Research on Herzberg’s Motivation for Professionals

By Barry Sweeny, 2000

Herzberg’s theory of motivation helps us to understand that some things truly serve to motivate us to do a more desired behavior, but that other things are expected for just doing our regular day-to-day job. These two aspects of motivation need to be considered when developing or improving an mentoring or induction program. Herzberg called them “Satisfiers” and “Dissatisfiers”.

“Hygenic” Factors: Hygenic factors are things like salary, relationships with supervisors, working conditions, and job security. Herzberg’s theory of motivation tells us that when factors like these are expected for doing the regular job, but are not present or available, the lack of that thing serves as a “dissatisfier” and job performance deteriorates. In other words, if hygenic factors are neglected that causes trouble. Therefore, in an organization considering mentoring, employees who already feel unrecognized for their day-to-day work and who feel they do not receive the support needed to do a good job, will be less likly to seek additional responsibilities such as mentoring, because they are already dissatisfied.

When something that is expected is provided, that does not, however lead to feeling more satisfied, precisely because it was expected! What leads to increased job satisfaction and motivation are Herzberg’s “Satisfiers”. Satisfiers are things that motivate us, like achievement, recognition for achievement, responsibility, and advancement. In other words, employees who have no reason not to serve as a mentor (ie. no major dissatisfiers), WILL serve as mentors if they perceive they can improve their own success as workers, make a contribution to others welfare, or address new challenges that will help them grow professionally and personally. These factors do motivate people to become mentors.

Incentives:The background of the research by Herzberg really helps us to understand what mentoring programs should consider doing that would serve as an incentive. Given his theory of hygenic and motivational factors we can better plan what would serve as an incentive to become a mentor, as support for mentoring, and as recognition for having served as a mentor. Those things that are “motivators” will serve as effective incentives.


Frederick Herzberg, (1959). “The Motivation to Work”. New York, NY: Wiley.