has a been widely accepted business standard since the 1960s. In the half-century since Herzberg's initial studies, his two-factor results have formed the basis for numerous studies of different job-based populations, and his results have been frequently confirmed. A study applying the two-factor theory to teacher satisfaction concluded that satisfaction comes from teachers having time to prepare, collaborate, and participate in decision-making and from opportunities for professional development. However, as Herzberg understood well, the psychology of motivation is extremely complex, and job enrichment and motivating employees to improve performance can be very difficult.

Some recent studies have reported only weak support for the two-factor theory. In part, this may reflect changes in the working world. Herzberg's research was carried out at a time of steadily increasing salaries and fringe benefits and decreasing working hours, whereas in 2015, the opposite is often the case. A study of motivation among members of the millennial generation found that the most important motivators were a job that was interesting and flexible with lots of variety and good relationships with coworkers and supervisors. The quality of employees's private lives was of much greater significance.

See also Maslow, Abraham.



Herzberg, Frederick. Work and the Nature of Man. Cleveland, OH: Holland, 1966.

Herzberg, Frederick, Bernard Mausner, and Barbara B. Snyderman. The Motivation to Work. New York: Wiley, 1959.


Herzberg, Frederick. “One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?” Harvard Business Review 46, no. 1 (January/February 1968): 53–62. https://hbr.org/2003/01/one-more-time-how-do-you-motivateemployees (accessed August 18, 2015).

Keogh, Patricia. “Motivation for Grant Writing Among Academic Librarians.” New Library World 114, no. 3/4 (2013): 151–65.

Kutlalahti, Susanna, and Riitta Liisa Viitala. “Sufficient Challenges and a Weekend Ahead—Generation Y Describing Motivation at Work.” Journal of Organizational Change Management 27, no. 4 (2014): 569–82.

Port, Jonathan D. “Feeling Connected.” Quality Progress 46, no. 7 (July 2013): 16–20.

Thibodeaux, Amy K., et al. “The Effects of Leadership and High-Stakes Testing on Teacher Retention.” Academy of Educational Leadership Journal 19, no. 1 (2015): 227–49.