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Just the job

Sun, 11th Apr 2004

MANAGERS still haven't taken on board the lessons identified by management researcher Frederick Herzberg 40 years ago.

In a celebrated Harvard Business Review article in 1968, One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees , Herzberg showed that satisfaction and dissatisfaction at work weren't opposites, as most people assume, but the result of completely different factors.

So while poor pay can certainly demotivate, sometimes disastrously, it doesn't follow that paying people handsomely motivates them.

The opposite of job dissatisfaction, Herzberg said, wasn't job satisfaction but no job dissatisfaction. He argued that satisfaction and dissatisfaction at work involved two different human needs.

Money, like work conditions, relations with peers, status and, above all, company policy and supervision, were what he called 'hygiene factors' - aspects external to the job that could make people unhappy if they were inadequate, but which weren't motivational.

Motivators, on the other hand, were factors intrinsic to the job: achievement, recognition, responsibility, advancement and personal growth.

It follows from this that most motivational tools, from exhortation to pay incentives, are useless: people can only motivate themselves.

As Herzberg famously put it: 'If you want people motivated to do a good job, give them a good job to do.'

The Observer, 11 April 2004


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