Research Paper: Workplace Hygiene How Hygiene Factors

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[. . .] They want to do a good job; they want to receive accolades and promotions. All of the things that Maslow said would help a person achieve their self-actualization. Of course, esteem needs are second from the top, but they help a person achieve that highest level.

Herzberg related a few specific pitfalls that should be especially avoided by employers. Work is tiring enough as it is, but when a person is dissatisfied with what they are doing they can become even more disinterested. It has been noted that "People produce less when they are tired; have personal worries; suffer stress from dissatisfaction with the job or the organization" (Clements-Croome 14). These outside factors can make the job that much more difficult because it takes the worker's mind away from the job that they are supposed to be doing. Extrinsic factors to the job are bad enough (such as home issues), but when work is the stressor, there is no escape for the person and they feel that there is no relief from the stress that they feel. Employee dissatisfaction is a many-tentacled thing. It may be hard for the manager to notice, for example, that "simple failure to receive recognition can be a source for job dissatisfaction" (Herzberg, Mausner & Snyderman, 1993, 76). Of course, the employer cannot recognize everything that their employees do. After all they are doing a job, and sometimes, even when they do exceptional work, it may seem like they are just doing their job. It is easier for an employer to understand that "Poor working conditions, bad company policies and administration, and bad supervision will all lead to job dissatisfaction" (Herzberg, Mausner & Snyderman, 1993, 82). These are elements that the employer can directly effect. It may be hard to make sure that en employee goes to bed on time, or that they are recognized for every little job duty they consider exceptional, but improving conditions is one thing that they can do.

Gawell (1997) actually finished what he had to say about the theory and summed it up very well. "In summary, satisfiers describe a person's relationship with what she or he does, many related to the tasks being performed. Dissatisfiers, on the other hand, have to do with a person's relationship to the context or environment in which she or he performs the job. The satisfiers relate to what a person does while the dissatisfiers relate to the situation in which the person does what he or she does." Doing vs. The situation does describe what Herzberg had in mind.

Another facet of the original theory that Herzberg does not discuss is a factor that is very prevalent in the workplace of today. Since the early 1990's many occupations, that were once considered typically male and were also largely Caucasian, have seen both women and minorities flock to them. Some people have attempted to see how Herzberg's theory can apply to these workers. It was assumed at first that result would not be favorable because all of the studies were done with white males. It is difficult to extrapolate a theory to another population that was specifically done with regard to another.

The attitudes of white males may have been completely different from females and minority workers, but it was found that the theory worked just as well with one segment of the working population as another. "In spite of cultural differences, workers around the world tend to demonstrate a tendency toward satisfaction with job intrinsics, and dissatisfaction with job extrinsics. Researchers in Japan seemed especially surprised that 'pleasant experiences' by Japanese workers related to their own achievements and learning in the work itself and not to company policy or interpersonal relationships with co-workers" (Herzberg, Mausner & Snyderman, 1993, 3). This study was done in Japan, with workers who have already been shown to have completely different attitudes than American workers.

Asian workers are seen as more team oriented, and they are seen to have more loyalty to a particular employer than American workers. This has been true in the past, but, as this study proved, even though the workers may have had more loyalty to a single company than American workers, they still wanted to realize the same goals as the workers Herzberg had originally studied.

Other studies have also born this out. Though there are exceptions within every working community, people generally want to feel fulfilled in their jobs.

There have been many critiques of the theory. People have most said that it is a simplistic interpretation of what happens in the job satisfaction realm. Maslow went out of favor long ago because his theory was also said to be a dumbing down of what actually happens with people. Maslow himself agreed that the theory is not perfect. People are multi-layered and his theory should be constructed so that it is also (Koontz & Weihrich, 2006). The critics of Maslow said that people may reach self-actualization in one area of their lives, but be having a difficult time in others. Also, a life is filled with different eras. Sometimes a person has reached the pinnacle of Maslow's hierarchy, but the next day (not literally) some event cause the person to be knocked down to the lowest rung. This happens continuously; it is a never-ending cycle rather than a simple continuum as Maslow first suggested.

This is one of the problems that people had with Herzberg's theory also. It was too simplistic an explanation of what actually happened. A person can go to work one day and they are fulfilled by what happens. They have a great day, they reach all of their goals, and they feel as if they have been "self-actualized." But the next day something happens at work, such as a change in policy that cancels all of that out. Herzberg's theory did allow for the person to drift slightly, but critics felt that he did not talk about the realities that are present in jobs today.

Also, it was difficult to extrapolate the data to new eras of employment. The original theory used data that is now (in the case of some of it) almost a century old. It is impossible, with the way that technology has changed the face of the employment market, to say that this 50-year-old theory can still apply.

But some researchers contend that it may be just as applicable as it was over 50 years ago. Although the workplace is much more diverse, the jobs have changed and the workplace itself has evolved, the people who work in those new environments, with new people, and at new tasks have not changed in any real way. As the saying goes "the more things change the more they stay the same." Daniel A Sachau recently did a study that suggested that Herzberg was not as far off as people had been assuming for the past 30 years. He says "emerging research from the field of positive psychology is surprisingly consistent with basic tenets of the motivation-hygiene theory." People are starting to look at the psychology of the worker differently, and it seems that Herzberg may have been right all along -- at least in part.

The theory itself is a simple explanation of how satisfaction and dissatisfaction meet in the workplace. Herzberg continues to contend that the two are separate, and it seems like he is being vindicated by recent research. Whether people want to self-actualize through the content of their work as Herzberg contended, or there is some more perfect explanation out there, has not been fully analyzed. But researchers continue to try and discover whether the motivators and hygiene factors that Herzberg saw in those early studies are valid or not.


Clements-Croome, D. (2006). Creating the productive workplace. London: Taylor & Francis.

Davies, S.J. (2007). Security supervision and management: The theory and practice of asset protection. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Gawel, J.E. (1997). Herzberg's theory of motivation and Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 5(11).

Gitman, L.J., & McDaniel, C. (2008). The future of business: The essentials. Grand Rapids, MI: Cengage Learning.

Herzberg, F., Mausner, B., & Snyderman, B.B. (1993). The Motivation to Work. Piscataway,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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