Is there a valid test of Herzberg's two-factor theory?
Department of Behaviour in Organisations, University of Lancaster; on study ieavefrom the Department of Psychology, University of Melbourne There are several ways of stating Herzberg's two-factor theory of motivation and each version can be tested in various ways. Those who defend the theory argue that researchers who fail to find support for the theory have usually departed from the procedures used by Herzberg. There have been variations in methods of gathering data, categorizing the responses, and analysing the results. These variations may be justified on the grounds that the strength of any theory lies in its logic and in its ability to withstand deviations from a set method. Some tests of Herzberg's theory are more likely to produce support than others. This was confirmed in a study of London bus crews. However it can be argued that there is more than one valid test of Herzberg's two-factor theory, though some of these are likely to produce contradictory results.
The Herzberg theory, or two-factor theory of motivation or Motivator-Hygiene (M-H) theory, has given rise to a mass of investigations and experiments in industry and in many different types of organizations. Results do not always support Herzberg; in fact, only about one in three do so. Donald Hebb once said that when it is a question of survival, theories are like women—fecundity is more important than purity. M-H theory has certainly been very fertile—more so perhaps than any other theory in applied social psychology. Many industrial psychologists have not only survived but indeed thrived on the theory. The fecundity of the theory is not in doubt but its purity certainly is highly suspect. WHAT IS THE THEORY?
The theory is in two parts, each of which can be stated in several ways. Part 1 says that job factors can be separated into two quite distinct sets: the first set consists of factors which contribute to job satisfaction and rarely if at all to job dissatisfaction; these factors are called 'Motivators'. The second set consists of job factors which contribute to job dissatisfaction and rarely if at all to job satisfaction; these are the 'Hygienes'. Consequently job satisfaction and dissatisfaction are separate dimensions and not the two ends of a single dimension. This is a flat contradiction of the traditional view in psychology that satisfaction and dissatisfaction constitute a single dimension. The first difficulty with the theory in practice is that the data usually include a proportion of responses which do not fit this pattern. Some Motivators contribute to dissatisfaction while some Hygienes contribute to satisfaction. Within-factors reversals are far from rare and sometimes outnumber responses in the expected direction. These incongruent responses are attributed to sampling error, which of course is begging the question—rejecting inconvenient data in order to save the theory. The analysis then takes the form of a relative comparison—for Motivators we 197
predict more satisfaction than dissatisfaction, and for Hygienes we predict more dissatisfaction than satisfaction and test for significance accordingly. What investigators fail to point out is that in doing this they are really reformulating the theory to fit their facts. The revised theory now says, in effect, that Motivators contribute more to satisfaction than to dissatisfaction while Hygienes contribute more to dissatisfaction than satisfaction. This is reasonable but it makes nonsense of the claim that satisfaction and dissatisfaction are separate dimensions. In fact it supports the traditional view of the single continuum; different job factors produce ranges of satisfaction-dissatisfaction which are to be found at different positions on the same continuum. Part 2 of the theory is also in two parts. First: paying more...