Although Herzberg’s motivation theory has garnered a lot of support, like any popular theory, it has its fair share of criticisms. Critics point out that when satisfaction is high, people tend to attribute the good fortune to the enjoyable aspects of their job. However, when satisfaction is low, they blame external factors. This suggests a continuum between satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Contrary to Herzberg’s theory, external factors might need to be tackled first – if employees are unsatisfied with external factors, they are unable to feel satisfaction from internal factors.7
Another criticism is that Herzberg’s theory conflates satisfaction and productivity. While it might be true that being more satisfied can make you work harder, Herzberg only investigated satisfaction levels, not work output.7 There is also some controversy whether or not the theory applies to all professions. A 1996 study by Joseph Gawel showed that the theory did not hold up for teachers: schools were losing teachers to higher-paying jobs, which suggested salary acts as a motivator. 8
Another popular management motivation theory is Mclelland’s Need Theory. Developed by psychologist David Mclelland, the theory suggests that there are only three motivators: a need for achievement, a need for affiliation, and a need for power.9 It does not separate context and inherent motivators as starkly as Herzberg’s motivation theory. For example, achievement can include receiving regular feedback, but also a desire to work alone.9 The former would fall under Herzberg’s motivators, whilst the latter would fall under hygiene factors.
Moreover, Herzberg’s motivation theory does not account for cultural differences. Research has shown that whether someone lives in a collectivist or individualist country impacts their motivations. Individualist countries tend to emphasize individual success, which might mean satisfaction is tied to motivators. Collectivist countries, alternatively, are more attentive to the needs of others, which might mean that the work environment is a greater source of satisfaction. Mclelland’s Need Theory, although suggesting that the three motivators are true regardless of culture, does at least take cultural differences into account by stating that one’s culture will impact which of the three takes dominance. 9
Job Satisfaction Amongst Laboratory Professionals
Samira Alrawahi, a researcher in the pathology department at a university hospital in Oman, recognized that job satisfaction was an important condition for staff retention in many healthcare organizations.10 Staff retention is especially important for hospitals in Oman as they often have to recruit expatriates, which means it can be difficult to find replacements. Along with her colleagues, Alrawahi wanted to examine whether the motivational elements identified by medical laboratory professionals would correspond to Herzberg’s motivation theory.
Alrawahi and her team wanted to see if healthcare employees could be satisfied and dissatisfied by different components of their job. She hosted a series of focus group discussions with medical laboratory professionals working in hematology, biochemistry, pathology, and microbiology from three main hospitals in Oman. Respondents were encouraged to express their feelings through open-ended questions posed by a facilitator.10
In agreement with Herzberg’s motivational theory, Alrawahi found that different elements contributed to satisfaction than dissatisfaction for her participants.10 However, the divide did not perfectly correspond to Herzberg’s motivator versus hygiene differentiation. Medical laboratory professionals reported that they felt satisfied by their professional development and their relationships with co-workers and leaders. Health and safety, professional status, workload and salary contributed to their dissatisfaction.10 The dissatisfaction factors correspond to Herzberg’s motivation, which suggest that there may be similar motivators between certain professions.
Tesco, a British grocery store chain, has greatly expanded from its foundation in 1919. Jack Cohen began the business as a market stallholder, but today, Tesco is one of the largest British retailers with over 2,200 stores.11 Tesco partially attributes its success and growth to its motivated, flexible, and well-trained employees. In return, Tesco aims to ensure that their employees feel supported by the company and motivated to work. Tesco has explored multiple motivational theories to tackle their goal, including Herzberg’s motivation theory.
Based on Herzberg’s motivation theory, Tesco identified the components that lead to employee satisfaction (achievement, responsibility, advancement, a sense of challenge and enjoyment).11 As a result, Tesco focused on setting achievable goals for employees and creating an interesting work environment. They also recognize that rewards should go beyond pay increases, which led to the development of Tesco’s Employee Reward Programme. The programme rewards through discounts, gym memberships, and free shares, among other perks. Tesco also helps their employees create a personal development plan for professional and personal growth. The plan focuses on the individuality of each employee and allows staff to take greater interest in their own career journey. Managers also review the employee’s personal development plans with them, which allows for recognition of achievement.11