The opposite of satisfaction is not dissatisfaction, rather no satisfaction. Similarly, the opposite of dissatisfaction is no dissatisfaction. The two-factor theory of motivation was developed by American psychologist Frederick Herzberg (1923–2000). He postulates that the causes of job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction are separate and distinct, not just opposite ends of a continuum. The opposite of satisfaction is no satisfaction, not dissatisfaction, thus the opposite of dissatisfaction is no dissatisfaction.

For job satisfaction, employees need higher-order needs satisfaction: sense of achievement, appropriate recognition, responsibility, growth, work that has intrinsic meaning (see Maslow’s hierarchy).

To prevent job dissatisfaction, certain minimum levels of compensation and a safe, pleasant working environment must be met. Put another way, job satisfaction deals with the work itself whereas dissatisfaction was related to working conditions.

Herzberg chose to call dis-satisfiers “hygiene factors,” since they are considered maintenance factors that are required to avoid dissatisfaction but do not by themselves produce satisfaction. Herzberg’s research lead him to believe that hygiene factors, such as salary, are cyclical in nature and always come back to the starting point: A raise will remove dissatisfaction but only temporarily. Before long, the “What have you done for me lately?” syndrome kicks in and the cycle repeats. Or as Herzberg put it “Hygiene needs have an escalating zero point and no final answer.” Thus employers should focus on maximizing job satisfaction while being content with merely minimizing job dissatisfaction.

Herzberg’s theory has been criticized for the implicit assumption between satisfied employees and productivity and relying upon average behavior, which may not be relevant to any one individual.

Closing quotes:

“To be too dissatisfied with ourselves is a weakness. To be too satisfied with ourselves is a stupidity.” — French writer Magdeleine Sable; 1599-1678

“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.” — Margaret Thatcher; 1925-, former British prime minister