It’s not my intention to give full information or an extensive discussion on every theory. This website is intended to be a starting point and the main difference with other websites is the visual representation of the theory, which I hope will help get to grips with the theory. There are also links it the bottom to get your further research started.

Motivation Hygiene Theory – 2 Factor Theory

Frederick Herzberg 1968

Weird way to remember Herzberg and his 2 factor theory:

Herzberg is an American psychologist but his name is German, meaning “heart mountain”. A trick could be to picture a heart in the image of a mountain with a cable car that can go up and/or down. Obviously this works even better if you speak a bit of German already, but hopefully it helps!


Motivation Hygiene Theory is another theory that comes from the area of business management, rather than career counselling. This means it’s already in the occupational realm but it will need some translating to fit career guidance. The name of the theory can be a bit confusing at first in that ‘motivation’ and ‘hygiene’ refer to two different areas of the theory.

People need two elements to perform well:

  • Hygiene needs: concerned with how you treat people or how you are treated at work – hygiene needs prevent people from getting unhappy – they keep people well, but they don’t motivate people. These are not a source for motivation when present, but they can be a source of dissatisfaction when they are not present according to Herzberg. They are needed to stop someone from feeling job dissatisfaction – they maintain satisfaction, which is why Herzberg called them hygiene needs.
  • Motivators: what are you able to do or achieve at work? Is what I do meaningful and significant? Does it add something for me? They are intrinsic to the person and are related to the actual job itself, rather than general and unrelated to the actual job.

Motivators can be

  • Positive (carrot – a motivator I need – money, food, a car…) or
  • Negative (stick – a motivator that forces me – threat of losing job, keeping from promotion, threat of being side-lined)

Motivation Hygiene career Theory or 2 Factor Theory by Frederick Herzberg.

Positive motivators can get someone to work from motivation that comes from inside them, rather than from external factors.

Positive motivators include:

  • Having the ability to do the job in the first place – training
  • Opportunity to use the abilities someone has
  • Job enrichment – a range of abilities and opportunities an individual can span and within which people can grow and enrich themselves
  • Learning experience – linked to the previous point
  • Direct feedback on how the individual is doing – this means intrinsic feedback, not formal feedback – responsibility for self-checking
  • Direct communication instead of communication through intermediaries
  • Salary – feeling you are appreciated and treated well. These lead to job satisfaction and motivation. Job dissatisfaction factors are related to a lack of hygiene and motivators or negative motivators and don’t lead to (intrinsic) motivation.


Herzberg and Maslow

I think you can recognise more than some elements of Maslow’s theory in this but the approach is different. Motivation Hygiene Theory doesn’t overtly include life’s basics like air, food, etc, neither does it include safety. it’s completely concerned with the corporate from a management perspective. What we can recognise is the top tier of Maslow’s theory in some of the motivation factors.


How can we use this in our work?

It’s very clear that the above is very much related to management and I’ve been told before that this doesn’t look very useful for career guidance but through metaphor it can be made useful for clients of all ages. The example below is useful for children at first sight, but why not try adapting it for adults and adolescents?

You could explore, with the client, what their motivators and detractors are for a career path they are interested in while exploring what the job will be like in reality. Alternatively, this is an excellent theory to use with a client who is in a job or course but is unhappy. It allows you to clearly outline what is going wrong, where and why it’s going wrong and what can be done about it, possibly by using the motivating factors Herzberg mentioned described above.

The interviewing prompt sheet balloon image of the Motivation Hygiene Theory or 2 Factor Theory by Herzberg.


Herzberg’s theory is clearly intended for a different purpose, as mentioned before. However, with my suggestion above, as well as your creativity, this can easily be turned around into a useful tool for us.

  • Is this a theory you can use?
  • Its reach and use is by definition relatively narrow, but is it? What can you use it for and what falls outside its scope?
  • Again, have a look at Brown and see how it measures up.
  • Do you agree with Herzberg’s conclusions? Or is his theory not something you can relate to from the perspective of the client seeking support or from your own perspective?
  • How does it relate to other theories, especially Maslow, but also trait and factor theories, especially Parsons? What are the differences and what can you draw out of these to learn more about the usefulness or value of Motivation Hygiene Theory?


Useful links

Videos and reference:

Two videos from the man himself, which need to be seen in succession to give you the full picture. They are a bit outdated with a heavily smoking Fred Herzberg and his ‘colourful’ language, something that would be unthinkable now (it even features a real blackboard and real chalk!). The quality isn’t great either. They get the main points about the theory across very well however.