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The following article was written by Coleman Patterson and appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.

Real measure of worker satisfaction, March 30, 2007, 2D.

The opposite of up is down and the opposite of on is off.  The opposite of big is small and the opposite of left is right.  Many things have opposites, but some do not.  For example, do you know the opposite of a fish?  Or a pickle?  Or a book?  There are also some things that we like to think of as being opposites, but in fact, they are not—such as a cat being the opposite of a dog.

Frederick Herzberg wrestled with the ideas of opposites in his work on motivation and worker satisfaction.  Until Herzberg’s research, most people believed that satisfaction and dissatisfaction with work were opposite ends of a single continuum.  As a person became more satisfied with a job, he or she moved away from being dissatisfied.  Under this view, managers and organizational leaders needed to attend to characteristics of the job that moved employees toward satisfaction and away from dissatisfaction.

Herzberg’s research revealed that there are certain job characteristics that lead to satisfaction and other characteristics that create dissatisfaction.  Instead of a single continuum ranging from satisfaction to dissatisfaction, Herzberg concluded that there are actually two dimensions of satisfaction and dissatisfaction.  One dimension ranges from dissatisfaction to neutral and the other ranges from neutral to satisfaction.  Satisfaction and dissatisfaction with work arise from the presence or absence of different job characteristics.

Hygiene factors, as Herzberg labeled them, are those characteristics of the job that if present, lead to a neutral feeling about the job.  Company policies, relationships with coworkers, working conditions, quality of supervision, pay, and relationships with superiors are hygiene factors.  If these factors are unacceptable to a worker, they will lead to dissatisfaction with the job.  If they are sufficiently present in a workplace, they will simply cause the worker to feel okay or neutral about the job.

The characteristics of a job that make it satisfying to workers are known as “Motivators,” according to Herzberg’s model.  These are things that if present, lead workers away from feeling okay or neutral with a job to feeling satisfied.  Achievement, recognition, responsibility, advancement opportunities, growth, and the work itself are those things that create feelings of satisfaction and motivation in workers.

As with personal hygiene, if you have it, the people with whom you come into contact will not be offended by your presence.  If your personal hygiene is poor, the people with whom you closely interact will be dissatisfied with being near you.  Proper hygiene does not create feelings of satisfaction among those you encounter; it only keeps them from being dissatisfied.  Satisfaction with being near others arises when you have things in common, enjoy your times together, and respect and appreciate each other.  Personality, mutual respect, shared values and feelings, and appreciation of others are what lead to satisfaction with being close to others.

Managers who want to enhance motivation and satisfaction in their workers must guarantee that hygiene AND motivator factors are positive and present in their workplaces.

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© 2006, 2007, 2008  Coleman Patterson, All Rights Reserved