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The Theory X And Theory Y

Theory X And Theory Y People At Work

Douglas McGregor, an American social psychologist proposed his famous X-Y theory in his book ‘The Human Side Of Enterprise’ in 1960. The theory X and Theory Y pertain to employee motivation and have been used in human resource management, organizational behaviour analysis, and organizational development which represent two sets of assumptions about human nature and human behaviour that are relevant to the practice of management.
Theory X and Theory Y

Theory X

Theory X is based on pessimistic assumptions of the average worker. This assumes that employees are naturally unmotivated and dislike working, and this encourages an authoritarian style of management. According to this view, management must actively intervene to get things done. This style of management assumes that workers,

  • Dislike working.

  • Avoid responsibility and need to be directed.

  • Have to be controlled, forced, and threatened to deliver what’s needed.

  • Need to be supervised at every step, with controls put in place.

  • Need to be enticed to produce results; otherwise they have no ambition or incentive to work.

Theory Y

Theory Y is almost in complete contrast to that of Theory X. This expounds a participative style of management that is de-centralized. It assumes that employees are happy to work, are self-motivated and creative, and enjoy working with greater responsibility. It assumes that workers,

  • Take responsibility and are motivated to fulfil the goals they are given.

  • Seek and accept responsibility and do not need much direction.

  • Consider work as a natural part of life and solve work problems imaginatively.

Comparing Between Theory X and Theory Y

  • Theory X employees tend to have specialized and often repetitive work. In Theory Y, the work tends to be organized around wider areas of skill or knowledge Employees are also encouraged to develop expertise and make suggestions and improvements.

  • Theory X assumes that people dislike work; they want to avoid it and do not want to take responsibility. Theory Y assumes that people are self-motivated, and thrive on responsibility according to theory x and theory y.

  • In a Theory X organization, management is authoritarian, and centralized control is retained. Whilst in Theory Y, the management style is participative Management involves employees in decision making, but retains power to implement decisions.

  • The Theory X management style is widely accepted as inferior to others, it has its place in large scale production operation and unskilled production line work. Many of the principles of Theory Y are widely adopted by types of organization that value and encourage participation.


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