The “X-Y” Theory of Motivation Reply

By Chris Simmons

American psychologist Douglas McGregor detailed the X-Y theory in his 1960 book, The Human Side of Enterprise.” While some recent studies question the inflexibility of his work, X-Y is still widely used in addressing organizational motivations and culture. McGregor suggests management styles are a simple choice between authoritarian or participatory approaches. Furthermore, Theory X (dictatorial) managers will generally experience poor results while their Theory Y (engaged) counterparts see better individual and organizational performance because of the opportunities to grow and develop.

Theory X Assumptions (Authoritarian Management)

  • The average person inherently dislikes work and will avoid it if possible.
  • Because most people dislike work, they must be coerced into striving towards an organizational goal.
  • The average person avoids responsibility, has little or no ambition, desires security over all other things, and prefers to be task-directed.

Theory Y Assumptions (Participatory Management)

  • Work is satisfying.
  • Physical and mental exertion at work is as natural as play or rest.
  • Coercion is not the only way to motivate people to work. When committed to a cause, people willingly use self-direction and self-control to achieve a goal.
  • One’s commitment is tied to the value of the perceived reward for achievement.
  • People seek and accept responsibility and will do the job based on their perception of the job’s priority.
  • The ability to solve organizational problems using ingenuity, creativity, and imagination is widely – not narrowly – found among the general populace.
  • The average person’s intellectual potential is only partially realized.

For all those currently suffering under a Theory X boss, read this offering from businessballs.com on surviving an authoritarian manager

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