Published in


Maybe, it’s not always about money!

1.8 billion people are unhappy at work.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

According to a TED video released in 2019, there are three billion working people in the world. Only 40% of them say they are happy with their work which means a whopping 1.8 billion people are unhappy at work.

The numbers are disheartening, considering we spend a considerable amount of our life at work.

Job satisfaction is a highly sort after aspect of job profiles nowadays. With changing priorities and more weightage on mental health, people are willing to take a job or work in an organization where they enjoy themselves. Gone are the days when salary was the sole criteria for choosing a job offer.

As a curious soul, I was reading about the different views on job satisfaction when I came across the Incentive Theory and Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory.

Lets’s have a comprehensive look at these two theories.

Incentive Theory of Motivation

The first thing which comes to mind while reading about incentive theory is a hamster running on a wheel chasing some elusive goal.

We all have a basic idea of incentive theory and have used it our lives knowingly or unknowingly.

At offices, we are guaranteed incentives if we hit certain targets. We promise incentives to get our work done(Yes, I am talking about bribes).

An incentive is a catalyst that motivates or encourages someone to do something.

General consensus is Burrhus Frederic Skinner came up with the notion of the incentive theory of motivation.

The incentive theory of motivation is a behavioral theory that suggests people are motivated by a drive for incentives and reinforcement. They may also be motivated to avoid punishments which indeed is an incentive.

For example, an employee might do well in a project in the hope of a promotion. Another employee might give a decent performance to avoid poor feedback in his reviews.

One interesting thing to note is that individuals might perform differently even though they are promised the same incentives.

Although incentives are a proven way to get the work done, a major drawback of incentive theory is that employees might only focus on tasks from which they can procure maximum benefits. Other chores might be stacked in the backlog because they aren’t as fruitful.

Contrary to other theories that suggest we are pushed into action by internal drives, incentive theory suggests that we are pulled into action by outside incentives.

However, there are several anomalies of this theory, like the military.

Honestly, the working conditions are as arduous as any profession can have, the pay is okay to be fair, one may die in a war which is a bleak possibility. However, there is no shortage of people signing up for forces.

I don’t believe any incentive can provide job satisfaction, they are baits to get the high-priority work done.

Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory might provide an explanation for this. It’s not always about money.

Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory of Motivation

Frederick Herzberg was a behavioral scientist. In 1959, he proposed a two-factor theory or the motivator-hygiene theory.

Frederick believed incentive and motivation are two different things. Unlike the former, the latter gets one going in good times or bad.

According to him satisfaction and dissatisfaction are two separate and independent measures.

His theory distinguishes job factors between two different types of factors: hygiene factors and motivation factors.

Hygiene Factors

Hygiene factors are the job factors that do not usually motivate the employees, but their absence can lead to dissatisfaction.

These factors are usually extrinsic. They include things like status, compensation, job security, work conditions, company policies, and supervisory practices.

Good hygiene factors can pacify the employees and avoid dissatisfaction.

However, hygiene factors alone cannot make us love our jobs.

Additionally, Frederick believed that compensation was a hygiene factor. Money won’t keep a worker satiated, it can avoid discontent at best. No wonder that high-paying employees struggle to find meaning in their work.

Motivation Factors

Motivation factors make us love our job.

Unlike hygiene factors, these are intrinsic factors involved in performing the job.

Motivation factors include challenging work, recognition, responsibility, and personal growth.

It’s about making an impact, providing genuine value, building something useful, being appreciated for your work, and solving complex problems.

A prime reason why people volunteer for community projects is that it’s their way to give back to society. They’re tedious and one rarely makes a dime from them, yet people are always up for such volunteer work.

It’s because this kind of work provides a deep sense of meaning and fulfillment.

Final Words

Both the theories are true up to some extent.

If given a choice I will side with Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory as it resonates more with me. I feel incentives are a tricky way to influence people.

Yes, money is important, but one attains job satisfaction only when one feels valued and knows their work makes a difference.

I hope you end up with a job which you absolutely love.

Subscribe to my (free) biweekly newsletter to rekindle your love for life — Soul Letter



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store