How Hygiene Factors in Job Context Affect Job Dissatisfaction
Everybody has to work and most people identify significantly with their work. It is no secret that occupation is one of the singularly most important factors in most lives. When people are asked about themselves they will generally first talk about who they are in relation to their job, and then about other factors. The workplace then is one of the most important places in the life if an individual, but it can become one of the most stressful also.
In 1959 Frederick Herzberg had been doing research on this very subject since 1957 and he determined that there were a few (five) satisfiers and eleven job dissatisfiers. A company could work to increase the satisfaction of employees because the, rightly, believed that a happy employee is a productive employee. Unfortunately, there were many theories about how to make employees happy, and they went in many directions. Managers had no idea, from this research how to proceed and actually help their employees become more satisfied. So, Herzberg did a lot of research in his own, a metanalysis, of over 30 years of these types of studies. He found several that basically said the same thing. A few of these studies talked about job satisfaction and the satisfying agents that make it so. A few of the studies talked specifically about why some employees did not like their jobs and the reasons why. However, he found another group of studies that compared the two. they took the factors that cause satisfaction and dissatisfaction into the same study and talked about them both. "Herzberg found that dissatisfiers were not the opposite of satisfiers as it would seem from the use of the prefix "dis-" which implies the opposite of. Dissatisfiers are related closely to the environment in which the worker is employed" (Herzberg, Mausner & Snyderman, 1993, xiii).
This was not necessarily a revelation to him because he had just completed a thesis about mental health not being the opposite of mental illness. He understood that these two factors, satisfaction and dissatisfaction now. He understood that they were not polar opposites, but that they did reveal different things about how an employee felt about his or her job. The goal in all of this research was to make it easier for employees to reach their working potential. Basically, he found that employers should try to eliminate dissatisfiers more than they should try to add factors that would supposedly increase employee satisfaction. This essay discusses the research that has been done since 1959 by Herzberg and others to either confirm, disprove or improve his theory.
Herzbergs theoretical masterpiece is termed the two-factor theory. He named it this to make people aware of the dichotomy of those satisfiers and dissatisfiers. He wanted to make sure that the message was understood.
First of all he talked about the hygiene of the workplace. He was not discussing whether people had bathed or brushed their teeth, he was talking about the negative influences people experienced in the workplace and in the content of their job that they found dissatisfying. He writes that he received a lot of grief about the choice of term because "unfortunately no one wants to be vice president of hygiene, even though I have explained repeatedly that prevention of dissatisfaction and mental illness is just as important as encouragement of motivator satisfaction and mental health" (Herzberg, Mausner & Snyderman, 1993, xvi). His argument was that the terming was irrelevant, it was the research into how to eliminate or at least improve the conditions that dissatisfied the employees that was important.
He actually related a lot of his work to Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs which had come out a few years before his own theory. Maslow envisioned that for people to be happy they had to have certain needs met. "The basic human needs placed by Maslow in an ascending order are: psychological needs (these are the basic needs for sustaining human life itself); security or safety needs (these are the needs to be free from physical danger and of the fear of losing a job, property, food or shelter); affiliation or acceptance needs (people need to belong, to be accepted by others); esteem needs (once people begin their need to satisfy their need to belong they want to be held in esteem by themselves and others); and, need for self-actualization (it is the desire to become what one is capable of becoming -- to maximize one's potential and to accomplish something)" (Koontz & Weihrich, 2006, 291). Herzberg looked at the ideas of Maslow and realized that people want to reach the top of Maslow's pyramid. They want to be self-actualized at work. He said "The factors that lead to positive job attitudes do so because they satisfy the individual's need for self-actualization in his work…the supreme goal of man is to fulfill himself as a creative, unique individual according to his innate potentialities and within the limits of reality" (Herzberg, Mausner & Snyderman, 1993, 114). This need to be self-actualized could only happen when the extrinsic factors of the job were in the best possible order that they could be.
So, "Herzberg constructed a two-dimensional paradigm of factors affecting people's attitudes about work. He concluded that such factors as company policy, supervision, interpersonal relations, working conditions, and salary are hygiene factors rather than motivators. According to the theory, the absence of hygiene factors can create job dissatisfaction, but their presence does not motivate or create satisfaction" (Galwell, 1997). This is an interesting point to make that is one of the Herzberg's main claims. Basically, he said it is all about the outside, what happens at the job not the feel good type factors that may make everything seem better. A person may work at a job that has the best atmosphere, the employees are allowed to take mental health breaks often, and they are complimented for their work by the immediate supervisor. But, one small issue can make all of that disappear. "Dissatisfied customers can increase an employee's job dissatisfaction" (Robbins 81). Of course, this statement makes sense. The employee is helpful and polite, but their day is ruined by a bad experience. If this happens often within the context of the job, the employee will have real dissatisfaction issues.
The environment is something that can be controlled by the manager. They cannot deal with the attitude that the employee brings to work, and that is difficult to change anyway. But, they can improve as many of those extrinsic factors, that the manager can control, as possible. "The two-factor theory argues that a successful manager must reduce job dissatisfaction by providing employees with hygiene factors. These factors tend to relate to the environment in which one works and the context of that work" (Davies 81). A successful manager will work for the employees satisfaction because they know that happy workers do, in fact, make productive employees. But that manager has to remember that "good working conditions…will keep employees on the job, but will not make them work harder. But poor working conditions, which are job dissatisfiers, may make employees quit" (Gitman & McDaniel 242). This is a lesson that managers find hard to relate to. For the employee to work harder, they have to feel that they know the job and are supported by the company. Good working conditions are fine, but a manager has to go deeper to actually help their employees be more productive.
Gitman and McDaniel reiterate this point by saying "a lack of job satisfiers doesn't always lead to dissatisfaction and poor performance; instead a lack of job satisfiers may merely lead to workers doing an adequate job, rather than their best" (Gitman & McDaniel 242).
Next, Herzberg thought that "in contrast [to hygiene factors], he determined from the data that the motivators were elements that enriched a person's job; he found five factors in particular that were strong determiners of job satisfaction: achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility, and advancement. These motivators (satisfiers) were associated with long-term positive effects in job performance while the hygiene factors (dissatisfiers) consistently produced only short-term changes in job attitudes and performance, which quickly fell back to its previous level" (Galwell, 1997). He is talking again about the extrinsic factors that motivate an employee, or the things that can help that employee reach the pinnacle of Maslow's hierarchy. Herzberg himself said that "the conditions that surround the doing of the job cannot give him…basic satisfaction; they do not have this potentiality. It is only from the performance of a task that the individual can get the rewards that will reinforce his aspirations" (Herzberg, Mausner & Snyderman, 1993, 114). Why is the task itself so important. Herzberg seems to think because it "emphasize[s] the importance of professional growth as the key want of employees and as the basic determiner of job attitude" (Herzberg, Mausner & Snyderman, 1993, 79).