Herzberg’s Theory of Motivation and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

ERIC Digest: by Gawel, Joseph E

Among various behavioural theories generally believed and embraced by American business are those of Frederick Herzberg and Abraham Maslow. Herzberg, a psychologist, proposed a theory about job factors that motivate employees. Maslow, a behavioural scientist and contemporary of Herzberg’s, developed a theory about the ranking of various human needs and how people pursue these needs. These theories are widely cited in business literature.

Herzberg’s Theory of Motivators and Hygiene Factors

In 1959, Herzberg constructed a two-dimensional paradigm of factors affecting people’s attitudes about work. He concluded that factors such as company policy, supervision, interpersonal relations, working conditions and salary are hygiene factors rather than motivators. According to the theory, the absence of hygiene factors can create job dissatisfaction, but their presence does not motivate or create satisfaction.

In contrast, he determined from the data that the motivators were elements that enriched a person’s job. He found five factors in particular that were strong determiners of job satisfaction: achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility, and advancement. These motivators (satisfiers) were associated with long-term positive effects in job performance, while the hygiene factors (dissatisfiers) consistently produced only short-term changes in job attitudes and performance, which quickly fell back to its previous level.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

In 1954, Maslow first published “Motivation and Personality,” which introduced his theory about how people satisfy various personal needs in the context of their work. Based on his observations as a humanistic psychologist, he argued that there is a general pattern of needs recognition and satisfaction that people follow in generally the same sequence. He also theorised that a person could not recognise or pursue the next higher need in the hierarchy until their recognised need was substantially or completely satisfied, a concept called ‘prepotency’.

According to literature on motivation, individuals often have problems consistently articulating what they want from a job. Therefore, employers have ignored what individuals say they want, instead telling employees what they want, based on what managers believe most people want. Frequently, these decisions are based on Maslow’s needs hierarchy, including the factor of prepotency. As a person advances through an organisation, his employer supplies or provides opportunities to satisfy needs higher on Maslow’s pyramid.