Douglas McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y

Douglas McGregor
Douglas McGregor was an American social psychologist. He proposed his famous XY theory in his 1960 book ‘The Human Side of Enterprise’. McGregor’s XY theory remains a valid basic principle from which to develop positive management style and techniques. McGregor’s XY theory also remains central to organizational development, and to improving organizational culture. 

McGregor Theory X and Y is the outcomes of the Mayo and his associates work. They have developed the popular classification scheme of acceptable and unacceptable managerial styles in management literature. McGregor termed it as the theory of X and theory of Y. He believes that the manager tries to motivate employees by one of the two basic approaches. 

This theory is based on the natural rules for managing people. McGregor’s maintained that there are two fundamental approaches to managing people. Many managers tend towards theory X, and generally get poor results. Enlightened managers use theory Y, which produces better performance and results, and allows people to grow and develop. 

Assumptions of Theory X (Authoritarian Management Style) 

  • The average people inherently dislike work and will avoid if it is possible. 
  • Due to dislike of work, people must be forced to control, direct and threat with punishment to get them to perform work effectively. 
  • The average human beings lacks ambition, avoids responsibility and seeks security and economic rewards above all else. 
  • Most of the people are rigid to change and also lack creativeness.
  • They are self centered, so they are not concerned with the goals of the organization. 

Thus, the central principle of theory X is that an organization is controlled and directed through the exercise of authority. McGregor firmly believed that attempts to control employees forced them towards organizational goals based on the assumptions of theory and may fail to motivate individuals to work towards organizations goals. 

For the people X, the manager has to exercise centralized control and supervision and emphasize on autocratic type of leadership style and downward communication. 

Assumptions of Theory Y (Participative Management Style) 

  • According to this, a physical and mental effort in work is as natural as play or rest. 
  • People will apply self-control and self-direction in the pursuit of organizational objectives, without external control or the threat of punishment. 
  • Commitment to objectives is a function of rewards associated with their achievement. 
  • The average person learns under proper conditions, not only to accept but to seek responsibility. 
  • The capacity to use a high degree of imagination, ingenuity and creativity in solving organizational problems is widely, not narrowly, distributed in the population. 
  • Under the conditions of modern industrial life, the intellectual potentialities of the average person are only partly utilized. 

The theory Y emphasized on creating opportunities, removing obstacles, encouraging growth and providing guidance. McGregor believed that for motivating the persons Y, decentralized organization, democratic leadership and two way communications will help to create the congenial environment to work.

McGregor’s Motivation Theory X and Theory Y

Theory of X (Some traditional assumptions about people)
Theory Y (Some modern assumptions about people)
-        Most people dislike work, and they will avoid it when they can.
-          Most people like to be conceded to threaten my threatened with punishment before they will work.
-          They require close direction.
-          Most people prefer to be directed. They avoid responsibility and have little ambition. They are interested only in security.
-          Work is a natural activity like play and rest.
-          People are capable of self direction and self control if they are committed to objectives.
-          People will become committed to organizational objectives if they are rewarded for doing so.
-          The average people can learn to both aspects and seek responsibility.
-          Many people in the general population have imagination ingenuity and creativity.

Advantages/ Merits of Theory X and Theory Y 
  • Employee commitment to objectives can be ensured if the rewards are associated with the achievement of objects.
  • Employees are not lazy or passive or resistant to organizational objectives. 
  • Management is responsible for organizing the resources of the enterprise for achieving organizational objectives. 
  • Work is natural to employees, if managers can release and channelize, employee’s can out perform their full potentiality. 

Disadvantages/ Demerits of Theory X and Theory Y 
  • McGregor suggests that the job itself is a motivator but it is not so in all the cases. Jobs alone cannot motivate equally to all the persons.
  • It tends to over generalize or over simplify behavior of human beings. It is not easy and possible to classify people in two extreme categories. 
  • Almost all the employees do not become good or bad because of the views that a manager has about them.

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