ERIC®/AE Digest Series TM-97-01 May 1997
The Catholic University of America Department of Education
Herzberg's theory of motivation and Maslow's hierarchy of needs
Joseph E. Gawel, Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation
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 business literature.
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 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 previous level.
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's 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. Maslow's hierarchy of needs is shown in Table 1. It is often illustrated as a pyramid with the survival need at the broad-based bottom and the self-actualization need at the narrow top.
Table 1--Maslow's hierarchy of needs
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 (Table 2), contrary to Herzberg's position that hygiene factors do not motivate.
Table 2--Distribution of motivation and hygiene tendencies among teachers at the various Career Ladder levels (from Bellott and Tutor)
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.
Table 3--The importance of various of Herzberg's hygiene factors in teachers' decisions to participate in TCLP (from Bellott and Tutor)
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
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.
Table 4--Arithmetic means of perceived need deficiency areas by Career Ladder levels (from Bellott and Tutor)
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, LA.
Herzberg, F., Mausner, B., & Snyderman, B. B. (1959). The Motivation to Work (2nd ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Maslow, A. H. (1970). Motivation and Personality (2nd ed.). New York: Harper and Row.
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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