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Theory X and Theory Y and were propounded by Douglas McGregor. These are the theories of human motivation. These theories were propounded in 1960s and have been used in Human Resources Management, Organizational Behavior, Organizational communication and Organizational development. They describe the two different ways in which workers and management think.
What is Theory X?
This theory says that workers are inherently lazy and will avoid work if they can and that they inherently dislike work. These workers mostly like jobs which have job-security. They are self-centered, with only money at the epicenter. They resist good changes. They are gullible and unintelligent. They are not ambitious and want to take no responsibility and like to be directed. As a result, management believes that these workers need to be closely monitored and supervised. These kind of workers will respond to coercion and threats.
In this theory, most managers blame the workers, without questioning whether it may be the system, policy, lack of training or something else might have caused the problem. One major flaw with this theory is that this style might cause Diseconomies to Scale in large businesses.
What is Theory Y?
This theory says that workers are inherently self-motivated and exercise self-control. It is believed that employees enjoy their mental and physical work duties. For them work is natural as play. They possess the ability for creative problem solving, but their talents are underused in most organizations. Given the proper conditions these workers will seek out and accept responsibility. They believe that the satisfaction for doing a good job is a strong motivation.
Many believe that theory Y is a set of positive beliefs about workers. A sense of trust is created, where these kind of workers work. This would include managers communicating openly with subordinates, minimizing the differences between superior-subordinate relationships, creating a comfortable environment in which subordinates can develop and use their abilities.
Implications of Theory X and Theory Y
Douglas McGregor in his work argues that in some business houses even when the practices of decentralization, delegation, job enlargement, participative management and performance appraisal were adopted, they were unsuccessful due to the way they were being implemented. With the managements’ with the Theory X attitude and Theory X climate, the employees did not perform well.
So, McGregor says that even when new programs are adopted, without changing the attitude of the managers, it would yield nothing. His famous quotation of “self-fulfilling prophecy” of managers that people don’t want to work has to change, he says.
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