Overview Employee Motivation Theories
Herzberg’s hygiene factors vs. motivators theory is one of the most empirical and in my opinion, compelling theories about motivation.

It is the only motivational theory that splits out demotivating factors from true motivators; it introduces the concept of movement vs. motivation. And it “has produced more replications than any other research in the history of industrial and organizational psychology.” (source: Institute for Scientific Information).


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Herzberg hygiene factors: KITA

Herzberg researched hundreds of employees and companies and determined that most companies use what he unceremoniously refers to as KITA, under the erroneous belief that it will motivate their employees. A Kick In The Ass, he explains, comes in different forms.

First off, you have negative physical KITA. The literal kick up the buttocks and whiplashes may have helped build the pyramid, they’re not what today’s workers are looking for in a job. And they have a choice.

Secondly, there’s negative psychological KITA. This entails all kinds of emotional games and manipulations to make someone perform more. This happens a lot, as it can give quite an ego boost to the person administering it. It doesn’t help to get anyone excited to get to work in the mornings though.

And then, according to Herzberg’s hygiene factors vs motivators theory, there is positive KITA. It means any kind of quid pro quo that an organisation may use. A reward, an incentive, more status, a promotion… Many companies believe that these positive KITAs truly do motivate people. As Herzberg’s hygiene-motivators theory shows, they don’t really. They may create a pull, a kind of “dog biscuit to wave in front of employees to get them to jump” (Herzberg). Positive KITA, Hertzberg explains, is seduction. Where negative KITA is truly a practice to be abhorred, positive KITA makes employees party to their own downfall. “It’s the American Way. The organisation doesn’t have to kick you, you kick yourself”.

Hertzberg goes on to show the ways positive KITA is administered. What Herzberg sees as a true motivator is an engine inside a person that makes them keep going out of their own accord without needing a constant pull from the company. What’s fascinating about this is that even things like human relations training and job participation don’t intrinsically motivate people. They may charge a person’s battery, but it will run flat again at some point of no real motivation is instilled.

Herzberg’s hygiene factors vs. motivators

‘How do you install a generator in an employee?’, Herzberg wonders. Herzberg’s hygiene factors vs motivators theory first suggests that “the factors involved in producting job satisfaction (and motivation) are separate and distinct from the factors that lead to job dissatisfaction.” Semantically, this may seem strange but as Herzberg states, these two feelings are not opposites of each other.

Herzberg explains this by turning to the different sets of needs human beings have in a way that is very reminiscent of Maslow’s as well as Anthony Robbins’ division of needs into two categories (the personality needs, and growth needs).

The first set stems from our animal nature – “the built-in drive to avoid pain from the environment, plus all the learned drives that become conditioned to the basic biological needs. For example, hunger makes it necessary to earn money, and then money becomes a specific drive”. The stimuli inducing pain-avoidance behavior are found in the job environment. Herzberg calls these hygiene (or KITA) factors. They are things like wage, company policies and administration, working conditions, status, security, co-worker relationships and supervisory style.

The other set of needs relates “to that unique human characteristic, the ability to achieve and, through achievement, to experience psychological growth”. The stimuli for the growth needs are tasks that induce growth, in the industrial setting, they are the job content. Motivation factors are achievement, recognition, responsibility, advancement and the work itself.

According to Herzberg, the factors leading to job satisfaction are separate and distinct from those that lead to job dissatisfaction. Therefore, manager who seek to eliminate factors that create job dissatisfaction can bring about peace, but not necessarily motivation.

Job enrichment according to Herzberg’s hygiene factors vs motivators theory

Herzberg suggests that work be enriched (or ‘vertically loaded’) for true motivation to spark up. This is different from horizontal job loading, which reduces the personal contribution rather than giving opportunities for growth. Some examples are:

  • Challenging the employee by increasing the amount of production expected.
  • Adding another meaningless task to the existing one.
  • Rotating the assignments of a number of jobs that need to be enriched.
  • Removing the most difficult parts of the assignment.

So how do you enrich a job? I can imagine that after reading about all the ways people AREN’T motivated, you’d like to hear some good news. Well, here you go. Herzberg’s motivation factors vs hygien factors theory advises to follow seven principles when vertically enriching jobs.

PrincipleMotivators involved
1.  Removing some controls while retaining accountabilityResponsibility and personal achievement
2.  Increasing the accountability of individuals for own workResponsibility and recognition
3.  Giving a person a complete natural unit of work (module, division, area…)Responsibility, achievement and recognition
4.  Granting additional authority to employees in their activity; job freedomResponsibility, achievement and recognition
5.  Making periodic reports directly available to the workers themselves rather than to supervisorsInternal recognition
6.  Introducing new and more difficult tasks not previously handledGrowth and learning
7.  Assigning individual specific or specialized tasks, enabling them to become expertsResponsibility, growth and advancement


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