Theory X and Y

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  • Topic: Management, Theory Z, Theory X and theory Y
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  • Published : June 9, 2005
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douglas mcgregor - theory x y
Douglas McGregor's XY Theory, managing an X Theory boss, and William Ouchi's Theory Z Douglas McGregor, an American social psychologist, proposed his famous X-Y theory in his 1960 book 'The Human Side Of Enterprise'. Theory x and theory y are still referred to commonly in the field of management and motivation, and whilst more recent studies have questioned the rigidity of the model, Mcgregor's X-Y Theory remains a valid basic principle from which to develop positive management style and techniques. McGregor's XY Theory remains central to organizational development, and to improving organizational culture.

McGregor's X-Y theory is a salutary and simple reminder of the natural rules for managing people, which under the pressure of day-to-day business are all too easily forgotten.

McGregor 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.

theory x ('authoritarian management' style)
The average person dislikes work and will avoid it he/she can. Therefore most people must be forced with the threat of punishment to work towards organisational objectives. The average person prefers to be directed; to avoid responsibility; is relatively unambitious, and wants security above all else. theory y ('participative management' style)

Effort in work is as natural as work and play.
People will apply self-control and self-direction in the pursuit of organisational objectives, without external control or the threat of punishment. Commitment to objectives is a function of rewards associated with their achievement. People usually accept and often seek responsibility.

The capacity to use a high degree of imagination, ingenuity and creativity in solving organisational problems is widely, not narrowly, distributed in the population. In industry the intellectual potential of the average person is only partly utilised.

free theory xy diagram
free xy theory test - personal and organizational

characteristics of the x theory manager
What are the characteristics of a Theory X manager? Typically some, most or all of these:

results-driven and deadline-driven, to the exclusion of everything else intolerant
issues deadlines and ultimatums
distant and detached
aloof and arrogant
elitist
short temper
shouts
issues instructions, directions, edicts
issues threats to make people follow instructions
demands, never asks
does not participate
does not team-build
unconcerned about staff welfare, or morale
proud, sometimes to the point of self-destruction
one-way communicator
poor listener
fundamentally insecure and possibly neurotic
anti-social
vengeful and recriminatory
does not thank or praise
withholds rewards, and suppresses pay and remunerations levels scrutinises expenditure to the point of false economy
seeks culprits for failures or shortfalls
seeks to apportion blame instead of focusing on learning from the experience and preventing recurrence does not invite or welcome suggestions
takes criticism badly and likely to retaliate if from below or peer group poor at proper delegating - but believes they delegate well thinks giving orders is delegating
holds on to responsibility but shifts accountability to subordinates relatively unconcerned with investing in anything to gain future improvements unhappy
how you can manage upwards your X theory boss:
Working for an X theory boss isn't easy - some extreme X theory managers make extremely unpleasant managers, but there are ways of managing these people upwards. Avoiding confrontation (unless you are genuinely being bullied, which is a different matter) and delivering results are the key tactics.

Theory X managers (or indeed theory Y managers displaying theory X behaviour) are...
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