Donnerstag, 6. Februar 2014

(Dis-)satisfaction with the online community - Herzberg’s two factors theory in a community context

Intuitively, one would say that satisfaction and dissatisfaction are like two poles on the same continuum. But that is not necessarily so. In the context of job satisfaction and job performance Herzberg developed his two factors theory and showed that there is a set of factors that causes satisfaction (motivators) and another one that causes dissatisfaction (hygiene factors) when absent. [1]. The practical implication is that to improve job attitudes and productivity, administrators must recognize and attend to both sets. The question is whether this theory can be applied to satisfaction with an online community and participation in community life as well.

Herzberg’s two factors theory

The theory posits that there is one set of factors that causes job satisfaction (motivators), while there is a separate set causing dissatisfaction, when these factors are absent (hygiene factors). It is important to know that satisfaction and dissatisfaction are not located on a continuum with satisfaction increasing as dissatisfaction diminishes. But they are independent phenomena, more specifically:

  • motivators (e.g. sense of personal achievement, status, recognition, challenging/stimulating work, responsibility, opportunity for advancement, promotion, growth) arise from intrinsic conditions of the job itself and give positive satisfaction, motivation and strong commitment.
  • hygiene factors (e.g. salaries, wages and benefits, company policy and administration, good interpersonal relationship, quality of supervision, job security, working conditions, work life balance) prevent dissatisfaction. They don't give positive satisfaction but their absence gives dissatisfaction. They are extrinsic to the work itself.

In order to find possible motivators or hygiene factors the Critical Incident Technique (CIT) is used. According to this technique, the researcher collects direct observations of human behavior that have critical significance and meet methodically defined criteria. A critical incident can be described as one that makes a contribution—either positively or negatively—to an activity or phenomenon. Critical incidents can be gathered in various ways, but typically, respondents are asked to tell a story about an experience they have had. [2]

The theory is quite intuitive: Imagine you love what you are doing at work. Your work is challenging and stimulating. Your collegues admire what you are doing. And you feel that there is a meaning in what your are doing. But, your boss is a control freak, your office is ugly and loud and within the last four years you haven't seen a pay rise. Can you feel the dilemma?

Herzberg first presented his theory in 1959. Since then it has inspired many studies on job satisfaction and has led to such concepts as job enlargement and job enrichment (a way to motivate employees by giving them more responsibilities and variety in their jobs). [3]

But the two factors theory has been criticized as well. Some studies are critical of the use of CIT as heuristic method or of the implications on job satisfaction and job performance. Others couldn’t replicate the division between motivators and hygiene factors or establish stable sets of these factors. Nevertheless, Herzberg's theory is still very influential. [4]

Herzberg’s theory in a community context

In an exploratory study, Ridings and Gefen (2004) [5] investigated the reasons why people hang out in virtual communities (here: bulletin boards). They found four main reasons:

  • access to and exchange of information, 
  • social support exchange, 
  •  friendship and 
  • recreation.

A complimentary set of motivators might be

  • a large stock of resources,
  • members willing to share their knowledge, 
  • good quality of messages and discussions, 
  • members offering support emphatically, 
  • hanging out together online is fun, 
  • good treatment of new bees, 
  • an entertaining community.

Being member of a community with high quality motivators should be satisfying and lead to further participation.

Possible hygiene factors are perhaps

  • an easily discernable community topic, 
  • the quality of the community management, 
  • the usability of the website, 
  • a good web design, 
  • simple community norms, 
  • real instead of anonymous/faked profiles, 
  • good member visibility.

These factors don’t cause satisfaction with the community. But if they are absent the member feels dissatisfaction.

Wang et al. [6] investigated an online travel community. They wanted to find out why members are willing (motivation) to make active contributions (participation) to their community. Based on extensive literature review and discussions with students twenty factors were identified:

  • low costs of providing information online 
  • sharing enjoyment 
  • gaining a sense of helpfulness to others 
  • seeking/providing advice 
  • satisfying other members' needs 
  • finding friends/peers 
  • product suggestions/evaluations 
  • enforcing service excellence 
  • relationship building 
  • controlling products/service quality 
  • seeking future exchange from whom I provide help 
  • seeking future exchange from anybody in the community 
  • making arrangement 
  • expressing my identity 
  • group attachment/commitment 
  • seeking/providing companions 
  • seeking/providing emotional support 
  • increasing self-esteem/respect 
  • attaining status in the community gaining prestige

As far as I know, Herzberg’s theory has not yet been applied to online communities. Of course, one should be careful if one wishes to apply a well-established theory to a new context it has not been developed for. But in the case of Herzberg's two factors theory it might work and it would give community managers a rationale for tackling community satisfaction issues.
[3] Herzberg, F., Mausner, B., Snyderman B.B. The Motivation to Work. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, NY USA, 2nd edition, 1959
[4] Buettner, R. (2010). Zu den Einflussfaktoren der Arbeitsmotivation und -zufriedenheit: Eine empirische Studie zu Herzbergs 2-Faktoren-Theory. Google Scholar
[5] Ridings, C. M., & Gefen, D. (2004). Virtual community attraction: Why people hang out online. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 10(1), 00-00. Google Scholar
[6] Wang, Y., & Fesenmaier, D. R. (2003). Assessing motivation of contribution in online communities: An empirical investigation of an online travel community. Electronic Markets, 13 (1), 33-45. Google Scholar

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