What causes employee dissatisfaction

Are your employee happy or dissatisfied

What causes employee dissatisfaction. Are these real or just hygene factors?


Hygiene Factors are what causes dissatisfaction among employees in a workplace!

What are they and how do we control or eradicate them from our workplace?

Psychologist Frederick Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory states that there are certain factors in the workplace which result in job satisfaction, whilst a separate set of factors result in dissatisfaction. The gist is that job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction act independently of each other.

Herzberg suggests that individuals are not satisfied by ‘lower-order’ needs at work; for example, minimum salary or safe and pleasant working conditions.

Rather, individuals look for ‘higher-level’ needs to do with achievement, recognition, responsibility, advancement, and the very nature of the work.

This theory recognises that satisfaction and dissatisfaction are not on a continuum with one increasing as the other diminishes, but are independent phenomena. So in order to improve peoples attitudes to their job and productivity, leaders at work need to work on both sets of characteristics and not assume that if satisfaction increases, there will be an automatic decrease in dissatisfaction.

The biggest influence on, sense of achievement, competency, status, personal worth, and self-realization, appears to be the very characteristics related to the work one performs.  These help to make employees happy and satisfied.

However, if these are not present it does not automatically mean there is unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Instead, it appears that the dissatisfaction is generated by job-related factors such as:

  • Company policies,
  • Type of supervision,
  • Technical problems,
  • Salary,
  • Interpersonal relations at work,
  • Working conditions.

This two-factor theory distinguishes between:


Activities or tasks that give positive satisfaction, arising from the conditions of the job itself, such as:-

  • Recognition for achievement
  • Personal growth
  • Challenging work
  • Responsibility
  • Opportunity to do something meaningful
  • Involvement in decision making
  • Sense of personal importance to an organisation

Hygiene factors

Tend to be things like:-

  • Status [a rank or title]
  • Job security
  • Good Salary
  • Fringe benefits
  • Work conditions
  • Extra paid health insurance
  • Holidays

These tend not to give long term positive satisfaction or lead to higher motivation, but they do lead to dissatisfaction if they are NOT there.

The term “hygiene” is used in the sense that these are maintenance factors and as such are extrinsic to the work itself.

So, if you want to increase satisfaction at work, then you need to be concerned with the nature of the work itself — the opportunities it gives for individuals to gain status, assume responsibility, and achieve self-realization.

If, on the other hand, you need to reduce dissatisfaction, then you have to target the work environment — policies, procedures, supervision, and working conditions. If you are equally concerned with both, then you need to focus on both sets of factors.

According to the Two-Factor Theory there are four possible combinations:

High Hygiene + High Motivation:

The ideal situation where employees are highly motivated and have few complaints.

High Hygiene + Low Motivation:

Employees have few complaints but are not highly motivated. The job is viewed as ‘easy money’.

Low Hygiene + High Motivation:

Employees are motivated but have a lot of complaints. A situation where the job is exciting and challenging but salaries and work conditions are not up to par.

Low Hygiene + Low Motivation:

This is the worst situation where employees are not motivated and have many complaints.

The big question is…

Where are you on the scale?

Where are your employees?

Have you ever thought to ask co-workers to rank the list of potential motivators.

Get them to mark as follows

  1.  Rank importance to them allocate 13 points  [i.e. most important to me =13, least important to me =1]
  2. Importance to me – out of 5  [Very important to me = 5, not very important =1]
  3. What I get now in my job – out of 5 [I get lots =5, I get very little =1]
  • relationship with supervisor/boss
  • work conditions
  • salary
  • company car [if appropriate]
  • status/title
  • job security
  • relationship with subordinates/co-workers
  • personal life
  • achievement
  • recognition
  • the work itself
  • responsibility
  • possibility of advancement

You can then see

  1. What is important to them personally
  2. What they want from the job
  3. What they get now

This will show areas for you to focus on – areas which are important to her/him and which are NOT getting the attention s/he needs

so if Recognition at work = 10 [high rank] and has an importance score of 5 [wants this ] but it currently gets 2 [not enough] – this is an area to explore… what else could you do to help them get more in this area [move it towards a current score of 5 ]

Motivated employees achieve more,

Motivated teams are more fun to work for and within…

and remember…

…There is always More Than 1 Answer