A Guide to Dysfunctional Management and the Evil Workplace
March 30th, 2013 by William

The Two-Factor Challenge

Last week’s blog post detailed the 20 things that employees “don’t” want from their boss. It was meant to be a different take on the many lists floating around of things that employees supposedly “want” from their bosses so they can be happy and engaged on the job. Most advice is geared toward what will supposedly motivate an employee, but my list details what can demotivate the employee. Most lists tell what “to do” if you’re the boss, while my list tells what “not to do.” The reason I think that this is important is because of what’s called “The Two-Factor Theory.”

The Two-Factor Theory states that there are certain factors in the workplace that cause job satisfaction, while a separate set of factors cause dissatisfaction. It was developed by Frederick Herzberg, a psychologist, who theorized that job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction act independently of each other. Herzberg, a behavioral scientist, proposed “The Two-Factor Theory” back in the late 1950s’.

Another way to look at the theory is that not only are there some job factors that result in employee satisfaction; there are equally important job factors that “prevent dissatisfaction.” Preventing dissatisfaction was the goal of my list of 20 things employees don’t want from their boss. Since most management teams fail to realize, let alone take into account, this Two-Factor reality of employee motivation this will present them with a definite challenge–to change their approach to motivating their employees.

According to Herzberg, individuals are not content with the satisfaction of lower-order needs at work, for example, those associated with minimum salary levels or safe and pleasant working conditions. Rather, individuals look for the gratification of higher-level psychological needs having to do with achievement, recognition, responsibility, advancement, and the nature of the work itself.

Many may remember Maslow’s theory of a need hierarchy. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation.” Maslow used the terms Physiological (lowest basic need), Safety, Belongingness and Love, Esteem, and Self-Actualization (highest basic need) to describe the factors that affect motivation. While he admits that all these overlap he primarily believes that people progress from the lower level basic needs to the higher ones as each need is achieved, i.e., you begin to strive for Belongingness and Love only after achieving your Physiological and Safety needs. Maslow’s theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire (or focus motivation upon) the secondary or higher level needs.

However, Herzberg added to Maslow’s work by adding a new dimension to this theory by proposing his “The Two-Factor Theory” of motivation. To Herzberg, satisfaction and dissatisfaction are not on the same continuum with one increasing as the other diminishes, but are independent phenomena. His theory suggests that to improve job attitudes and productivity, bosses must recognize and attend to both sets of characteristics and not assume that an increase in satisfaction leads to decrease in dissatisfaction.

Even if all the factors that are proven to provide job satisfaction to employees are in place an employee can still be dissatisfied with his/her job because the “demotivators” are also in place. Thus the boss’s job is to increase the satisfiers while decreasing the dissatisfiers.

Job characteristics related to what an individual does, that is, to the nature of the work he performs–are proven to have the capacity to gratify such needs as achievement, competency, status, personal worth, and self-realization, thus making the worker happy and satisfied. However, according to Herzberg, the absence of such “gratifying” job characteristics does not necessarily lead to unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

Dissatisfaction results from unfavorable job-related factors such as oppressive company policies, dysfunctional or command and control management, technical problems that preclude the employee doing a good job, strained interpersonal relationships on the job, and bad working conditions–i.e., general workplace dysfunction. All these things will lead to dissatisfied employees, regardless of what other motivators are in place. This is why my book Puttin’ Cologne on the Rickshaw is an important book for bosses to read as it will teach them the dysfunctional behaviors that are probably causing their employees to be dissatisfied and not engaged in their work and the success of the company.

S0, if management wishes to increase satisfaction on the job, it should be concerned with the nature of the workplace itself, i.e., the level of dysfunctionality in the company’s culture, politics, management, and working conditions. In other words, management must take the challenge and strive for a workplace environment free of all the games people play, negative command and control practices, general disregard for the values the organization supposedly holds dear, and finally (and most importantly) the myriad dysfunctional management behaviors that are detailed in my book.

I call these the “non-dysfunctional” demotivational factors, i.e. those factors that when “not dysfunctional” will result in the least chance for there to be dissatisfied workers. These factors describe the job environment and symbolize the psychological needs the individuals wanted and expected to be fulfilled when they took the job. The “non-dysfunctional” factors include:

  • Company Culture, Politics and Policies: this includes the level of bureaucracy present. The company policies should not be too rigid and oppressive. They should be fair and clear. This should include the strict adherence of management to the values the organization holds dear, e.g., work-life balance, trust, respect, etc.
  • Technical Problems and Working Conditions: the working conditions should be safe, and free from technical problems, e.g., equipment in disrepair, bad product design, or insufficient resources, that preclude the employee from doing a good job and thus taking pride in their work efforts
  • Command and Control Management: management must nurture an environment of trust, respect and shared accountability, e.g., not practice “blamestorming” and “plausible deniability.” Servant leadership is a good place to start for management to change their workplace environment
  • Interpersonal Relations: the relationship of the employees with their peers, superiors and subordinates should be one of trust and respect. There should be no conflict or humiliation present. Games like “Thrown under the Bus” and “Divide and Conquer’ should not be played by management and should be squelched if others play them
  • Job Security: management should provide job security to the employees to the best of its ability–it should not preach that the employees “should be happy to have a job.” Although if the organization is repeatedly having lay-offs this is a tough problem for management to overcome

Herzberg would undoubtedly agree the above factors alone cannot necessarily result in motivated employees. The “motivational” factors also have to be in place to yield positive job satisfaction.

So the bottom line is that if management wants engaged, happy employees they need to not only look to maximize the “motivational” factors, but minimize the “demotivational” factors, i.e., they must actively seek to create a workplace free of dysfunction in all its forms–and this is where my book can help.


2 Responses to “The Two-Factor Challenge”
  1. Anonymous says

    Great weblog! I am loving it!! Will be back again afterwards to study some far more….

  2. Jamison Kotai says

    Awesome post.

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