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THEORY X AND Y
DOUGLAS McGREGOR

Introduction

Douglas McGregor suggested that organisations manage employees based on their view of what employees are like. This view of employees is usually somewhere between one of two extremes. McGregor called these extremes theory X and theory Y.

Theory X

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

  • Are lazy and work out of need, not choice
  • Resist change
  • Do not like responsibility and prefer work instructions
  • Are not motivated by work alone, they need pay incentives or threats
    Require control and punitive measures to prevent misconduct
  • Are not loyal and do not care about their employer

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:

  • Are motivated and will work hard under the right conditions
  • Learn to like responsibility and can handle responsibility
  • Prefer rewards over punitive measures
  • Are loyal and care about their employer if their work is appreciated
  • Are open to change

A manager with a theory Y view of employees is likely to attempt to motivate employees through a culture of reward and recognition.

Summary

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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