Herzberg's Theory of Motivation and Maslow's Hierarchy
of Needs. ERIC Digest.
by Gawel, Joseph E.
Among various behavioral theories long generally believed and embraced
by American business are those of Frederick Herzberg and Abraham Maslow.
Herzberg, a psychologist, proposed a theory about job factors that motivate
employees. Maslow, a behavioral scientist and contemporary of Herzberg's,
developed a theory about the rank and satisfaction of various human needs
and how people pursue these needs. These theories are widely cited in the
In the education profession, however, researchers in the '80s raised
questions about the applicability of Maslow's and Herzberg's theories to
elementary and secondary school teachers: Do educators, in fact, fit the
profiles of the average business employee? That is, do teachers (1) respond
to the same motivators that Herzberg associated with employees in profit-making
businesses and (2) have the same needs patterns as those uncovered by Maslow
in his studies of business employees?
This digest first provides brief outlines of the Herzberg and Maslow
theories. It then summarizes a study by members of the Tennessee Career
Ladder Program (TCLP). This study found evidence that the teachers in the
program do not match the behavior of people employed in business. Specifically,
the findings disagree with Herzberg in relation to the importance of money
as a motivator and, with Maslow in regard to the position of esteem in
a person's hierarchy of needs.
HERZBERG'S THEORY OF MOTIVATORS AND HYGIENE FACTORS
Herzberg (1959) 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.
In contrast, 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
In summary, satisfiers describe a person's relationship with what she
or he does, many related to the tasks being performed. Dissatisfiers, on
the other hand, have to do with a person' relationship to the context or
environment in which she or he performs the job. The satisfiers relate
to what a person does while the dissatisfiers relate to the situation in
which the person does what he or she does.
MASLOW'S HIERARCHY OF NEEDS
In 1954, Maslow first published "Motivation and Personality," which
introduced his theory about how people satisfy various personal needs in
the context of their work. He postulated, based on his observations as
a humanistic psychologist, that there is a general pattern of needs recognition
and satisfaction that people follow in generally the same sequence. He
also theorized that a person could not recognize or pursue the next higher
need in the hierarchy until her or his currently recognized need was substantially
or completely satisfied, a concept called prepotency.
According to various literature on motivation, individuals often have
problems consistently articulating what they want from a job. Therefore,
employers have ignored what individuals say that they want, instead telling
employees what they want, based on what managers believe most people want
under the circumstances. Frequently, these decisions have been based on
Maslow's needs hierarchy, including the factor of prepotency. As a person
advances through an organization, his employer supplies or provides opportunities
to satisfy needs higher on Maslow's pyramid.
TCLP STUDY IN RELATION TO HERZBERG'S THEORY
According to Bellott and Tutor (1990), the problems with Herzberg's
work are that it occurred in 1959--too long ago to be pertinent--and did
not cover teachers. They cite earlier research by Tutor (1986) with Tennessee
Career Ladder Program as a means of overcoming both those problems. TCLP
has three levels, the largest and beginning one of which (Level I) has
30,000 members. Bellott and Tutor believe that the data from the study
clearly indicate that the Level I participants were as influenced by motivation
factors as by hygiene factors, contrary to Herzberg's position that hygiene
factors do not motivate.
The survey asked classroom teachers, "To what extent did salary influence
your decision to participate in the (TCLP) program?" Teachers responded
using a scale of from 1 (little influence on deciding to participate in
the program) to 7 (large influence). The results for the four highest-average
items, shown in Table 3, indicate that at all three levels teachers viewed
salary as a strong motivating factor, easily the most important of 11 of
Herzberg's hygiene factors on the survey.
On Herzberg's five motivation factors, achievement ranked as the most
important one. However, the overall conclusion drawn from the research
is that salary was the single most important influence on the teachers'
decisions to participate in TCLP, regardless of level in the organization.
Further, actual salary increases ranged from $1000 to 7000 per year. The
teachers perceived the amount of salary increase to be tied to achievement
and the other motivation factors.
THE STUDY AND MASLOW'S THEORY
According to data from the TCLP survey, the teachers at all three experience
levels are less satisfied with their personal achievement of esteem (a
middle level need according to Maslow) than with their achievement of self-actualization.
These results are summarized in Table 4. Therefore, it can be concluded
that self-actualization is a prepotent need for esteem. Two reasons seem
to account for this. First, self-actualization provides the basis for self-esteem.
Second, this self-actualized performance is also the basis for reputation,
the esteem of others.
Although Herzberg's paradigm of hygiene and motivating factors and Maslow's
hierarchy of needs may still have broad applicability in the business world,
at least one aspect of each, salary as a hygiene factor (Herzberg) and
esteem as a lower order need than self-actualization (Maslow), does not
seem to hold in the case of elementary and secondary school teachers. These
findings may begin to explain why good teachers are being lost to other,
higher paying positions and to help administrators focus more closely on
the esteem needs of teachers, individually and collectively.
Bellott, F.K., & Tutor, F.D. (1990). "A Challenge to the Conventional
Wisdom of Herzberg and Maslow Theories." Paper presented at the Nineteenth
Annual Meeting of the Mid-South Educational Research Association. New Orleans,
Herzberg, F., Mausner, B., & Snyderman, B.B. (1959). The
Motivation to Work (2nd ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Tutor, F. D. (1986). The Relationship between Perceived Need Deficiencies
and Factors Influencing Teacher Participation in the Tennessee Career Ladder.
Doctoral dissertation, Memphis State University, Memphis, TN.
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