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Frederick Herzberg

My theories have tended to emphasize strategies for keeping the sane sane.
Frederick Herzberg
American clinical psychologist
Born 1923

Breakthrough ideas
Hygiene and motivation factors KITA motivational theory
Key book
The Motivation to Work
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It is astonishing how little time is spent by management researchers actually
talking to people in real situations. Frederick Taylor watched people and measured
their performance. He wouldnt have dreamed of asking for their opinion. The
Hawthorne experiments treated the people involved as pawns. Few have treated
people in organizations as interesting or even worthy of examination. The strategist
Henry Mintzberg is a notable exception to this and so too is Frederick Herzberg
(born 1923). In the late 1950s, as part of their research, the clinical psychologist
Herzberg and his colleagues asked 203 Pittsburgh engineers and accountants about
their jobs and what pleased and displeased them.
This was hardly a miraculously original approach. But Herzbergs conclusions
were. He separated the motivational elements of work into two categories those
serving peoples animal needs (hygiene factors) and those meeting uniquely human
needs (motivation factors). Hygiene operates to remove health hazards from the
environment of man. It is not a curative; it is, rather, a preventative . . . Similarly,
when there are deleterious factors in the context of the job, they serve to bring about
poor job attitudes. Improvements in these factors of hygiene will serve to remove the
impediments to positive job attitudes, wrote Herzberg and his co-authors in their
1959 book, The Motivation to Work.
Hygiene factors also labeled maintenance factors were determined to include
supervision, inter-personal relations, physical working conditions, salary, company
policies and administrative practices, benefits, and job security. When these factors
deteriorate to a level below that which the employee considers acceptable, then job
dissatisfaction ensues, observed Herzberg. Hygiene alone is insufficient to provide
the motivation to work. Indeed, Herzberg argued that the factors which provide
satisfaction are quite different from those leading to dissatisfaction.
True motivation, said Herzberg, comes from achievement, personal
development, job satisfaction and recognition. The aim should be to motivate people
through the job itself rather than through rewards or pressure.
Herzberg went on to broaden his research base. This further confirmed his
conclusion that hygiene factors are the principal creator of unhappiness in work
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and motivational factors are the route to satisfaction.
The roots of Herzbergs fascination with motivation lay in his experiences when
he served in the Second World War and was posted to Dachau concentration camp
after its liberation. Not surprisingly, this proved a powerful experience. The central
core of my work steams from Second World War experiences in Dachau
Concentration Camp, where I realized that a society goes insane when the sane are
driven insane. As a psychologist, I believe that sanity requires as much professional
attention to nourishing the humanistic content of character and ethics as to showing
compassion for differences in personality. The insane also require care and
compassion but their insane actions should never be reinforced by ethically neutral
On his return to the US, Herzberg studied at the University of Pittsburgh and
worked for the US Public Health Service as a clinical psychologist. (His first love
and subject of study was history I went to the psychology department to
understand people so I could understand history, he says.) He was subsequently
Professor of Management at the University of Utah.
After the success of The Motivation to Work, there was a hiatus until Herzberg
returned to the fray with the publication of an influential article in the Harvard
Business Review in 1968. The article, One More Time: How Do You Motivate
Employees?, has sold over one million copies in reprints making it the Reviews
most popular article ever. Herzberg asked: What is the simplest, surest, and most
direct way of getting someone to do something? Ask? But if the person responds
that he or she does not want to do it, then that calls for psychological consultation to
determine the reasons for such obstinacy. Tell the person? The response shows that
he or she does not understand you, and now an expert in communication methods
has to be brought in to show you how to get through. Give the person a monetary
incentive? I do not need to remind the reader of the complexity and difficulty
involved in setting up and administering an incentive system. Show the person? This
means a costly training program. We need a simple way. The article introduced the
helpful motivational acronym KITA (kick in the ass) and argued: If you have
someone on a job, use him. If you cant use him get rid of him. Herzberg said that
KITA came in three categories: negative physical; negative psychological and
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positive. The latter was the preferred method for genuine motivation.
Herzberg has also coined the, now popular, phrase job enrichment. He believes
that business organizations could be an enormous force for good, provided they
liberate both themselves and their people from the thrall of numbers, and get on with
creative expansion of individuals roles within them.
Herzbergs work has had a considerable effect on the rewards and remuneration
packages offered by corporations. Increasingly, there is a trend towards cafeteria
benefits in which people can choose from a range of options. In effect, they can
select the elements which they recognize as providing their own motivation to work.
Similarly, the current emphasis on self-development, career management and
self-managed learning can be seen as having evolved from Herzbergs insights.
Ultimately, motivation comes from within the individual rather than being created
by the organization according to some formula.
Pay-for-performance, employee stock ownership plans, end-of-year bonuses
too many organizations seem to believe that the only motivation to work is an
economic one, says Gary Hamel. Treating knowledge assets like Skinnerian rats is
hardly the way to get the best out of people. Herzberg offered a substantially more
subtle approach one that still has much to recommend it.