Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory was first introduced in his book the Motivation to work, written in collaboration with Mausner and Snyderman in 1959. Through extensive research on job satisfaction and dissatisfaction among employees, Herzberg found that the factors that affect positive and negative attitudes of employees are almost always different (Mantie & Lichty, 2012). Therefore, practices that promote job satisfaction, such as recognition and awards, may not be effective in decreasing dissatisfaction with the company’s policy or supervision. The six primary factors that lead to job dissatisfaction are the company’s policy, supervision, relationship with management, working conditions, salary, and relationship with colleagues. On the other hand, the factors that promote job satisfaction are achievement, recognition, the nature of work itself, sense of responsibility, advancement, and growth (Mantie & Lichty, 2012).
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In the Coffee Break case, it is clear that the workers are concerned about their working conditions, supervision, and relationship with colleagues. These are all the factors that cause job dissatisfaction, but will not necessarily lead to satisfaction if eliminated. This explains why the supervisor’s attempt to solve the issue was unsuccessful. Indeed, according to Herzberg’s theory, changes to company’s policy and supervision style will not cause the employees to feel more positive about their jobs. To raise job satisfaction among employees, I would address the factors that lead to higher rates of satisfaction. For instance, introducing awards and recognition for successful work could promote positive attitudes. Moreover, in order to make employees feel better about shorter coffee breaks, it would be useful to stress the importance of their job, thus calling to their sense of responsibility, which is also among the factors affecting employee satisfaction.
There are two management positions that were involved in the Coffee Break case: the supervisor and the director. The degree of the director’s involvement in the daily operations of the organization is unknown, and so is his or her relationship with the colleagues. Judging from the overview of the case, the director has very little interaction with regular employees and relies on the supervisor to communicate the policy changes and other issues to the employees. The supervisor, on the other hand, functions as a medium between the director and the workers and manages the daily operations of the unit. Both persons, however, use legitimate power to govern employees. Legitimate power relies on the position in the organization and not on the leadership quality or interpersonal relations. Such power structure, thus, may be among the reasons for the coffee break issue.
Whereas it is normal for the higher management, such as the director, to rely on legitimate power, the supervisors should have better connections with the group of employees to promote positive attitudes to work and raise the morale. The supervisor in the Coffee Break case used legitimate power in an attempt to solve the issue by setting the ground rules regarding breaks and communicating them to the employees during an official staff meeting. It comes to no surprise that the employees felt unappreciated and their relationship with the supervisor worsened as a result of the change. The use of referent power would be more efficient, as it is based on building authority through interpersonal relationships. Addressing employee concerns on a more personal level and providing opportunities for positive interactions – for instance, by issuing awards or recognition – would have allowed the supervisor to solve the coffee break issue more effectively.
Mantie, M. W., & Lichty, R. (2012). Managing the unmanageable: Rules, tools, and insights for managing software, people, and teams. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley.