The figure of Frederick Herzberg is widely known in social psychology and in particular in that of organizations, because his innovative theory of motivation and hygiene has made it possible to improve the conditions of employees in the workplace.
Like many famous psychologists, Herzberg is not only dedicated to research, but also lectures, training other psychologists who are aware of the importance of mental health and well-being in motivation at work.
Then we will see the life of this American psychologist through a biography of Frederick Herzberg, We will delve deeper into his theory of motivation and hygiene and discuss other findings which, in his time, became truly innovative.
Brief biography of Frederick Herzberg
Frederick Herzberg was an American psychologist, famous for being one of the first to study motivation at work.
His main contribution to social and organizational psychology has been factor theory, outlined in several of his publications and being highly regarded in the workplace to this day. He was also one of the first to use semi-structured surveys to collect more complete and accurate data, rather than being limited to batteries with yes / no questions.
The life of this psychologist begins in Massachusetts, takes place in New York and ends in Utah, having a productive and recognized career. His work has considerably contributed to taking into account the psychological well-being of workers., More important aspects than your productivity, your salary and the number of hours worked.
Early childhood and vocational training
Frederick Irving Herzberg was born April 18, 1923 in Lynn, Massachusetts, Being the son of Gertrude Irving and Lewis Herzberg, a married couple of immigrants from Lithuania. He spent his childhood and early teens in Massachusetts, although later his life would change and he would move to a location more suitable for his academic development.
At just 13, he left home to go to New York, in search of better opportunities.. There he stood out by his great intellectual capacities, allowing the 16 years to acquire the scholarship of the New York Regents Examination Board and to be able to study in the famous City College of New York. In this center it would initiate its studies in history and psychology.
After World War II in which he had to participate, he was released with honors, returning to civilian life and taking advantage of a veteran’s scholarship. So he could enjoy more time with his wife Shirley Bedell, who had married in 1944. At that time he returned to the City College of New York to finish his studies, graduation in 1946 and master’s degree in psychology. Two years later, he would earn a doctorate in the same discipline and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Pittsburgh.
In the 1950s, after briefly serving in the Pittsburgh Psychological Support Service, he joined the Research and Projects section of the American Public Health Service. In 1956 he joined the Casi Western Reservi University, where he was director of the Department of Psychology.
Being in this institution, he would work as a teacher, specializing in the field of business management. He would also have the opportunity and the will to create a mental health service in the company. Thus, he could study in more detail how motivation and satisfaction are important factors in the performance and well-being of employees.
Development of the theory of motivation and hygiene
Herzberg’s first notable work is his book The Motivation to Work (1967), in which he presents his discoveries made in collaboration with Bernard Mausner and Barbara Bloch Snyderman while researching motivation at work.
His first research was to assess 200 engineers and accountants in the city of Pittsburgh, Collect very sophisticated and precise data that would lead him to propose his theory of motivation that he would describe in his book, a theory still widely used today.
It is necessary to underline the method of investigation used by Herzberg, innovative for its time. This relied on the use of open-ended questions, with no preconceived notions of what respondents might answer. Until then, it was normal to survey using batteries of closed questions, of the style “yes” and “no”, not allowing the respondent to develop his opinions or what he felt.
After publishing his first book, in which he outlines the principles of motivation and hygiene theory, Frederick Herzberg was developing in later work, Being remarkable the work and nature of man (1966)
One of the most important personalities in the field of business administration, George Odiorne, invited Herzberg in 1972 to join the School of Business at the University of Utah.
This fame will materialize when in 1994 the institution created the Frederick I Chair in his honor.. Herzberg for visiting professors and, a year later, would pay homage to him by naming “Cummins Seeking Professor of Management.”
As the culmination of a successful university life, Frederick Herzberg was recognized in 1995 with his book The Work and Nature of Man as one of the most influential authors of 20th century business administration theory and practice, This book is among the top 10 most important texts in the field.
In his later years he continued to teach and develop his ideas about motivation in the world of work, the relationship between employee and employer and how these factors influence well-being at work.
Frederick Irving Herzberg he would die in Salt Lake City, Utah, on January 19, 2000, at the age of 76.
Frederick Herzberg’s Theory of Motivation and Hygiene
Based on his findings, Frederick Herzberg developed a new theory, which he called the “two-factor theory”, better known as the “motivation-hygiene theory”.
According to him, there are two factors that intervene in the workplace, affecting some negatively and affecting others positively, as long as they are present. He called the first factors of dissatisfaction, which it is better not to occur, while the second would be the factors of satisfaction which, ideally, is for the company to seek them out and hold them accountable.
Factors of dissatisfaction
This is the first type of factor posed by Herzberg in his theory. Satisfaction factors include those who, if present, they cause discomfort to workers. Failure to show up at the workplace does not increase well-being beyond a certain point. In other words, if you give them the only thing you can expect is for the situation to get worse, and if it doesn’t, nothing should happen.
Some examples of job dissatisfaction factors would have elements such as overly restrictive company policies, too much supervision, relationship problems between colleagues or with superiors, sub-human working conditions, salary or lack of work. job security and stability.
In any business in which such factors are detected, it will be necessary to work on them and, if possible, eliminate them. This is the first step, although it is not the only or final, in improving the motivation of workers, as eliminating the harm will make them start to feel better.
This is visible today in a simple way, as companies with more flexibility with their workers and who they offer social incentives with less employee dissatisfaction.
Once the dissatisfaction factors detected and eliminated, it is time to work on the factors of satisfaction. These, as their name suggests, they promote job satisfaction in the event of an occurrence.
It should be understood that the absence of such factors does not lead to dissatisfaction in the workplace, but it is difficult to fully motivate workers in the workplace. Their absence does not cause them discomfort, but their presence will make them more comfortable.
Satisfaction factors are linked to such things as the greater ease in achieving significant success within the company, the recognition of successes achieved by employees and the evaluation of the tasks accomplished. The facilities offered by the company for its employees to move forward and continue to learn are also seen as a factor of satisfaction, making them feel constantly growing and not given as people incapable of learning anything else.
It is currently considered that theThe factors of dissatisfaction play an even more important role than the factors of dissatisfaction. It is for this reason that people seem to increasingly prefer jobs in which their emotional and psychological well-being is taken into account before setting the number of hours or the salary.
What Should Businesses Do?
If Frederick Herzberg’s greatest contribution to the field of business administration management is his theory of motivation and hygiene, it is also thanks to him, we know better what companies must do to have workers with more emotional well-being and therefore work better. He had a clear intention to improve the working conditions of employees, stressing that companies must offer more opportunities to increase their participation in the tasks of managing, planning, evaluating and improving their work.
Herzberg stressed that superiors must reduce their control over subordinates and foster their autonomy. This makes them more aware of the way they do their jobs, in addition to developing greater responsibility and keeping their workplace afloat. This would increase the motivation of the subordinates and reduce the workload of the bosses.
Another rather innovative aspect of Frederick Herzberg’s point of view on how businesses were to operate was to compartmentalize the production and service phases. In other words, instead of letting each worker take charge of only one phase of the process, they should be involved in all of them so that they know how the product is developed or how the service is provided. Otherwise, the worker is just doing their job, not knowing what has been done before or what will be done after, which could reduce the quality.
Communication is essential at work. Direct and constant feedback must be provided to workers, so that they know at all times what they can improve, without focusing only on what they have not achieved or what can be improved. They need to be educated on what they are doing well and how valuable they are to the organization.
- Pérez, J., Méndez, S., Jaca, M. (2010). Employee motivation: Herzberg theory. Seville, Spain: University of Seville.
- Feder, B. (2000). FI Herzberg, 76, professor and management consultant. New York, United States: The New York Times.