What do Social Workers Need?

Business woman working on laptop computer at office

Social workers are well versed in the application of Maslow’s Theory of Basic Needs as it relates to motivation and engagement. Maslow studied influential individuals and those considered to be the healthiest in his community. His research focused on what motivates individuals to reach their fullest potential. His theory delineated and prioritized the experiences an individual must have in order to reach a more complex level of existence. A comprehensive review is found in “Maslow’s Theory of Basic Needs and Learning” on The Social Work Exam website.

Expanding on Maslow’s work, psychologist Fredrick Herzberg researched employee satisfaction in the 1950s. His research was done in a manufacturing setting. While his methodology has been questioned by some, his theory has influenced organizational behavior and thought.

The Herzberg Theory of Motivation and Hygiene is also known as the Herzberg Two Factor Theory. Herzberg determined that employees experience satisfaction and dissatisfaction in the workplace. Elizabeth Eyre explained the theory in the Mind Tools article “Herzberg’s Motivators and Hygiene Factors.”

Herzberg determined through employee interviews that employees were motivated and satisfied when the following elements occurred in the workplace:

Received praise regarding individual and group accomplishments from supervisors or managers.
Opportunities to experience a sense of achievement and personal growth.
Opportunities to advance or be promoted within the department or organization.
Ability to perform responsibilities and make decisions autonomously,
Engagement in meaningful, interesting and challenging work.
Experiences of respect as a professional and respect for the work.

The hygiene factors in Herzberg’s theory were those elements that, when absent, caused employees dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction occurred when the following elements were absent from the workplace:

Appropriate wages, salary and compensation that represented the accepted norm for the profession.
Organizational policies that make sense, clearly written and easy to understand.
Safe, clean, well maintained work environment and equipment.
Appropriate, professional peer or supervisory relationships.
Safe, comfortable feeling that organization is financially and organizationally stable.

The theory encourages employers to remove factors that cause dissatisfaction to incorporate strategies that promote job satisfaction. Dissatisfaction satisfaction factors are mutually exclusive. The absence of one does not mean the presence of the other.

Maslow described what individuals need to actualize their human potential and Herzberg described what employees need to be motivated and satisfied in their workplace. So what do you need to reach your fullest professional potential and to be fully satisfied in your profession?

I would love to hear from you. You may join the conversation by commenting on this post on our Facebook fan page REAL Social Workers Online Magazine or joining the “Social” Social Workers Project. You may also contact me directly on Twitter @Marcyline #LCSW15

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