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Theory X and Y

Douglas McGregor



Douglas McGregor suggested that organisations manage employees based on their view of what employees are like. He asserted that these view have two extremes, Theory X and Theory Y. It would be rare for a manager to fully view employees as either being X or Y, instead their opionion of employees is likely to be somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. So what is a Theory X view and what is a Theory Y view?

The Diagram below summarises the difference between McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y

Diagram summarising the components of McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y

Theory X

Theory X organisations hold a negative view of employees, they believe employees:

A manager with a theory X view will therefore attempt to coerce employees into work through control and punishment.

Theory Y

Theory Y organisations hold a positive view of employees, they believe employees:


McGregor believed that the features of each view (theory X or theory Y) have a place in the workplace. The type of work will determine which theory will work best for the organisation. He carried out experiments to find out which theory would suit each organisational type.


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