maslow and herzberg

Understanding Motivation using Maslow and Herzberg Theories

One of the major challenges facing many managers is how to motivate each individual member of their team. One person may want a higher salary whilst another is looking for opportunities to grow. Whilst we must view each person as an ‘individual’, there will be some common factors that motivate everyone. In this article, we explore these top motivators using the well known Maslow and Herzberg theories.

Understanding Motivation

Several motivation theories work on the assumption that given the chance and the right stimuli, people work well and positively. As a manager, it is important to be aware of what these ‘stimuli’ or ‘motivational forces’ are. Abraham Harold Maslow (1908 –1970) was an American psychologist and theorist, who was best known for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualisation. Maslow grouped the needs into five areas as shown below. According to Maslow, the needs are tackled in order; as you draw near to satisfying one, the priority of the next one becomes higher. Also once a need has been satisfied; it is no longer a stimulus.


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow believed that satisfying just the physiological and safety needs is not enough to motivate a person fully. Once these needs have been appeased, there are others waiting to take their place. The Maslow hierarchy can be applied to every aspect of life, and the more ambitious and satisfied the personality, the greater the potential contribution to the organisation.

Herzberg’s Theory of Motivation

In 1959, Frederick Herzberg (1923-2000), a clinical psychologist who was regarded as one of the great original thinkers in management and motivational theory, proposed a two-factor theory or the motivator-hygiene theory. According to Herzberg, there are some job factors that result in satisfaction while there are other job factors that prevent dissatisfaction. According to Herzberg, the opposite of ‘Satisfaction’ is ‘No satisfaction’ and the opposite of ‘Dissatisfaction’ is ‘No dissatisfaction’.

Hygiene Factors Definitions
Salary and Benefit These include basic income, fringe benefits, bonuses, holidays, company car and similar items
Working Conditions These conditions include working hours, workplace layout, facilities, and equipment provided for the job
Company Policy The company policy is the rules and regulations – formal and informal – that govern employers and employees
Status A person’s status is determined by their rank, authority, and relationship with others, reflecting a level of acceptance
Job Security This is the degree of confidence that the employee has regarding continued employment in an organisation
Supervision This factor concerns the extent of control that an individual has over the consent and execution of a job
Relationships This is the level and type of relations within the individual’s working environment
Personal Life An individual’s personal life is time spent with family and friends and on interests – restricted by time spent at work
Motivators Why they work
Achievement Reaching or exceeding task objectives is particularly important because the ‘onwards and upwards’ urge to achieve, is basic human drive.  It is one of the most powerful motivators and a great source of satisfaction
Recognition The acknowledgement of achievements by senior staff members is motivational because it helps to enhance self-esteem.  For many staff members, recognition may be viewed as a reward in itself
Job Interest A job that provides positive, satisfying pleasure to individuals and groups will be a greater motivational force than a job that does not sustain interest.  As far as possible, responsibilities should be matched to individual’s interests.
Responsibility The opportunity to exercise  power may demand leadership skills, risk-taking, decision making and self-direction, all of which raise self-esteem and are strong motivators
Advancement Promotion, progress and rising rewards for achievement are important here.  Possibly the main motivator, however, is the feeling that advancement is possible.  Be honest about promotion prospects and the likely timescales

Motivation – Key points to remember:

  • The effects of getting hygiene factors right are only temporary
  • The results of getting hygiene factors wrong can cause long-term problems
  • The more choice people can exercise over both hygiene factors and motivators, the better motivated they will be
  • Job insecurity undermines motivation at all levels
  • Recognising good work is as important as rewarding it


Recognising Motivation

Motivation can be recognised in a number of ways – look particularly for signs that your staff feel useful, optimistic, and able to recognise opportunities. A team in which each member looks after the others’ interests, is likely to be a good source of motivation. Look for evidence that your staff are satisfied in their jobs rather than anxious or frustrated.  If you find no signs, ask them if they are satisfied. You can also establish a good idea of an individual’s level of motivation by their attitude towards work. The statements below are all indicative of motivated staff members:

  • They freely volunteer effort and ideas, as well as other contributions
  • They always react well to requests and new assignments
  • They work to achieve, not ‘to rule’
  • They seem to be happy at work
  • They always respond frankly to questions

Reducing De-motivation

Workplace de-motivation for many people tends to be caused by poor system or work overload.  Very clear signs of de-motivation include high levels of absenteeism and quick turn over of staff.  Recognising de-motivation is pointless unless you intend to eradicate its causes. Remember, too, that poor behaviour and underperformance are not necessarily signs of workplace de-motivation.  If de-motivation remains, even when the situation is improved, it may be due to personal problems.

De-motivation must first be analysed before you can do anything about it. It may be caused by stress, emotional problems, or physical illness. Alternatively, there may be something wrong with the job itself, or with the person’s approach to it. Talk to the de-motivated person in order to identify where the problem lies, and tailor the remedy to the cause.


(Herzberg, Frederick (February 1968). “One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?”. Harvard Business Review. 46 (1): 53–62.)

(Maslow, A. H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370-96)

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