Theory X and Theory Y – Emphasizing Employee Motivation and Management

Theory X and Theory Y – Emphasizing Employee Motivation and Management


Some people are workaholic because they love to work and derive immense satisfaction from it. On the flip side, there are some people who always look out for excuses to dodge work. The main reason for this is that they do not have a passion for working with utmost efficiency. They do not have the eagerness to climb the ladder of professional success. Strong motivation is required to arouse this passion and willingness in the latter group of people. Motivation is essential in order to be successful in achieving everything in life and in workplace, encouragement matters the most. The concept of workplace motivation has been explored by many scholarly people. While there have been many models and theories related to the subject of employee motivation and management propounded by numerous psychologists and theorists, the Theory X and Theory Y developed by eminent social psychologist Douglas McGregor really stands out for underlining certain valuable aspects.

This article will make you familiar with McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y that deal with employee motivation and management. While Theory X stresses on employees to be just a mechanism incorporated to produce work, Theory Y contradicts by highlighting the fact that employees should not be treated as merely an instrument crucial for organizational success and they need to be valued by seeking their opinions.

Theory X and Theory Y

Emergence of Theory X and Theory Y

Douglas McGregor, famous social psychologist devised two theories on employee motivation and management, Theory X and Theory Y. The two theories were published in his popular book, “The Human Side of Enterprise” in the year 1960. Both the models have been advocated from the perspective of a manager regarding what acts as the strongest encouragement for his or her team members in order to behave and perform optimally. Team management becomes easier when the manager makes the perfect approach to manage the team in accordance with his or her own assumptions about what exactly motivates the team members.

Elucidating the Two Theories

# Theory X

According to Theory X, employees are not at all self-motivated. They do not possess a penchant for working hard and are fearful of shouldering responsibilities. Because of this reluctant and indolent attitude of employees towards work, the organization decides to adopt a totalitarian management style to push employees to fulfill their duties. Theory X type organizations require managers and administrators to keep a vigil watch on the employees. The management of such organizations assumes that employees need to coerced, tempted and even warned in order deliver successful end-result since the latter lacks the conviction to work with perseverance.

# Theory Y

As stated by Theory Y, employees are self-motivated and full of creativity and possess the enthusiasm and determination to fulfill their duties. They are ready to take up additional responsibilities for the advancement of the organization. They require less direction and are adept in finding solutions to problems by applying their analytical skill and inventiveness. In Theory Y type organizations, a participative and flexible style of management is followed. The involvement of all levels of employees in the decision-making process is fundamental in these organizations.

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Distinguishing Between Theory X and Theory Y

The following chart will help in making a clear and comprehensive comparison of the two models proposed by McGregor. This will also give you an idea regarding which of the two theories is appropriate for implementing in your organization for enhanced employee motivation and management.

Parameter Assumptions of Theory X Assumptions of Theory Y
1. Motivation Employees are disinclined towards work and are not interested in taking responsibilities. Employees are proactive and eager to take up responsibilities and fulfill them passionately.
2. Management Style and Control Management is rigid and dictatorial and the control is centralized. Management involves the active participation of employees in the decision-making process, but holds the power to themselves when it comes to making any implementations.
3. Organization of Work The work of the employees is focused on one area and it often becomes monotonous. The work is well-planned and focuses on varied areas of knowledge, skills and expertise. Employees have the flexibility to give their suggestions. They are motivated to hone their skills and gain specialization in more areas.
4. Rewards and Appraisals Temptation of superb benefits and warning of punishment, in short, the ‘carrot and stick’ approach is made for appraising and rewarding an employee. Regular and timely appraisal and promotion is provided to the employees.
5. Application Large-scale enterprises implement the Theory X style of management despite the fact that this approach is immensely criticized for being authoritarian. The Theory Y style of management is extensively implemented across organizations, large-scale, mid-level and small-sized alike, that realize the importance of employee participation.

Instances of Theory X and Theory Y management styles

In a Theory X type organization, tangible rewards are used as incentives. Such organizations design regulations and compel the employees to comply with them or face unfavorable consequences (punishment). Coercion is a common practice in a Theory X type firm. On the other hand, a Theory Y type organization functions in a way that helps to establish a trustworthy and amicable relationship with the employees. Such companies are successful in gaining loyalty and full commitment from the employees. They boost the workforce to work hard towards the fulfillment of organizational goals by offering them regular appraisals, promotions and various job benefits.

Summarizing the Both

According to Douglas McGregor, it is significant to consider all the essentials before deciding on Theory X or Theory Y for implementing in an organization. Sticking to the assumptions about employee motivation and management made on the basis of any of these two theories is not always helpful. For effective team management and motivation, it becomes imperative for a manager to look beyond his or her own assumptions to contemplate over what motivates the team members and adapt his or her leadership style accordingly.

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