#3 Can Kissing Your Sister Motivate You: Frederick Herzberg's Motivation Theory

(***NOTE - For this post I suggest you watch the above video rather than reading the transcript below. The video includes dynamic images that better explain the concepts.)

[Transcript]  Let’s start with a quiz….

Great managers get you Satisfied employees.

True or False?

The answer is FALSE.  

Great managers do not create Satisfied employees.  The best they can get you is an employee that is NOT DISsatisfied. It doesn’t matter how good that manager is technically or personality-wise.  They do not have the ability to deliver Satisfied, Motivated employees.

So says psychologist and researcher Frederick Herzberg back in the late 1950’s. He tells the story like this.

Let’s start with a map of Management skills.  Down on the bad manager side of our map we have dissatisfied employees.  Over on the good side we’ll assume we get satisfied employees.

Let’s say your company is way over on the bad side - crappy managers and dissatisfied employees.  Let’s also assume that you want to fix this problem.  So you invest a bunch of time, money, & creativity into management training. You’d make the investment to move the needle over here. To a place of satisfied, creative, motivated employees. 

Makes perfect sense, BUT, like I already told you, IT WON’T WORK. 

Management skills are not motivators
Management skills are not motivators

According to Herzberg, there’s a brick wall right in the middle of our map.   And certain factors are powerful on one side of the wall and DIFFERENT factors are powerful on the other side of the wall.

And guess what.  Management skills lives on the opposite side of the wall from Satisfied employees. So no matter what you do to improve your managers, that investment will NEVER get you satisfied employees.  The BEST you can hope for is employees that, in Herzberg’s words, are NOT DISSatisfied. Which sounds to me about as thrilling as a make out session with my sister. (No offense to my 2 sisters who are fine people, but the thought of making out with them is definitely not on my bucket list).

Anyway, lets dive a little deeper and see what else we can learn from Herzberg’s work.

We’ll start by cleaning up our diagram.  Herzberg calls the factors that CAN’T create satisfaction, Hygiene factors.  And he defines them as the conditions that SURROUND the doing of the job. So not the work itself, but the context of the work. Things like your bosses skills, the spiffiness of your office,  your company policies, your salary etc. 

And the critical point here, on the Hygiene side, is whether the employee FEELS like their treatment is fair.  He talks about fairness over and over, and I don’t like double negatives. So I’m gonna ditch the NOT DISsatisfied stuff and replace it with Fairness. Easier to wrap my head around.

Fairness Does NOT create motivation
Fairness Does NOT create motivation

So if the employee feels like their treatment is fair, you get an A+ on the Hygiene/Fairness side. And your reward is that big smooch from your sister. No fireworks, but at least you’re avoiding the DISsatisfied or Unfair label.

Over on the satisfaction side of the map, Herzberg calls these factors Motivation factors. These lead to a state of Satisfied or Motivated on the high end, or NOT satisfied or NOT motivated on the low end. He describes these factors as satisfying the individual’s need for self-actualization in his work. And he describes self actualization as “man’s need to fulfill himself as a creative unique individual according to his own innate potential.”

He goes on to say... 

"It is only from the performance of a TASK, the actual doing of the job, that the individual can get the rewards that will reinforce his aspirations.” i.e. that will motivate him or her.

Donny and Marie Kiss
Donny and Marie Kiss

Easy enough.  All the stuff that SURROUNDS the job is Hygiene and it peaks out with a kiss from your sister.  

All the stuff involved in the ACTUAL DOING OF THE JOB is Motivation and you won’t find your sister over here. This is the land of milk and honey where you get to kiss anyone you want.

And that’s all I have to say for today. Stay tuned for next time where we’ll do a deeper dive into the Hygiene factors.

Until next time...

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