Critical Analysis of Adam J. Stacy’s and Frederick Herzberg’s Theories on Job Satisfaction of Employees
Review of literature and its implications on the modern corporate world.
“One of the difficulties in bringing about change in an organization is that you must do so through the persons who have been most successful in that organization”. – George Washington
Organizations today have to compete in a cutthroat business world. New ideas, innovative methods, and brilliant speculations are not exactly dime a dozen. There are two main ingredients for the recipe of success of a business; first one being satisfied customers and the second one satisfied employees.
However, this research paper will focus on the many questions that arise to keep employees satisfied. Job satisfaction has been deemed by far the most important issue that many managers today have to take into account. Lack of job satisfaction and/or motivation can be the one leading constituent that maybe preventing an organization from being successful.
Job satisfaction is a wide area of interest to cover. This report will focus on two theories chosen from the many content theories and process theories that are regarded as major explanations for some problems encountered by employees. Two psychologists proposed these theories: Adam J. Stacy and Frederick Herzberg. The purpose of this research paper is to critically review the literature that has evolved after the proposal of these two theories and it will critically analyze the implications of these proposals in the business world.
SUMMARY OF THE THEORIES
There were many theories proposed regarding work motivation in an organization. The essence of these theories was derived from the operating key word ‘motivation’. Motivation, as classically defined (Hitt, Miller, and Colella. 2006, 198) are the “forces coming from within a person that account, in part, for the willful direction, intensity, and persistence of the person’s efforts toward achieving specific goals that are not due to ability or to environmental demands.”
The discussion will be narrowed down to two theories that will aid in the understanding of motivation. First, Adams Equity Theory (Kreitner and Kinicki 1998, 222); which is generally defined as “a model of motivation that explains how people strive for fairness and justice in social exchanges or give-and-take relationships.” In other words, according to this theory, an employee compares the justice prevailing in the outcomes with a referent who is doing the same task as this individual. Second, Herzberg’s two factor theory; Frederick Herzberg developed a theory based on the analysis of the response given by nearly four thousand employees. The theory states that “job satisfaction and dissatisfaction are not opposite ends of the same continuum but are independent states and that different factors affect satisfaction and dissatisfaction”, (Hitt, Miller, and Colella 2006, 204). The motivators that affect job satisfaction are: achievement; recognition; responsibility; opportunity for advancement or promotion; the work itself; and potential for personal growth. The hygiene factors if improved can reduce job dissatisfaction but does not lead to job satisfaction. They are: salary; technical supervision; working conditions; company policies, administration, and procedures; interpersonal relationships with peers, supervisors, and subordinates; status; and security.
This section of the report will explain the controversies that have evolved over the decades regarding Adam’s Equity Theory and Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory.
Adam’s Equity Theory
Many researchers have reviewed the validity of Adam’s Equity Theory over the past decades. This theory has been tested under various circumstances to prove its viability.
Drexler, Beehr, and Stetz (2001, 333) conducted a research on whether Adam’s Equity Theory has impacted on the differentiation of individual performance group tasks. Many groups may choose to differentiate in the rating of their performance against another individual who performs the same task, but how much differentiation occurs is a matter of attitude. “These attitudinal variables are satisfaction, perceived equity, and turnover”, (Drexler, Beehr, and Stetz 2001, 334). For example, two employees who perform the same task can vary in the rating of their own performance against another. One employee’s interpretation of a particular job can be different from another employee’s interpretation of the same job. Therefore, one construal may be more efficient than the other leading in different outputs, whereby Adam’s Equity Theory becomes ineffective. Brockbank (1999, 337) observed that measuring an individual’s effectiveness and rewarding that effectiveness, which results from the equity of input and output, is one of the aspects linking the firm’s ability to compete globally.
Further stressing on the above point, Adam’s Equity Theory was testified for its validity in the gender differences that were regarded important for measuring the salary of male and female employees. Conventionally, women were paid lesser than men who performed the same tasks. But according to the responses, women did not complain about pay dissatisfaction (Crosby 1982, 95; Sauser and York 1978, 537). Women recognized that they differ from men in certain aspects such as; they may have worked for shorter hours than men due to many social obligations plus familial constitutions that they are bound to; furthermore they may take longer leave of absence for maternal purposes. As a result, even though the outcomes may be similar to men, the effort taken to do the job is certainly different; thus, resulting in lower pay rewards between two individuals doing the same job. And for these reasons, Adam’s Equity Theory does not yield productive results.
Job input, as a concept of non-biased pay has been observed from an equity theory perspective, (Keaveny and Inderrieden 2000, 364). Adams (1965, 267) as mentioned earlier, suggested that the equity theory’s concept is based on the comparison of one’s outcomes with another referent (reference points or examples) that performs a similar task. Consequently, studies conducted by Hills (1990, 345-350) support Adam’s Equity Theory. No evidence was produced regarding the idea that individuals perform self-evaluation, in which they determine whether their input equals the same output yielded by their referent and then agree upon the equality in the pay.
However, Jacques (1961) opines that individuals may have pay expectations purely based on their job characteristics and disregard what other employees are making. Some employees’ sole concern, according to Jacques, lies exclusively on the amount of job inputs that they have slogged to finish a particular task, and their pay expectations, pay satisfaction, and motivation depends on their individual hard work that they have undertaken to do the job. Berkowitz et al. (1987, 544-551) conducted a research to support the viability of Jacques theory. And their findings confirmed that their respondents’ satisfaction with their pay was related to what the employees feel they deserved, regardless of what others were paid.
Shah (1998) differentiated referents in terms of social network. According to Shah, there are two types of social referents – cohesive and structurally equivalent. The difference between the both is as follows: “cohesive actors are individuals with close interpersonal ties, or friends. Structurally equivalent actors are individuals, who share a similar pattern of relationship with others and thus occupy the same position in a network” (Shah 1998, 249). The theorist suggested that Adam’s Equity Theory is generally applied to the latter type of social referent as comparison sources (e.g. co-workers). Whilst structural equivalents do provide valuable information (Shah 1998), cohesive referents, i.e. friends, are observed as more out-going and are likely to share personal or confidential information (Jehn and Shah, 1997, 776; Roloff and Miller 1987, 23). Therefore, a cohesive referent poses less threat when compared as a referent for the purposes of equity theory; as the tension between the people being compared is lost, and there is no need to juxtapose the justice of the outcomes produced by both the parties. In conjunction with the above statements, Wheeler and Miyake (1992, 768) noted that the major drawback of applying equity theory is that it may create hard feelings for both the people being compared, regardless of whether they are cohesive referent or structurally equivalents.
Similar research was performed by Wiley (1997, 265) on the motivational factors that affect employees and whether the responses are more or less likely the same to the surveys conducted in over forty years on the equity theory. In this investigation, she endowed that most motive theories, including the Adam’s Equity Theory do not highlight individual differences, rather they emphasize on the conditions that cause for the incentive of a motive and its influence on the behavior. As, the equity theory assumes that the approaches taken to do the work is same, but pay, for instance is an extrinsic reward, which becomes a motivational factor, and accordingly it will influence on the behavior of the employee.
Shore (2004, 722) discussed that there are three groups who fall under the equity theory category and he labeled them as “equity sensitive groups”. These equity sensitive groups are Benevolent Individuals who reported when surveyed, as having the highest pay satisfaction, perceived pay fairness, and lowest turnover intentions; Entitled Individuals had lesser pay satisfaction, perceived pay fairness, and higher turnover intentions; these results were obtained when compared to Equity Sensitive Individuals who reported as having highest pay dissatisfaction, less perceived fairness, and highest turnover intentions. The similarity between all three focus groups was that they all preferred to be over-rewarded or equally rewarded, and were distressed when under-rewarded. Therefore, Shore considered that Adam’s Equity Theory is by far the most accurate framework that is presented to understand the relationship between employees’ motivation, pay fairness, and job satisfaction.
Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory
Herzberg’s Two-Factor theory has helped in the understanding of what motivates some employees to perform their best and attain job satisfaction, and the other aspects determine what causes job dissatisfaction. Every theory faces opposition and Herzberg’s two-factor Theory is no different.
Herzberg proposed the motivators and hygiene factors in an era of Industrial Age when the structure was inflexible and hierarchical, where the primary focus was on mass production. The concentration was most on product selling, and the employees did stereotypical manual jobs, and it was at this point when Herzberg came up with the theory on motivation. As a result, Herzberg’s theory has faced some controversies from new, recent theorists who have come up with various alternatives to Herzberg’s motivation model.
The motivation model was determined when Herzberg conducted a research (Buchnan and Huczynski 2004, 260-261) and he found similar motivation patterns – motivators and hygiene factors – in Finland, Hungary, Italy, Israel, Japan, and Zambia. However, in South Africa, skilled workers produced the expected results, but unskilled workers’ satisfaction was found to be dependent on hygiene factors. Herzberg claimed that “the impoverished nature of the unskilled workers’ jobs has not afforded these workers with motivators, thus the abnormal profile”, (Buchnan and Huczynski 2004, 261). They arrived at such a conclusion using only one scientific approach thus; there are high chances of the results being biased or inaccurate.
During the mid-1970s, behaviorism resurfaced and behaviorists started developing theories on motivation and recognized that human behavior was dynamic and that persistence to do something that can be stimulated because of their individual internal factors, as much as it is kindled by external factors (Bassett-Jones and Lloyd 2005, 932).
Rotter (1975, 56-7) consents with Herzberg’s theory that an individual’s reason to behave in a given situation is because of the deliberate selection of an alternative in the behavioral choices given. The choice is rooted in the expectancy of reward that will follow; the reinforcement value and the sequential freedom of movement that is experienced. The individuals will have a high freedom of movement, if the chosen behavior results in positive reinforcement. For example, a sales staff might approach her supervisor with lots of ideas and the manager might nod in approval when this sales staff makes useful contributions in the meeting (Wood and Fitzgerald. 2006, 121). The sales staff approached because the reward for her actions is the positive reinforcement given by the manager. She may be motivated, but it can certainly not be concluded that she is satisfied with her job. Similarly, low freedom of movement occurs, if the behavioral action is met with a negative reinforcement. These types of actions occur due to the interaction with psychological situations.
Herzberg’s theory was faced with opposition by researchers Opsahl and Dunnette (1966, 97-118) who contended at the claim that money would act as dissatisfier. They argued that money or salary varies with different circumstances and that there is no substantial evidence for the claim that money would cause job satisfaction or job dissatisfaction. Their assertion is that salary is paid to an employee according to what he or she deserves, and it would not act as a motivator or as a hygiene factor. They concluded that Herzberg’s research was inconsistent with his interpretation. Other challengers (Hulin and Smith 1965, 209-216) deduced that Herzberg’s theory was method bound. This meant that Herzberg’s theory could only be supportable by using his own methodology. When other scientific approaches were utilized to determine Herzberg’s theory, the researchers arrived at different conclusions.
Contradicting to Opsahl and Dunnette (1966), Evans and Mckee (1970, 17-24) reason that money will always act as a motivator and Herzberg’s results could be ascribed to employees’ personalities in general. For example, some employees have a high sense of achievement and they do not need anything to kindle that trait. Perhaps this attribute was reinforced or the characteristic is innate. Similarly, some employees might be very responsible in what they do, but giving them more responsibility to motivate them, might have adversarial effects.
King (1970, 18-31) observed that Herzberg’s sampling of scientists and engineers, is probably not the representative of the whole working population; the theory disregards demographics segment wherein the model assumes that pay, for example, will have the same impact, regardless of the gender, age, experience, and other important individual differences; and finally the theory is ambiguous in the connection between motivation and satisfaction.
In agreement with King’s (1970) postulations, is a study conducted by Ruthankoon and Ogunlana (2003, 333-342), which focus on testing Herzberg’s Two-Factor theory in the Thai construction industry. There research concluded that responsibility, advancement, possibility of growth, and technical supervision contribute to job satisfaction; recognition, work itself, company’s policy and administration, interpersonal relations, personal life, and status contribute to both satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Achievement contributes to satisfaction for engineers but contributes to both satisfaction and dissatisfaction for foremen.
Dismissing King’s (1970) allegations is another recent research study of Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory on continuing education participants in Taiwan (Cheng 2007, 186-193). This theory is famous in the academic area of organization management. This research determined that “the major motivators of adult students’ participation are the personal-advantage creation, personal need recognition, learning enjoyment, program schedule, institutions reputation, personal growth and demand in new economics”, (Cheng 2007, 186). The hygiene factors also coincided with that of Herzberg’s. Furthermore, the research data analysis also proved that there were no significant gender or age differences for motivation to learning.
Other researchers like Cock and Davis (1990, 164) feel that quality of work is a major factor that determines job satisfaction in terms of motivation. Their example is, if an employee is isolated at work, whereby there is no interaction between the employee and the individual’s colleagues at work then the employee has not engaged into a ‘meaningful contract’ with the work and will only exert a minimum amount of energy. If an employee has adequate cash, without meaningful work, there is a lack of self-value. They suggest that, when money stops becoming the driving force, then psychological rewards become much more significant. This is in congruent with Herzberg’s theory, in which he suggests that beyond a threshold, money stops acting as a motivator.
The above section has critically reviewed the pros and cons of Adam’s Equity Theory and Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory. This section will critically analyze the importance of these theories in the managerial world.
Despite the controversies and the inadequacies in Adam’s Equity Theory, it is still considered as a useful guideline to understanding the work performance of employees. The above literature emphasize on the need for managers to focus their attention on fairness and equitable pay from employees’ point of view. Employees’ should feel connected to the organization in which they are employed. ‘Performance based rewards’ approach must be implemented whereby the rewards are awarded impartially, and new approaches to doing work should be recognized. They would probably accept organizational change if they perceive that it is executed fairly, where the objectives of the change are stated clearly with no ambiguity, (Kreitner and Kinicki 1998, 227).
Similarly, Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory has encountered many allegations, as described in the literature above; nonetheless it is regarded as a very useful framework to apply in organizations today. Although, motivators need not necessarily motivate employees all the time, and hygiene factors need not cause dissatisfaction all the time. Some of these factors may interchange their roles and act as an initiative to attain job satisfaction. Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory brings about discipline in the organization (Wood et al. 1998, 179) and a better understanding of the employees. Improved technical conditions, fancy lounges for breaks, and more involvement in intra- and inter- department leads to better work efficiency, and better appreciation for responsibility undertaken by each employee in the organization.
Managers can also streamline their thoughts of equity theory and two-factor theory towards implementing actions such as job enlargement; job enrichment; job rotation; and Management by Objectives (MBO).
Job enlargement refers to “increasing task variety by combining into one job tasks that were previously assigned to separate workers”, (Wood et al. 1998, 236). The major drawback seen through the lens of the theories proposed above is that, it will increase job dissatisfaction, as the worker has to bear the burden for two employees. Furthermore, even if this worker may be highly responsible, but giving him more work to do, may result in dissatisfaction and increase inequity in the work field.
Job enrichment refers to “the practice of building motivating factors into the job content”, (Wood et al. 1998, 240). Managers can arrange training programs, encourage group discussions, promote cooperation and teamwork among group members by treating them equally, and allowing employees to participate in making decisions about important work outcomes.
Job rotation refers to “increasing task variety by periodically shifting workers among jobs involving different tasks”, (Wood et al. 1998, 236). Many employees may feel monotonous by just repeating what they do everyday. But through job rotation, they are provided a variety of tasks to do, which is intellectually stimulating and can lead to work satisfaction, as the employees get to explore various tasks. From critically reviewing the two-factor and equity theory literature, work dissatisfaction occurs because there is no change in the job that motivates employees, and the periodical change of tasks is a much better way to reduce turnover intent, and the ‘perceived equity’ is achieved by both employees and managers.
Management by Objective (MBO) refers to “management system incorporating participation in decision making, goal setting, and feedback” (Kreitner and Kinicki 1998, 234). In such organizations, employees are involved in every phase of managerial action. The managers involve employees for goal setting, whereby the whole workforce is conscious of the goals of the organization and strive to achieve that goal in the most efficient manner. Unique job approaches are appreciated in an MBO system; employees are motivated to see the problem through their own spectacles and not through the organization’s spectacles. Managers also encourage employees to give feedback on the way changes are done within the organization and to check on how effective the communication links between workers are.
The key issues that were taken into consideration were Adam’s Equity Theory and Herzberg’s two-factor theory. These managerial theories on motivation, and what an employee perceives job satisfaction, were challenged to the extent that they were on the verge of being proved wrong. The sole reason for this is the fact that it was proposed in an era when more companies were bureaucratic and less flexible to change.
Despite facing so many controversies, they are still regarded as the basic guideline towards understanding employees even today, where organizations have become more adaptable to the behavioral variations of the employees, and the conscious effort to the understanding employees is a great start for businesses to be successful in the future.
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