Douglas McGregor in his book, "The Human Side of Enterprise" published
in 1960 has examined theories on behavior of individuals at work, and
he has formulated two models which he calls Theory X and Theory Y.
Theory X Assumptions
The average human being has an inherent dislike of work and will avoid
it if he can.
Because of their dislike for work, most people must be
controlled and threatened before they will work hard enough. The average human prefers to be directed, dislikes responsibility,
is unambiguous, and desires security above everything. These assumptions lie behind most organizational principles
today, and give rise both to "tough" management with punishments
and tight controls, and "soft" management which aims at harmony
at work. Both these are "wrong" because man needs more
than financial rewards at work, he also needs some deeper higher order
motivation - the opportunity to fulfill himself. Theory X managers do not give their staff this opportunity
so that the employees behave in the expected fashion.
Theory Y Assumptions
The expenditure of physical and mental effort in work
is as natural as play or rest. Control and punishment are not the only ways to make
people work, man will direct himself if he is committed to the aims
of the organization. If a job is satisfying, then the result will be commitment
to the organization. The average man learns, under proper conditions, not
only to accept but to seek responsibility. Imagination, creativity, and ingenuity can be used to
solve work problems by a large number of employees. Under the conditions of modern industrial life, the intellectual
potentialities of the average man are only partially utilized.
Comments on Theory X and Theory Y Assumptions
These assumptions are based on social science research which has been
carried out, and demonstrate the potential which is present in man and
which organizations should recognize in order to become more effective.
McGregor sees these two theories as two quite separate attitudes. Theory
Y is difficult to put into practice on the shop floor in large mass production
operations, but it can be used initially in the managing of managers
In "The Human Side of Enterprise" McGregor shows how Theory
Y affects the management of promotions and salaries and the development
of effective managers.
McGregor also sees Theory Y as conducive to participative
It is part of the manager''s job to exercise authority, and there are
cases in which this is the only method of achieving the desired results
because subordinates do not agree that the ends are desirable.
However, in situations where it is possible to obtain commitment to
objectives, it is better to explain the matter fully so that employees
grasp the purpose of an action. They will then exert self-direction and
control to do better work - quite possibly by better methods - than if
they had simply been carrying out an order which the y did not fully
The situation in which employees can be consulted is one where the individuals
are emotionally mature, and positively motivated towards their work;
where the work is sufficiently responsible to allow for flexibility and
where the employee can see her or his own position in the managemt hierarchy.
If these conditions are present, managers will find that the participative
approach to problem solving leads to much improved results compared with
the alternative approach of handing out authoritarian orders.
Once management becomes persuaded that it is under estimating the potential
of its human resources, and accepts the knowledge given by social science
researchers and displayed in Theory Y assumptions, then it can invest
time, money and effort in developing improved applications of the theory.
McGregor realizes that some of the theories he has put forward are unrealizable
in practice, but wants managers to put into operation the basic assumption
Staff will contribute more to the organization if they
are treated as responsible and valued employees.