Herzberg's Two-Factor Theory of Work Motivation

Renowned psychologist Frederick Herzberg earned his fame for his work in the field of occupational psychology. Specifically, he dedicated himself to the administrative management of companies, speaking from a psychological perspective of it.

Thanks to his theory of the two factors, it was possible to better understand what made a worker satisfied and, on the contrary, what prevented it. As we will see in this article, when reeling off his theory, it is very useful in work and organizational psychology, being applied even today in numerous companies. In this article you will discover Herzberg's theory of the two factors on work motivation , which is also called the theory of motivation and hygiene.

Frederick Herzberg's theory of the two factors

In the theory of the two factors or theory of motivation and hygiene, Herzberg establishes that workers (in reality, all individuals) have a series of needs. These are the needs classified as basic by the author, specifically they are motivation and hygiene , hence the name of his theory. Although we will detail each of them later, the important thing is to understand what happens if these needs are not covered or satisfied.

An important fact is that while factors hygiene refer to dissatisfaction , those of motivation make the satisfaction. These factors would be completely independent, that is, a motivating factor can only cause job satisfaction or not, but it would never cause dissatisfaction, being one-way. Nor are they contrary, if one goes up the other does not have to go up or down, that is, if satisfaction increases, this, by itself, does not affect dissatisfaction.

What are the two factors of Herzberg's theory

The two factors of Frederick Herzberg's two-factor theory are:


The first factor in Herzberg's theory is motivation. It refers to intrinsic, satisfying or content factors. Motivating factors are what generate satisfaction . The continuum of feelings would go from satisfaction to non-satisfaction. Examples of motivating factors are:

  • Recognition
  • The degree of responsibility
  • Labor independence
  • The promotion

Here you will find more information about motivation in psychology.


The second factor in Herzberg's theory is hygiene: Factors called hygiene, extrinsic, unsatisfactory or context. These factors include the conditions of the individual's work environment, causing their dissatisfaction. In this case, the continuum oscillates between dissatisfaction and non-dissatisfaction. Some examples would be:

  • Salary
  • Company policy
  • The supervision
  • Peer relationships

How the dual factor theory of Frederick Herzberg can be applied

In his theory, Herzberg provides a series of tips that facilitate satisfaction and non-dissatisfaction of workers, avoiding that the interests of the company and those of the worker come into conflict, something that happens quite frequently. These tips are:

  • Responsibility: Herzberg recommends gradually increasing the responsibility that workers have, giving them more and more relevant and necessary jobs. This is more effective if the complexity of the tasks is increased jointly.
  • Personalization and growth: giving workers special tasks, personalized or extraordinary, that are designed to improve their skills important to the performance of their position.
  • Offer more freedom and flexibility to the worker.
  • Eliminate restrictive and excessive controls and supervision, replacing them with a much more effective support model.
  • Give feedback to workers on the repercussions of their work and the achievements achieved. Provide feedback on tasks and performance.
  • Create a good work environment, in which good relations are established between workers, promoting cooperation and never aggressive competition between them.
  • Adequate salary: provide workers with a decent, fair and adjusted salary to their position, in turn ensuring stability for the individual.