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Theory X and Theory Y in Human Resource Management

Theory X and Theory Y have been propounded by Douglas McGregor who was an American social psychologist. He presented his theory in his 1960 book, ‘The Human Side of Enterprise’.

The Theories X – Y are used extensively in management and motivation. The theory has been used by management to formulate and develop motivation and positive management styles, strategies and techniques. It remains central to organizational development and in improving organizational culture.

Theory X: Theory X assumes autocratic management. The theory says that managers under Theory X assume that most people are naturally lazy and need to be controlled and supervised. They think that people need to be motivated all the time. One of the notions that Theory X managers have toward their people is that they are not very smart and they need good encouragement to do good work.

Characteristics of Theory X managers: Some of the most noticeable characteristics of Theory X managers are autocratic behavior.

  • The managers are results-driven. They are concerned with the completion of a given task. They issue deadlines for the completion of work.
  • The managers lack tolerance. They are very intolerant in nature.
  • Most of the theory X managers distance themselves from workers. They do not have much of an attachment to their employees.
  • Theory X managers issue threats and warnings to make people follow their instructions.
  • They do not participate in the process of team building.
  • They are unconcerned about the welfare or morale of the employees.
  • They are one-way communicators and poor listeners.
  • They withhold rewards and suppress pay and remuneration levels.
  • They are poor at delegating responsibilities and think giving orders is delegating responsibility.
  • They hold on to responsibility but shift accountability to subordinates.

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Conversely, Theory Y assumes democratic management. The theory says that managers under Theory Y assume that most people like to work. The managers assume that they have self-control. They assume that people can motivate themselves and want to do a good job. One of the important notions that Theory Y managers have about their people is that they are smart.

Some of the characteristics of Theory Y managers can be seen. Theory Y managers are quite opposite to that of Theory X.

Even Theory Y managers are results-oriented, after all, but they are also concerned with not just the completion of work, but they assist their subordinates in doing things.

  • Theory Y managers are very tolerant in nature. They tolerant mistakes and try to rectify them by explaining what should not be done and what needs to be done.
  • Theory Y managers do not distance out from their employees. They think it is all one team including oneself and move along providing motivation and encouragement to the team.
  • They do not treat employees for non-compliance. Instead, they explain to them the norms and compliance issues and make them realize that instructions are for the betterment of work.
  • They actively participate in the team-building process and make sure that every employee in the team is more than a better performer.
  • They are very much concerned about the welfare and morale of employees. They try to know the grievances of their employees, if any and try to solve them, if possible.
  • They are good communicators and good listeners and take suggestions and constructive criticism seriously.
  • They do not withhold any rewards and compensations to threat the employees. They also praise their employees for their good work.
  • They are very good at delegating responsibilities. They not only give orders but also give directions and suggestions to complete the work.
  • They hold on to responsibility and also accountability to themselves.

These are the fundamental differences in the views of Theory X and Theory Y. The theories are used extensively in the management school of thought for the betterment of work, productivity and organizational culture in the long run.

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This article is in continuation with our previous articles on Human Resource Management which include Maslow’s Theory of Motivation, Human Resource Development, Recruitment & Selection

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