What are McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y?

Douglas McGregor proposed two distinct views of the nature of human beings: a basically negative view, labeled Theory X and a basically positive view, labeled Theory Y. After viewing the way managers dealt with employees, McGregor concluded that a manager’s view of human nature is based on a group of assumptions either positive or negative and that manager molds his or her behavior toward employees.

Theory X

McGregor’s term for the assumption that employees dislike work, are lazy, seek to avoid responsibility and must be covered to perform

Theory Y

McGregor’s term for the assumption that employees are creative seek responsibility and can exercise self direction.

What does McGregor’s analysis imply about motivation? The answer is best expressed in the framework presented by Maslow. Theory X assumes that physiological and safety needs dominate the individual Theory Y assumes that social and esteem needs are dominant. McGregor himself held to the belief that the assumptions of Theory Y were more valid than those of Theory X. Therefore he proposed that participation in decision making, responsible and challenging jobs, and good group relations would maximize work effort.

Unfortunately no evidence confirms that either set of assumptions is valid or that accepting Theory Y assumptions and altering one’s actions accordingly will make one’s employees more motivated. In the real world, effective managers do make Theory X assumptions. The former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Chandrababu Naidu, was sometimes accused of making Theory X assumptions, accused of trying to centralize authority by developing sophisticated information gathering system and keeping everyone cabinet colleagues, MLAs and officials on a tight leash. Some management thinkers in India have recently been advocating a Theory I, in an attempt to understand and define the Indian worker just like the Japanese had tried to do with their Theory Z. Theory Z by William Ouchi is a Japanese management philosophy characterized by concepts such as long term job security consensus in decision making slow evaluation and promotion procedures and individual responsibility in a group context. Te theory is based on the assumptions that (1) employees want to build cooperative relationships with their employers, peers and other employees in the firm; (2) they require high degree of support in the form of secure employment and facilities for development of multiple skills – through training and job rotation. (3) they value family life, culture and traditions and social institutions as much as material success; (4) they have well developed sense of dedication moral obligations and self discipline and (5) they can make collective decisions through consensus Theory I, advocated by Indian educationist Arindam Choudhary advocates India centric management philosophies and practices that would be suitable to the Indian culture and psyche. The theory advocates a middle path between American and Japanese management styles, neither too contractual nor too secure. The assumptions underlying Theory I are that most Indians value bonds emotions and long term relationships growth opportunities and commitment, and cultural roots of tolerance often make Indians complacent.

Theory X and Theory Y Premises

Theory X: Manager who views employees form a Theory (negative) Perspective believes:

1) Employees inherently dislike and whenever possible will attempt to avoid it .
2) Because employees dislike work, they must be coerced controlled or threatened with punishment to achieve desired goals.
3) Employees will shirk responsibilities and seek formal direction whenever possible.
4) Most workers place security above all other factors associated with work and will display little ambition.

Theory Y: A manager who views employees from a Theory Y (positive) Perspective Believes:

1) Employees can view work as being as natural as rest or play.
2) Men and women will exercise self direction and self control if they are connected to the objectives.
3) The average person can learn to accept, even speak responsibility.
4) The ability to make good decisions is widely dispersed throughout the population and is not necessarily the sole province of managers.


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