Last Updated 25 Mar 2020

Theory X, Theory Y

Category Motivation, Theories
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Theory X, Theory Y by Douglas McGregor is a motivation theory. Douglas McGregor is a social psychologist and applied two sets of assumptions to the organizational structure called Theory X and Theory Y. His theory is based on managerial views of human beings. In his book, The Human Side of Enterprise, he outlined a new role for managers. He stated that managers should assist subordinates in reaching their full potential, rather than commanding and controlling. Theory X is negative and Theory Y can be stated as the opposite, positive. Douglas concluded that managers shaped their behavior towards workers based on either the X or Y views.

Theory X presumes that average employees dislike work, are lazy, dislike responsibility, and must be coerced to perform. (text book citation pg 177) Theory X is focused on an authoritarian management style. Rewards and punishments are assumed to be the key to employee productivity. Employees have little to offer in terms of organizational problem solving. Under Theory X employees need to be controlled and threatened to get them working. Employees work for money and security only. According to theory X, appraisals and promotions occur on a regular basis.

This view is based on that employees merely satisfy their lower-level physical needs and could not hope to be as productive. Theory Y supposes that employees like work, are creative, seek responsibility, and can exercise self-direction (text book citation pg 177). Theory Y is focused on a participative management style. The managers would take suggestions from workers. These type of managers relate to Theory Y employees and try to share ideas on how the work should be carried out and how it should be improved. The manager values the workers opinion. This type of leadership leads to high motivation.

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Theory Y assumes that there is an opportunity to align personal goals with organizational goals by using peoples own ambition for self fulfillment. Individuals go to work of their own accord, because work is the only way in which they have a chance of satisfying their need for achievement and self-respect. Effort in work is as natural as rest and play. Employees under Theory Y are motivated by many different factors apart from money. The most important reward is satisfaction of their ego needs. What is the relevance of this topic to the study of organizational behavior?

The relevance of this topic to the study of organizational behavior is that every employee has some hierarchy of needs and alerting managers’ actions and views accordingly will lead to more motivated workers in an organization. Organizational behavior is the study of what people do in an organization and how their behavior affects the organization’s performance. (text book citation. Pg 11) Organizational behavior works towards improving the organization’s effectiveness and to establish an improvement and organizational change so that employees will be more productive and happy.

In turn those organizations will be more effective and efficient in achieving their goals through their employees. Theory X and Theory Y stated that employees can either be motivated by strict direction or allowed to work freely. Either one of these two theories would maximize an employee’s job motivation and would produce happy employees working towards the organizations goals. "The effectiveness of organizations could be at least doubled if managers could discover how to tap into the unrealized potential present in their workforces. (book citation) What are the strengths and weaknesses of the theory or idea? There are both strengths and weaknesses in Douglas McGregor’s, Theory X and Theory Y. Some of the strengths of Theory X and Theory Y are that it exposes the endless possibilities for creating opportunities for people to obtain personal satisfaction, knowledge, achievement, challenge, prestige, and other rewards through work. This theory offers opportunities for human resource development involvement in team-building sessions and management development.

Douglas’s theory also offers those in supervisory positions a chance to gain some self-knowledge thus acquiring some insight in their managerial skills. Theory X and Y call for managers to examine their assumptions about human nature and see how these models lead to managerial practices. These assumptions will be reflected in management attitudes toward employees, the kind and amount of participation they allow, and the outcomes they expect. The strength of McGregor’s theory is its significance. When McGregor formulated his theory, companies competed on their ability to mass produce goods.

Today, however, paying attention to the human aspect is a requirement if any organization. Without a powerfully motivated, highly skilled, self-reliant human resource, organizations do not stand a chance to survive, much less compete. McGregor’s theory provides the solution to problems related to the human aspect of an organization. Some of the weaknesses in McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y theory are that there is only so much money that can be offered as motivation and only so much control that can be applied. People change and so do motivators. McGregor states that a satisfied need no longer motivates.

This theory has no evidence to support Theory X or Theory Y. There’s no validity in the assumption that managers who modify their actions or behaviors will lead to more motivated workers (textbook citation p177). It is part of the manager's job to exercise control and influence, and there are situations in which this is the only method of achieving the desired results because subordinates do not agree that the ends are desirable. What does the research say about the theory? Has it been supported by research? Cite the relevant research, and explain what it shows.

Studies in relation to the application and observations of McGregor’s Theory X and Y views of managerial behavior and employee outcomes have been conducted and have shed some additional light on this topic. McGregor’s research has also been questioned for its practicality and usefulness. For instance, in Kopelman, Prottas, and Davis journal in the Journal of Managerial Issues (2008 (2) 255-271) they state that “the paucity of substantive research on the effects of Theory Y managerial assumptions/attitudes may be attributed to the absence of a construct valid measure that is freely available to researchers.

How can McGregor’s theory be tested if the focal construct has essentially gone unmeasured? (p. 2697) McGregor’s theorizing about the effects of managerial assumptions has not been rigorously examined. (p. 269) . A construct-valid measure of the central concept was developed, as a critical first step in assessing the substantive validity of McGregor’s theorizing. During this research, a survey was given to undergraduate and graduate students in business. The survey consisted of four principal section s measuring Theory X and Theory Y attitudes and behaviors, faith in people, fast food opinions, and items relating to leisure time activities.

The reasoning behind the survey was that Theory X/Y attitudes and assumptions would be closely related to Theory X/Y behaviors and that Theory X/Y attitudes and behaviors would be positively but distally related to generalized faith in people. The end results of the survey concluded that in order to construct validity of a measure should precede substantive research. Summarizing the research done by Kopelman, Prottas and Davis it was stated that theory Y attitudes, such as participative leadership should not be viewed as proxies for measuring managerial attitudes.

Theory Y pertains to an individual difference variable reflecting assumptions about people at work-it is not a specific set of recommended management practices. (p. 267) In Kermally’s Book (p. 39) it states that State you cannot and should not apply one set of assumptions to fit all situations. Again, the focus should be on individual differences and needs. There are groups of workers who would like to be directed and who are not keen on taking responsibility. Such workers would perform better under ‘autocratic managers’. According to the Harvard Business Review (p. 8) we need further investigation of what personality characteristics fit various tasks and organizations. The theory of motivation and organization will have to take account of the contingent relationship between task, organization, and people. Kermally, S. (2005). CHAPTER FIVE: Douglas McGregor (1906-1964). (pp. 35-41). Thorogood Publishing Ltd. Retrieved from Business Source Complete database. Morse, J. , ; Lorsch, J. (1970). Beyond Theory Y. Harvard Business Review, 48(3), 61. Retrieved from Business Source Complete database.

Theory X, Theory Y essay

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