Mcgregor's X and Y Theory

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The area of management and the ways in which managers have led or ‘managed’ others has changed and evolved significantly over the last couple of centuries and there have been a number of different theories into the best way it can be done. This essay will give some background knowledge into those theories but will primarily focus on McGregor’s development of his Theory X and Theory Y, incorporating how they evolved, what they are and how relevant they are to managers of the 21st century. The aim of this piece is to gain a better understanding of the theories of management developed by McGregor and how/if they are still being used today.

Before the industrial revolution, the majority of manufacturing was done by a system called ‘crafts production’, where a number of skilled workers hand manufactured products (Waddell 2010, p.39). However during the industrial revolution the concept of job specialisation appeared and the new ‘factory system’ proved to be much more efficient and able to produce a higher quantity of goods (Waddell 2010, p.39). One of the first people to begin work on the modern theory of management was Frederick W. Taylor who defined the principles of the scientific management theory which ran from the 1890’s to the 1940’s. Taylor has often been criticised for being unfriendly towards the human side of an organisation, that is, the workers (Carson, 2005). However Carson (2005) argues that Taylor’s goal was to get the most out of the employees but in a way that was “fair and with the workers’ interests in Mind”. The Administrative management theory which incorporated Weber’s idea of bureaucracy and Fayol’s idea of management was being developed side-by-side the scientific management theory. The main similarities between Weber’s and Fayol’s ideas were the need for a hierarchy of authority and the division of labour (Waddell 2010, p.45-6). Behavioural management theory was developed around the early 1900’s and stretched well into the 90’s. One of the



References: 1. Carson, CM, 2005, ‘A Historical View of Douglas McGregor’s Theory Y’, Management Decision Journal, vol. 43, no. 3, pp. 450-60, retrieved 30th march 2011, Emerald database http://www.emeraldinsight.com.ezproxy-f.deakin.edu.au/journals.htm?issn=0025-1747&volume=43&issue=3&articleid=1463109&show=html 2. Fermelis, J, MMM132 lecture 2B, T1, 2011 3. Kopelman, RE, Prottas, DJ & Davis, AL 2008, ‘Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Y: toward a construct‐valid measure’, Journal of Managerial Issues, vol. 20, no. 2, Summer, pp. 255‐271,retrieved 25 March 2011, ABI Inform database. 4. Kopelman, RE, Prottas, DJ & Falk, DW 2010, ‘Construct validation of a Theory X/Y behaviour scale’, leadership & Organisation Development journal, vol.31, issue 2, pp.120-35, retrieved 29 march 2011, Emerald database. http://www.emeraldinsight.com.ezproxy-f.deakin.edu.au/journals.htm?issn=0143-7739&volume=31&issue=2&articleid=1840287&show=html 5. Sorenson, PF, Jr., Minahan, M 2011, ‘McGregor’s Legacy: The Evolution and Current Application of Theory Y management’, Journal of Management History, vol. 17, issue 2, pp.1-22, retrieved 26th march 2011, Emerald database. 6. Waddell, D, Jones, GR, George, JM 2010, Contemporary Management, 2nd edn, McGraw-Hill Australia, North Ryde, NSW.

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