Satisfaction and Dissatisfaction on the Job

In an attempt to determine what factors lead to worker job satisfaction, psychologist Frederick Herzberg conducted a study in which people were asked to describe their most satisfying and dissatisfying experiences on the job and to give the reasons why. They also were asked to describe their levels of performance in the two experiences.

Think about a time when you were most satisfied on the job. It could be your present job, or a past job in the same or a different organization. What made the job so satisfying? What was the quality of your work? Similarly, think about a time when you were most dissatisfied on the job.

What made the job dissatisfying?

What was the quality of your work?

Was it as good as when you worked at the job where more of your needs were met?

When these questions were asked of large groups of people, two different sets of factors typically appeared where responses were analyzed. We call these sets of work issues motivators and maintenance factors.

For motivators, certain factors related to the satisfaction of higher-level needs (esteem and self-actualization) appear frequently when individuals describe their most satisfying experiences on the job:


Employees indicated that they were accomplishing something of genuine value on the job.


Employees indicated that they received appropriate recognition for their work.


Employees indicated that they had responsibility for their work or the work of others.

Work itself

Employees indicated that the work itself was enjoyable.


Employees indicated that the job led to a promotion or a better position.

Personal growth

Employees indicated that they learned new knowledge or skills as a result of having the job.

While each factor was not present in every description of an individual’s most satisfying experience, nearly all included at least one of the factors.

These factors became known as motivators since the surveyed individuals indicated that they were performing their jobs at a very high level.

The impact of motivators is felt on the job for a long time. How many of these factors were present when you had your most satisfying work experience?

Dissatisfaction on the Job

In the same survey, these same people described their least satisfying experience on the job.

The factors that appeared were not the absence of motivators but the presence of a different group of factors.

These latter factors were originally called hygiene factors, reflecting Herzberg’s earliest work with the pharmaceutical industry. He used the analogy of hygiene as being a way to avoid illness (dissatisfaction on the job) and because the factors appear to be related to lower-level needs.

These factors associated with dissatisfaction are now usually described as maintenance factors since they “maintain” people on the job but do not promote performance above minimal levels:

Policies and administration: Employees indicated that they had problems with their organization’s policies and administrative procedures.


Quality of supervision: Employees indicated dissatisfaction with the quality of supervision they received.


Relationships with others: Employees indicated dissatisfaction with the interpersonal relationships they had with seniors, peers, and subordinates.


Work conditions: Employees indicated that they had problems with the work environment and conditions.


Salary: Employees indicated that their salaries did not reflect their performance or their contributions to the organization.


Impact of the job on personal life: Employees indicated that the job had an adverse effect on their personal lives.


How many of these factors were present when you had your least satisfying work experience?


Finally as a manager, you need to realize that you can maintain your employees by providing a safe and secure work environment where their lower-level needs are satisfied (maintenance factors).

You can also motivate them when they have an opportunity to achieve, grow, and be recognized to satisfy higher-level needs. Maintenance factors will not motivate workers after the related lower-level needs are satisfied; motivators are necessary to sustain performance. Let’s take a look at several types of motivators.



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