Review of Hertzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory

Andrew  J. Malanga, Hong Kong, 2014

Sometimes It’s well worth going back through old journals and old articles to put management theory in perspective.  It’s almost like listening to rock from the 60s to understand many of the riffs and techniques musicians use today.  Sometimes we find that old classic remains relevant and elegant if not only for its simplicity.  The seminal work One More Time:  How Do You Motivate Employees?  by Frederick Herzberg represents, just such a relevant classic. 


Herzberg begins by dissecting, into its component parts, the conventional organizational understanding of “motivation.”  This understanding, says Herzberg, is not only incomplete, but is simply wrong.  Herzberg insists that management theories of the day mistakenly confuse motivation with another process: KITA (Kick In The Ass).  Herzberg suggests that KITA is a method of moving someone towards something by using negative or positive, physical or psychological inducements; what management would call “incentives.”  The real difference, says Herzberg, is that motivation, unlike KITA, is an impetus derived from an internal urge to move towards something: The carrot and stick mechanisms of KITA are inadequate and misleading.  To illustrate the folly in using incentives as a substitute for motivation, Herzberg identifies nine common employee incentives used by organizations to induce movement by employees toward increased productivity.  These incentives, says Herzberg, only stimulate an employee to reach for the next higher level of reward; not to perform more efficiently.  Ultimately, the organization may forever have to up the incentive ante if they want to keep the employees at the same level of performance.

Herzberg’s research unveiled an intriguing dichotomy: The things that make employees satisfied with the job are not the same things that make them dissatisfied with the job.  In other words, employee satisfaction is not the opposite of employee dissatisfaction.   An employee may be in any number of states: satisfied, not satisfied, not dissatisfied, dissatisfied.

Herzberg continues by examining two general factors of human needs that effect human satisfaction and dissatisfaction: hygiene factors and motivator factors.  Simply put, hygiene factors encompasses all those emotions and needs at the most base and instinctual level within humans, whereas motivator factors are the higher order needs uniquely characteristic of humans.  Hygiene factors, Herzberg concludes, are the primary cause of dissatisfaction, while motivator factors are the principal cause for satisfaction.


How do you motivate employees?  To answer this question, Herzberg unravels the inadequacies of three general organizational behavior approaches: organizational management, industrial engineering, and behavioral science.  Herzberg explains that his motivation-hygiene theory will result in “job enrichment” to bring about the most effective use of people.

Job enrichment, explains Herzberg, is best realized through a systemic and deliberate manipulation of motivator factors to create, within employees, a vested psychological interest in performing well.

Herzberg advances a method called “vertical job loading”; a process of distilling motivators from job enriching principles.  Removing some job controls, increasing personal accountability for one’s own work, granting additional authority, introducing new and more difficult tasks, and assigning specialized tasks are all principles which, if enacted at the workplace, will motivate employees.  Herzberg explains that these principles are the corollaries of high-order “motivator-factors” such as increased responsibility, recognition, achievement, and advancement.

Herzberg explains that changes brought about by job enrichment will have long-term effects on employee attitudes and that these changes should make each job challenging enough to exercise the skills of the employee hired for it.  Those with higher level skills will demonstrate such and, therefore, will win promotion to higher level jobs.  Ultimately, if even a small part of the resources we program for hygiene factors were re-programmed for job enrichment, concludes Herzberg, “. . . the return in human satisfaction and economic gain would be one of the largest dividends that industry and society have ever reaped through their efforts at better personnel management.”

Herzberg, F.I. 1987, ‘One more time: How do you motivate employees?’, Harvard Business Review, Sep/Oct 87, Vol. 65 Issue 5, p. 109-120

The prisoner’s dilemma

          The prisoner’s dilemma is renowned in game theory circles. It is an example of a game that demonstrates why individuals often fail to cooperate, even when it is in their best interests to do so.

In the conventional definition of the game, two men are arrested while in the act of a crime. They are brought to the police station and put in separate interrogation rooms. They are both offered the same deal, as follows:

  • If you both remain silent, we have enough evidence to put you each away for a month;
  • But, if you inform on your partner and he is silent, then you will do no time in jail and he will be put away for a year;
  • However, if you are silent and your partner informs on you, then you will be in jail for a year and he will go free, and;
  • If you both agree to testify against each other, we’ll go easy on you and you’ll each do three months in jail.

Interestingly, the rational decision for each is to betray the other, even though they would be better off if they both cooperated with each other by remaining silent. After all, in the best case scenario, if you agree to testify against your a partner, you will be afforded no jail time; in the worse case scenario you will get three months in jail – both appear to be better options than taking the risk of remaining silent and having to do a year in jail (if your partner informs on you).

Unfortunately, a version of the prisoner’s dilemma plays out in the business world every day. It’s not uncommon for people working within the same organization, even within the same unit, to operate in conflict with one another. Of course, there are many reasons for this.

Sometimes it’s due to incomplete instructions from above. Staff members think that they are working cooperatively only to find out at a later time that they’re at odds with other colleagues or units because of unclear direction from the top.

Uncooperative behavior can be further impelled when unreasonable expectations, aggressive deadlines and inadequate measurement criteria are lobbed on top of a process, as well. Stress can bring out the worst in people and we’ve all seen this play out at work.

If these realities aren’t bad enough, perhaps the nastiest form of this behavior comes when work units knowingly attend to parochial needs with complete disregard to any impact that such actions may have on other areas of the business. Sales people selling products/services that their firm’s operations staff can’t produce or provide is a classic example of this in action.

Regardless of the cause, uncooperative conduct hinders an organization’s performance. In fact, a steady diet of it leads to lingering, sub-optimal results – the consequences of which can be disastrous to the long-term health and prosperity of the enterprise.

Clearly, we as leaders must sniff this out and take the necessary steps to eradicate the behavior.

We can do this by:

  • Being very clear and deliberate with our direction-setting;
  • Establishing appropriate expectations, deadlines and goals;
  • Aligning measurements and rewards with expected results;
  • Stressing “team” over “individual” performance, and;
  • Raising awareness and providing appropriate training, as needed.

In this way, we can reset our organization’s group dynamics in a direction that enables success and help it avoid falling victim to the prisoner’s dilemma.

Criminals and Terrorists Exploit the Diffusion of Power

Andrew J. Malanga, Hong Kong, 2014


Over the last three decades there has been a relatively rapid diffusion of power once held only by traditional nation-states. The collapse of the cold war bi-polar world was the beginning of this process. The rapid proliferation of the internet hastened the process. Communication, information, and influence have, to a large extent, been re-distributed to actors who were once either irrelevant or merely dwelled on the margins. Criminal organizations, insurrectionary groups, and terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIL / ISIS who were once on the fringes now capitalize on this diffusion. We witness the ability to communicate with and mobilize people via the Internet and we witness the effects this can have within our own culture and politics as well as within and between like-minded criminals. Criminal organizations, like terrorist organizations have migrated from traditional hierarchical top-down structures and now “outsource” to tap expertise in critical functional areas. These non-state actors now operate with relative impunity and across borders, unencumbered by legal treaties, laws, and nation-state boundaries. It is the simultaneous exploitation of the diffusion of power and “projectization” of these groups’ operations that makes each so very difficult to define, infiltrate, and disrupt. Traditional government organizations and militaries, however, retain this hierarchical top-down structure and remain organized and resourced to combat their antagonists using this outdated and incongruent structure. Organized criminals (and I expressly include terrorism as a sub-set of organized criminals) have always adapted first and best to new technologies and markets. Similarly, they have adapted to the Internet-driven world of communication and information. Law enforcement and state-actors usually play follow-up and, by their nature, tend to be reactive. It is no easy fix. It requires resources, progressive thinking, and a complete re-think of organizational structure. Until then, the effectiveness against 21st century organized criminals, especially terrorist, will remain short-term at best.

Identifying Project Risk

Andrew J. Malanga, Hong Kong, 2014

It may seem overly simple, but the first stage of the risk management process must be to identify all possible risks that could affect the project. Certainly, it would be impossible to produce an exhaustive list of every conceivable risk – but you can prioritize what risks you consider based on some intersection between likelihood of the risk event and the potential damage the risk event may cause. The project manager can initiate this process by establishing project priorities in the context of the project scope and objectives. Gray, 2008, suggests that this stage of risk identification must include building a risk management team consisting of key team-players and stakeholders. One of the keys to success in this stage of the process is to examine the project through disassembling it into separate elements. This type of systematic examination of individual project elements, and associated risks, can be geared towards specific project requirements, processes, functional areas, or technical requirements. Common techniques at this phase should solicit ideas and establish concerns from every possible angle and should use, as a basis, the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). This can be particularly useful in identifying some of the lesser emphasized process-oriented risks. On a small project the manager can do this himself; however the advantages in getting a risk management team involved include a broader diversity of opinion and the ability to foster the team’s interest in the project course. Additionally, a risk management team is more apt to draw from various functional areas to more easily employ multiple methods and techniques to identify all the risks that a project may encounter.

1. Gray, Clifford F (2008). Project Management; the managerial process. 4th Ed. McGraw-Hill/Irwin Co., Inc., New York, USA.

Project Management is Risk Management

By: Andrew J. Malanga, Hong Kong, 2014

Project management is an essential function that is the single greatest means of assuring that a project is successful in meeting its objectives. Project management provides managers with tools that improve their ability to plan, implement, and manage activities to accomplish specific organizational objectives. Risks are inherent in all projects and [pullquote]without the use of accurate and effective risk metrics a project manager can fail to mitigate serious risks and end up watching his project fail[/pullquote]. Risk management is a core element within the broader discipline of Project Management. The basis to successful and effective risk management is a clear understanding of the risks faced by the project. The basis to all risk management is first and foremost: risk identification; however, it must amount to more than simply listing identified risks and characterizing them by their probability of occurrence and impact on objectives.

In everyday life as we interact with our environment we are subject to and develop methods to deal with risk. For example, we may identify that there is a risk that our car will be stolen or damaged. We diminish that risk by ensuring we lock our car doors and park it in well lighted places. These are proactive measures to reduce the likelihood of possible adverse events. This represents one of two broad categories of risk management referred to as risk mitigation. On the other hand, in the scenario above, we may purchase insurance so that we can replace or repair the vehicle should the worst happen. Here we presume a risk event, the theft or damage of our car, has already transpired and, consequently, have ready a pre-planned set of procedures designed to minimize or mitigate the negative impact of such an adverse event. This is referred to as contingency planning and represents the second of the broad categories of risk management. This same thought process in our car sample above is easily extrapolated to project management. [pullquote]Project risk equates to uncertain events that have either positive or negative effects on a project.[/pullquote] It is important to remind ourselves that all projects carry risk through uncertainty. In fact, all project managers should recognize that project management, at its core, is really risk management.

Ultimately, then it is the project manager’s responsibility to ensure project risks are identified and managed. Risk management is an essential function that helps assure that a project meets all objectives from cost to functionality. Literature in the field addresses different statistical methods, mathematical modeling, and formal processes to calculate the probability and impact of risks. Experience, however, shows that using a formal, structured process to handle possible foreseen and unforeseen project risk events minimizes surprises, costs, delays, stress, and misunderstandings. Even though this is so, risk management is not always approached with the same rigor of other project management processes; yet, unmanaged or unmitigated risks are one of the primary causes of project failure. It’s disappointing that many managers believe that in the final analysis, risk assessment depends on subjective judgment. In fact a standardized process for identifying, assessing, and responding to risks should be incorporated in all projects.

Improving project risk management involves both improving the ability to identify and influence risk during the project lifecycle, and embedding risk management into mainstream project delivery. Researchers such as in Nielson (2006), Turnbaugh (2005), and Gray (2008), refer to a set of major processes of project risk management. These processes and variations thereof can be found elsewhere in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) and are typically enumerated as shown below:

Risk Identification—of the project specific risks and their scope.
Risk Classification—of the risks’ category, likelihood, and severity of impact.
Risk Response—to mitigate adverse events or exploit opportunity.
Risk Tracking—to adjust risk responses and controls during project execution.

By identifying risks and potential consequences of risks, the Project Manager can both maximize the results of positive events and minimize the consequences of adverse events. In this way [pullquote]risk management can be leveraged to prevent many risks from turning into project killers[/pullquote]. Project managers and all supervisors with resource control must acknowledge the importance of risk identification as the starting point for an effective risk management process. Particular attention should be given to the necessity of decomposing risk into its component source elements; because risk can only be mitigated at the source.