Theory X or Y by Douglas McGregor

Douglas McGregor stressed the importance of a manager clarifying his assumptions about the nature of man within the work situation. If a manager understood his subordinates, he would be able to select a motivational network that would better direct effort toward desired goals. He has given names Theory ‘X’ and Theory ‘Y’ to the theories most often held about man and motivation.

A manager who fits into the Theory X group leans toward an organisational climate of close control centralized authority, autocratic leadership, the minimum participation in the decision making process. Such a manager makes certain assumptions which according to McGregor are:

1. The average human being dislikes work and will avoid it to extent he can.


2. Most people have to be forced or threatened by punishment to get them to make the effort necessary to accomplish organisational goals.

3. The average individual is basically passive and therefore prefers to direct rather than to assume any risk or responsibility. Above all else he prefers security.

Theory Y manger operates with a different set of assumptions. He believes that an effective organisational climate has greater decentralization of authority, less reliance on coercion and control, a democratic leadership style and more participation in the decision process. The assumption on which this type of oranisational climate is based is:

1. The expenditure of physical and mental effort in work is a natural as play or rest. The average human being does not inherently dislike work. Depending upon controllable conditions, work may be a source of satisfaction (and will be voluntarily performed) or a source of punishment (and will be avoided if possible).


2. External control and the threat of punishment are not the only means for bringing about effort toward organisational objectives. Man will exercise self-direction and self-control in the service of objectives to which he is committed.

3. Commitment of objectives is a function of the rewards associated with their achievement. The most significant of such reward, i.e. the satisfaction of ego and self-actualisation needs, can be direct products of effort directed toward organisational objectives.

4. The average human being tears under proper conditions, not only to accept but to seek responsibility. Avoidance of responsibility, lack of ambition and emphasis on security are generally consequences of experience not inherent human characteristics.

5. The capacity of exercise a relatively high degree of imagination, ingenuity; and creativity in the solution of organsiational problems in widely, not narrowly disturbed in the population.


6. Under the conditions of modern industrial life, the intellectual potentialities of the’ average human being arc only partially utilised.

These assumptions involve sharply different implications for managerial strategy than do those of Theory X. whereas theory X offers management an easy rationalization for ineffective organisational performance. Theory Y holds management’s methods of organisation and control responsible for lazy, indifferent, unwilling, uncreative, uncooperative employees, etc.