Everything you need to know about Theory X and Theory Y of motivation. Prof. Douglas McGregor proposed theory X and theory Y.
Theory X is related to traditional approach about people and theory Y is related to modern approach about people. Theory X is somehow related to concept of scientific management, which advocates that people dislike the work and they have to be strictly controlled.
McGregor states that the supporters of theory X, who perceive employees to be lazy and unambitious use threat, strict supervision, control, punishment, etc., as the tools to get work done.
However, these tools may give negative results by giving encouragement to trade unions and people may oppose the force.
Theory Y is reverse of theory X. This is inspired from human approach to management, which advocates considering employees as humans not as machines.
Theory Y is positive approach about people. It considers people to be willing to work, who just need direction and motivation for work.
1. Assumptions of Theory X and Theory Y 2. Appraisal of Theory X and Theory Y 3. Motivational Aspects 4. Criticisms 5. Comparison between Theory X and Theory Y.
Theory X and Theory Y
Prof. Douglas McGregor proposed theory X and theory Y. Theory X is related to traditional approach about people and theory Y is related to modern approach about people.
Theory X is somehow related to concept of scientific management, which advocates that people dislike the work and they have to be strictly controlled.
Assumptions of Theory X:
1. Man is lazy; he does not want to work.
2. People dislike responsibilities, they do not have ambition.
3. People consider self-interest as the priority, not the organisational interests.
4. People oppose change.
5. People have no interest in solving organisational problems.
6. People need to be motivated.
7. People need to be controlled and threatened.
8. Sometimes, punishment has to be used to get work done.
First five are related to human nature and last three to managerial action.
McGregor states that the supporters of theory X, who perceive employees to be lazy and unambitious use threat, strict supervision, control, punishment, etc., as the tools to get work done. However, these tools may give negative results by giving encouragement to trade unions and people may oppose the force.
Theory Y is reverse of theory X. This is inspired from human approach to management, which advocates considering employees as humans not as machines. Theory Y is positive approach about people. It considers people to be willing to work, who just need direction and motivation for work.
Assumptions of Theory Y:
1. Employees want to work.
2. People are responsible, enthusiastic and make efforts to achieve goals.
3. People employ creativity to solve organisational problems.
4. People do not need strict supervision.
5. Democratic/participative leadership style will be effective.
Theory Y views individual and organisational goals as congruent. Workers like responsibility and they should be given responsibility. They are self-directed, self-motivated and self-controlled.
If the assumptions of theory Y are valid, McGregor suggests giving freedom to employees, use decentralisation, delegation, job enlargement, participation and consultative management, etc., to motivate employees.
Appraisal of McGregor’s Theory:
Theory X and theory Y, represent two extremes. They are not realistic situations. Both are not found in reality, no man would entirely belong to theory X or theory Y. He will have the traits of both the theories; however, theory X is more applicable to uneducated and unskilled workers, theory Y is more applicable to educated and skilled workers. This theory helps managers understand human behaviour and design the incentive scheme accordingly.
Theory X and Theory Y – With Assumptions
Douglas Mc Gregor has tried to explain two theories of human behaviour in management philosophy based on the principles of the dual aspects of the human being. This is known as ‘X’ and ‘Y’ theory.
This is a traditional theory of human behaviour. In this, Mc Gregor made certain assumptions about human behaviour.
i. Generally most people have an inherent dislike for work and they avoid shouldering responsibility.
ii. Due to the inherent characteristics of a human being, they have to be intensively supervised, directed and also threatened with severe consequences for nonperformance and punishment. They also require adequate and severe reproof to get the job accomplished.
iii. Most of the people at work lack ambition. They have little interest in the quality work.
iv. An average human being likes to be directed by the superiors and avoids responsibility. He does the work to the barest minimum.
v. These type of personnel are inherently self-centered and also indifferent to organisational needs.
vi. Such people have a great financial greed. They may do whatever management wants by financial motivation.
Mc Gregor emphasised that the theory ‘X’ philosophy as stated above confuses cause and effect in the analysis of human nature. If an employee in a modern organisation behaves passively or indifferently, it means the management has not properly responded to his needs.
The worker’s behavioural attitudes hardly speak that he is deprived of his higher order needs like ‘social need’ of belongingness and other higher order ones. It is a fact that many organisations do take notice of the physical and safety needs of the workers and other higher order needs are not considered as important ones.
When the lower needs are satisfied by the workers, they aspire to satisfy their ‘self-fulfillment needs’. If management overlooks these important aspects, the outcome is frustration and the work becomes the subject of theory ‘X’ category in course of time.
The assumption of theory ‘Y’ is explained by Mc Gregor as:
i. An average human being does not inherently dislike work. The work for him is as natural as play or rest. Depending upon the conditions, work may be a source of satisfaction or a source of punishment.
ii. External control and threat of punishment are not the only means of bringing about efforts towards meeting organisational objectives. Man will exercise self- direction and self-control in the service of objectives to which he is committed.
iii. Commitment to objective is a function of the reward associated with achievement. The most significant aspect of such an award is satisfaction of the ego and self- actualisation that can be directed towards achieving organisational objectives.
iv. The average human being learns under proper conditions not only to accept responsibility but also to seek help to shoulder the same. However, shirking of responsibility, lack of ambition and emphasis on job security are generally the consequences of inherent human characteristics.
v. The capacity to exercise a relatively high degree of imagination, ingenuity and creativity. These are found widely distributed in public.
vi. In modern industrial life, the intellectual potentialities of an average human being are partially utilised.
A close comparative study of and ‘Y’ theory can bring out the diagonally different nature of these two sets of assumptions.
The assumption of theory ‘Y’ brings out a positive approach in organisational management and also understanding the positive behavioural pattern of employees between organisational goals and those of the individuals satisfying their own needs. This theory establishes conducive atmosphere and amiable relationship between management and work force for accomplishment of jobs.
When one studies ‘X’ and ‘Y’ theory, one may form an impression that the former is a bad type of worker and latter a good type. The theory mainly indicates the attitude or an idea formed earlier by the managers with regard to employees. As a matter of fact, the theory does not convey the behaviour of individuals.
The assumption and reality are two different variables. The manager must be able to distinguish them correctly, when dealing with situations. A lazy and irresponsible worker of ‘X’ category can be changed into a ‘Y’ category worker by behaviour modification. How to change the behaviour pattern depends on the leadership of the organisation. That is what is required for a manager to do as a sequel to study of and Y’ theory.
Theory X and Theory Y – With Assumptions and Motivational Aspects
Douglas McGregor proposed two altogether different views of human beings. One view is basically negative of human beings called Theory X and the other is basically positive of human beings called Theory Y.
Assumptions of Theory X:
Theory X is a traditional set of assumptions about people.
The assumptions held by managers under Theory X include:
i. The typical person dislikes work and will avoid it, if possible;
ii. The typical person lacks responsibility, has little ambition and seeks security about all; and
iii. Most people must be coerced, controlled and threatened with punishment to get them to work.
Motivational Aspects of Theory X:
Theory X assumes that people are relatively self-centred, indifferent to organisational needs and goals and resistant to change. Managers have to motivate their subordinates through negative motivational techniques like coercion, punishment, threatening and controlling.
Theory X assumptions are mostly applicable in government departmental and public sector organisational situations where people are not basically trusted. And these assumptions are not applicable in private sector organisations where freedom, autonomy and voluntarism are mostly trusted.
Assumptions of Theory Y:
Theory Y implies a more positive, human and supportive approach to managing people.
The assumptions of Theory Y include:
i. People view work as being as natural as rest or play.
ii. People will exercise self-direction and self-control, if they are committed to the organisational objectives.
iii. The average person can learn to accept and/or seek responsibility.
iv. People are not inherently lazy. They have become that way as a consequence of their experience, and
v. People have potential. Under proper conditions, they learn to accept and seek responsibility. They have imagination, ingenuity and creativity that can be applied to work.
Motivational Aspects of Theory Y:
These assumptions motivated the managers to develop employee potential and help them release that potential towards the organisational objectives.
Theory Y assumptions are believed mostly by the private sector organisations, where the performance is most essential than the procedure. Private sector organisations motivate the employees by creating proper organisational structures like humanistic and flat structures.
The believers of Theory Y design the jobs based on job enrichment techniques. Further the employees are given freedom and autonomy to decide their work, activities, take their own decisions with a view to enhance the organisational performance. Empowerment of employees is a recent technique in this direction.
Theory X and Theory Y
Prof. Douglas McGregor has introduced two theories in his famous book, ‘The Human side of Enterprise.’ They are called ‘X’ theory and ‘Y’ theory.
This theory is based on ‘papa knows best.’ In other words, a manager has thorough knowledge and excludes workers from decision-making process. A manager has authority or power to take decisions. The workers should follow whatever decisions are taken by the manager.
Assumptions of Theory:
i. Workers have an aversion to work inherently.
ii. Workers may find a way to postpone the work completion in laziness.
iii. Workers may do the job half-heartedly.
iv. Fear of punishment can motivate the workers into action.
v. The worker may know the hazards of non-performance of a work.
vi. No worker is ready to accept any responsibility.
vii. There is a need for explaining the consequences of being inactive.
viii. Workers are not interested in achievement. They prefer to maintain status quo.
ix. A worker prefers to be directed by others.
x. Workers hate to improve their efficiency. The reason is that they fear losing their present job.
xi. Worker is also one of the factors of production and does not deserve any special treatment.
xii. Worker lacks integrity.
xiii. Worker avoids taking decision whenever necessary.
X-theory is regarded as the means to supervise and control the workers. Decision-making in all the fields is entrusted with the managers. Workers are allowed to express their suggestions and emotions. But the decisions are taken by managers and workers are forced to follow the decisions.
Y-theory is just opposite to X-theory. So, X-theory is considered as traditional theory and Y-theory is considered as modern theory. Y-theory emphasises the importance of workers in the accomplishment of enterprise objectives.
i. The average human being has the tendency to work. A job is as natural just like a play.
ii. Once the worker understands the purpose of job, he may extend his co-operation for job completion.
iii. Worker can put in his best efforts for the accomplishment of enterprise objectives early.
iv. Worker has self-direction, self-motivation, self-discipline and self-control.
v. If right motivation scheme is prepared by the management, the worker is ready to accept extra responsibility.
vi. The existing worker has competence to work and can take right decisions.
vii. A worker expects recognition of the successful accomplishment of task.
viii. A worker may exhibit his efficiency even for non-monetary rewards such as – participation in decision-making, increased responsibility etc.
ix. The potentialities of human beings are not fully utilised by any industry.
According to Y-theory, a worker has integrity and readiness to work hard. He is willing to participate in the decision making process and shows a sense of creativity and imagination. So, X-theory may be said to be a negative and pessimistic one and Y-theory may be said to be positive and optimistic.
Theory X and Theory Y – Assumptions Held by the Manager
Douglas McGregor proposed two distinct views of human beings- one basically negative, labelled Theory X, and the other basically positive, labelled Theory Y.
After viewing the way managers dealt with employees, McGregor concluded that a manager’s view of the nature of human beings is based on a certain grouping of assumptions and that he tends to mould his behaviour toward subordinates according to those assumptions.
Under Theory X, four assumptions are held by the manager:
1. Employees inherently dislike work and, whenever possible, will attempt to avoid it.
2. Since employees dislike work, they must be coerced, controlled, or threatened with punishment to achieve desired goals.
3. Employees will shirk responsibilities and seek formal direction whenever possible.
4. Most workers place security above all other factors associated with work and will display little ambition.
Under Theory Y, four contrasting assumptions are held by the manager:
1. Employees can view work as being as natural as rest or play.
2. A person who is committed to the objectives will exercise self-direction and self- control.
3. The average person can learn to accept, even seek, responsibility.
4. Creativity—that is, the ability to make good decisions-is widely dispersed throughout and not necessarily the sole province of those in management.
What are the motivational implications if you accept McGregor’s analysis? The answer is best expressed in the framework presented by Maslow. Theory X assumes that lower- order needs dominate individuals. Theory Y assumes that higher-order needs dominate individuals.
McGregor, himself, held to the belief that Theory Y assumptions were more valid than Theory X. Therefore, he proposed ideas such as participation in decision making, responsible and challenging jobs, and good group relations as approaches that would maximize an employee’s job motivation.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence to confirm that either set of assumptions is valid or that accepting Theory Y assumptions and altering one’s actions accordingly will increase workers’ motivation. A practical viewpoint is that either Theory X or Theory Y assumptions may be appropriate in a particular situation.
Theory X and Theory Y
Prof. McGregor developed a theory of motivation on the basis of hypotheses relating to human behaviour. This theory involves certain assumptions about human nature. There are two alternative sets of assumptions which are described as theory X and theory Y.
This theory is based on the following assumptions:
1. The average individual is by nature indolent and will avoid work if he can.
2. The average person lacks ambition, dislikes responsibility, and prefers to be led.
3. An average individual is inherently self-centered, and different to organisational goals.
4. Most people are by nature resistant to changes and want security above all.
5. The average individual is gullible and not very bright.
All the above assumptions are negative in nature. Therefore, Theory X is a conventional or traditional approach to motivation. An organisation based on this theory will be one in which there is close supervision and control of subordinates, and high centralisation of authority. Leadership in such an organisation will tend to be autocratic, and workers will have very little say in decisions affecting them.
This theory is based on the following assumptions:
1. The average human being has no inherent dislike for work. Work is a source of satisfaction and it can be voluntarily done.
2. Man will exercise self-control and self-direction in the service of objectives. External control or threat of punishment is not the only means of motivating people to work.
3. The average human being does not dislike responsibility. He is ready not only to accept responsibility but also to seek it.
4. Commitment to objectives is a result of the reward associated with their achievement. Once the people have selected their goal, they will pursue it even without close supervision and control.
5. Under conditions of modern industrial life, the intellectual potentialities of people are only partially utilized. In reality, people have unlimited potential.
Theory Y represents a modern, and dynamic nature of human beings. It is based on assumptions which are nearer to reality.
There will be decentralisation of authority, job enrichment, participative leadership and two-way communication system in an organisation based on Theory Y.
Theory X and Theory Y – Assumptions, Appraisal, Distinction and Criticisms
Douglas McGregor propounded two theories of human behaviour in management philosophy on the theme of dual nature of human being. They are known as theory ‘X’ and theory ‘Y’. McGregor believes that nearly all management actions flow from these two theories and they reflect their philosophy of controls in practice. Management assumptions about human behaviour influence the personnel practices, decision-making, operating practices and even organisation design.
Further, he observed that people appear to have a capacity for tenderness, sympathy and love, while they also possess tendencies towards cruelty, callousness, hate and malicious aggression. These two different philosophies are two different theories of McGregor, Theory ‘X’ and Theory ‘Y’.
Theory ‘X’ is the traditional theory of management philosophy. ‘Power is Supreme’ is the most important theme of this theory where the people at work-level have no authority to suggest or object anything except to carry out the orders of the supervisor.
The line of authority or command traditionally goes direct from the top, down through various layers of organisation with some delegation of authority but full and detailed accountability is up the line. People at work-level have no option except to obey the directives or orders of the authority.
The important assumptions of this theory are as follows:
(1) Many people inherently dislike work and always try to shirk their responsibility.
(2) Therefore, to make them responsible people must be coerced, controlled, directed and threatened with punishment, rebuffed or rebuked so as to get them to put forth adequate efforts towards the achievement of organisational goals.
(3) The average human being prefers to be directed wishes to avoid responsibility and puts off the work till it is necessary.
(4) Most people at work have practically no ambition or little ambition as to the improvement of work. They do not work with interest but wait for direction and act according to it.
(5) It has been noticed that the average human being wants security and safety above all, hence he tends to work slowly.
(6) Further, most people have little capacity to contribute something towards solving the organisational problems as their importance in the management is always under minded by the authority and they are treated as an instrument of a machine.
(7) Working method of the people is generally traditional and hence there is little scope for the development and research.
(8) Mostly people can be motivated by money and on the basis of financial greed; they can do whatever management wants.
McGregor’s contribution should be analysed in the proper perspective. All that he postulated and sought to dramatise through his theory ‘X’ is to outline the extremes to draw the fencing within which the organisational or enterprise man is seen to behave.
(1) The Theory ‘X’ is Quite Unwarranted in the Modern Times:
It supports the authoritarian view which is not warranted in the present day economy. The man at work is not a machine, he is a human being. He is not only to execute the orders of the top line executives but he should also think over the order on its merits before its execution. Management may get results by coercion or through pressure tactics only in short-run till people respond to pressures and controls, partly out of fear of consequences of not following the orders of the top line executives.
Himself condemning the theory McGregor says—”The conventional approach of theory ‘X’ is based on mistaken notions of what is cause and what is effect. An organisation built upon theory ‘X’ notions will be one in which there is clear supervision and control of sub-ordinates and high centralization of authority. Leadership will tend to be autocratic and workers will have very little to say in decisions affecting them.”
(2) This Theory has Wrong Assumptions about Human Nature:
The assumptions contained in theory ‘X’ do not reveal the true nature of human beings. Recent behavioural science researches do not support the traditional view. It concludes that the most effective way to get better results in an organisation is to work with people rather than through them.
(3) The Theory has Now Become Out of Date:
In modern times, the governments of most of the countries have stressed that the worker should be given an honourable partnership in management.
The theory ‘Y’ represents an alternative management approach which does not involve abdication of managerial responsibility. Management is still responsible for achieving the organisational objectives, but on different assumptions about human behaviour and motivation. The workers are fully aware of the organisational objectives, which are directly related to the satisfaction of employee’s needs.
McGregor recognised certain needs that theory ‘X’ fails to take into account. For example – self-fulfillment, ego satisfaction and social needs of individual workers. Thus, it pleads for a humanistic and supportive approach to managing people. Management tries to provide an atmosphere of peace and discipline within the organisation, without the oppressive measures. Therefore, people work with interest and simultaneously enjoy the benefits of congenial relationship.
McGregor has described the assumptions of theory Y in the following words:
(1) Physical and Mental Effort in Work is Natural:
The expenditure of physical and mental effort in work is 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 or as source of punishment.
(2) External Control and the Threat of Punishment:
External control and the threat of punishment are not the only means for bringing about efforts towards organisational objectives. Man will exercise self-direction and self-control in the service objectives to which he is committed.
(3) Reward Associated with the Achievement:
Commitment to objectives is a function of the reward associated with their achievement. The most significant of such award e.g., the satisfaction of ego and self-actualisation needs, can be direct product of effort directed towards organisational objectives.
(4) Human being Learns under Proper Conditions:
The average human being learns 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 inherent human characteristics.
(5) High Degree of Imagination:
The capacity to exercise a relatively high degree of imagination, ingenuity and creativity in the solution of organisational problems is widely, not narrowly, distributed in the population.
(6) Intellectual Potential is Partially Utilised:
Under the conditions of modern industrial life, the intellectual potential, potentialities of the average human being are only partially utilized.
Thus, the assumptions of theory ‘X’ suggest a new approach in management. It emphasises on co-operative endeavour of management and employees. The attempt is to get maximum output with minimum amount of control and direction. Generally the conflict is visible between organisational goals and individuals goals. Thus, the attempts of employees which are in their best interests are also in the interests of the organisation.
Both theories have certain assumptions about human nature. In fact they are reverse side of a coin, one representing head and the other representing tail. Thus, these assumptions seem to be mutually exclusive.
The distinction between the two sets of assumption can be visualized as follows:
(1) Distasteful to Work:
Theory ‘X’ assumes that the human beings are inherently distasteful to work, whereas theory ‘Y’ assumes that for human beings work is as natural as rest or play. They become distasteful to work only as a result of experience.
(2) Ambitions and Responsibilities:
Theory ‘X’ assumes that people are unambitious and prefer to be directed and they try to avoid responsibilities in jobs. Theory ‘Y’ on the other hand, assumes that workers are ambitious and are capable of directing their own behaviour. They are ready to accept responsibilities.
(3) Need Levels:
The motivation factors in Theory ‘X’ are lower level, physiological and safety needs. Theory ‘Y’ on the other hand, recognises both lower level and higher order needs like social esteem and self-esteem and self-actualisation for motivation. However, emphasis is laid on higher order needs.
(4) Creativity and Change:
According to theory ‘X’ most people lack capacity and they always resist change, while according to theory ‘Y’ the capacity for creativity is wide spread in the population. Most people are creative by nature and they accept any change.
(5) Levels of Authority:
Theory ‘X’ emphasises scalar chain of command, centralization of authority and autocratic leadership, whereas theory ‘Y’ emphasises decentralization of authority of greater participation in decision making process.
(6) Control and Supervision:
Theory ‘X’ proposes external control and close supervision to achieve organisational objectives. They lack self-motivation, whereas Theory ‘Y’ proposes self-direction and self-control.
To conclude Theory ‘X’ emphasises democratic and supportive leadership styles. McGregor’s assumption in terms of theory ‘X’ and theory ‘Y’ are based on Maslow’s need hierarchy model. In the beginning, when the concept of economic man was accepted some writers emphasised only on the satisfaction of physiological and safety needs. These were the basic constituents of the motivation model. However, because of changes in the value systems and social systems, higher order needs were emphasised for human beings and safety.
These needs mostly replaced lower order needs as constituents motivation model. Similarly, assumptions under theory ‘X’ are being replaced by assumptions under theory Y.
This is being reflected in the managerial styles and techniques. Today we emphasise management by objectives, management by integration self-control, supportive management, decentralization, job enrichment etc.
These techniques are applicable in the organisation where self-motivated, self-controlled, mature and responsible people work. McGregor believes that recent researches in the behavioural sciences have shown that the assumptions of what he calls theory ‘Y’ may be more valid than the precepts of theory ‘X’.
McGregor’s theory of motivation helped to crystalise and put into right perspective the findings of the Hawthorne experiments.
However, it has been widely criticized on many points:
(1) It is of General Nature:
It tends to over-generalise and over-simplify people as being one way or the other. People cannot be put on two extremes. No enterprising man belongs either to theory ‘X’ or theory ‘Y’.
(2) Squeezes Two Extremes of Conduct:
McGregor’s theory squeezes managerial styles and philosophies into two extremes of conduct which is devoid of reality.
(3) Motivation in the Job:
McGregor has suggested that job itself is the key to motivation. But all people do not see motivation in the job. The management has to motivate people to work.
(4) Value of Direction and Control:
People who follow theory ‘Y’ still find that they have to behave in a very directive and controlling manner.
Most of the eminent authors of management thought, believe theory ‘Y’ to be more appropriate but not in all situations. In some routine and formalised situations theory ‘Y’ is more suitable. In under-developed countries like India theory ‘X’ is more suitable. Neither theory is best in all situations. An amalgamation of both the theories may be more useful than either of the two alone as the best approach to motivation is one which is appropriate to the situation.
Theory X and Theory Y
One way to conceptualize the general orientation of organisational development, is to use models proposed by Douglas Mc.Gregor is terms of Theory X and Theory Y. These are based on human nature. One view is basically negative, labeled as Theory X and the other basically based on positive view, labeled Theory Y. Mc.Gregor proposed on his study that a manager’s view of human nature is based on a certain group of assumptions, and that managers tend to mold their behaviour towards sub – ordinates according to these assumptions.
The assumptions held by managers, under theory X, are:
i. Security is placed at highest by most workers among all other factors related to work.
ii. Usually workers dislike work, so they may be coerced, controlled and at time threatened with punishment to achieve desired goals.
iii. Workmen shirk responsibilities and seek formal direction whenever possible.
iv. Workmen generally avoid work or attempt to avoid.
For this negative views toward nature, employees at large and not workmen alone are responsible or are included.
On the other hand, Mc.Gregor listed four other assumptions, which he called Theory Y.
a. An average workman can learn to accept even seek the responsibility.
b. Employees can look towards “work” like rest or play.
c. Employees do exercise self-direction and self-control if they are committed to the objectives.
d. The creativity factors is not the pre-requisite of management persons but is widely dispersed in the population.
Manager in the organisations are characterized by conformity, antagonisms, and mistrust when they assume theory X.
Contrary to this, the theory Y that is based on trust, openness and concern for others as well as respect for individuals, best describe right goals of OD researchers and OD practitioners.
One should not forget, apart from employer, OD is concerned with impressing organisational performance. Poor communication, dysfunctional conflict, structural rigidity, failures to know self and inadequate understanding of attitudes and values of others are some major obstacles in achieving high performance.
This results in OD offering other techniques which must be capable of bringing out change, increase member’s satisfaction, through right effects on their attitudes and values. The OD techniques should have the ability to bring about a change and to improve organisation’s effectiveness.
Theory X and Theory Y – Assumptions, Comparison and Implications
According to McGregor, managers make certain assumptions about human nature while directing people that may be neither consciously crystallized nor overtly stated. However, these serve the purpose of predicting human behaviour. The basic assumptions about human behaviour may differ considerably because of the complexity of factors influencing this behaviour.
McGregor has characterized these assumptions in two opposite points:
1. Theory X and
2. Theory Y.
1. Theory X:
This is the traditional theory of human nature. In this theory, McGregor has certain assumptions about human behaviour which are as follows-
i. Management is responsible for organizing the elements of an organization — money, materials, equipment, people — in the interest of economic ends.
ii. With regard to people, management directs their efforts, motivates them, controls their actions, and modifies their behaviour to fit the needs of the organization.
iii. Without this active intervention by management, people would be passive.
iv. The average man is indolent, by nature, and works as little as possible.
v. He lacks ambition, dislikes responsibility, and prefers to be led.
vi. He is inherently self-centered and indifferent to organizational needs.
vii. He is, by nature, resistant to change.
viii.He is gullible, not very bright.
Of these assumptions, the first three are related with managerial actions and the last five deal with the human nature. These assumptions about human nature are negative in their approach. Managers subscribing these views attempt to structure, control, and closely supervise their employees. They feel that external control is most appropriate for dealing with irresponsible and immature employees.
2. Theory Y:
The assumptions of theory Y are as follows:
i. The expenditure of physical and mental effort in work is as natural as play or rest for people. The average human being does not inherently dislike work. Work may be a source of satisfaction or dissatisfaction depending on the working conditions.
ii. External control and the threat of punishment are not the only means for bringing about effort towards organizational objectives. Man will exercise self-direction and self-control to achieve objectives to which he is committed.
iii. Commitment to organizational objectives is a function of the rewards associated with achievement of organizational objectives. The most significant of such awards are the satisfaction of ego and self-actualization needs.
iv. The average human being learns 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.
v. The capacity to exercise a relatively high degree of imagination, ingenuity, and creativity in the solution of organizational problems is widely, not narrowly, distributed in the people.
vi. Under the conditions of modern industrial life, the intellectual potentialities of the average human beings are only partially utilized.
The assumptions of Theory Y suggest a different approach in management. It emphasizes the cooperative endeavour of management and employees. The attempt is to get maximum output with minimum amount of control and direction. Generally, no conflict is visible between organizational goals and individual goals. Thus, the attempts of employees which are in their best interests are also in the interests of organization.
Comparison of Theory X and Theory Y:
Both these theories have certain assumptions about human nature. In fact, they are reverse sides of a coin, one representing Theory X and the other representing Theory Y. Thus, these assumptions are mutually exclusive.
The difference between two sets of assumptions can be visualized as follows:
1. Theory X assumes human beings to be inherently distasteful towards work. Theory Y assumes that for human beings, work is as natural as play.
2. Theory X emphasizes that people do not have ambitions and try to avoid responsibility in jobs. The assumptions under Theory Y are just the reverse.
3. According to Theory X, most people have little capacity for creativity while according to Theory Y, the capacity for creativity is widely distributed in the people.
4. In Theory X, motivating factors are the lower-order needs. In Theory Y, higher-order needs are more important for motivation, though unsatisfied lower-order needs are also important.
5. In Theory X, people lack self-motivation and require to be externally controlled and closely supervised to get maximum output from them. In Theory Y, people are self- directed and creative and prefer self-control.
6. Theory X emphasizes scalar chain system and centralization of authority in the organization while Theory Y emphasizes decentralization of authority and greater participation in decision-making process.
7. Theory X emphasizes autocratic leadership; Theory Y emphasizes democratic leadership.
Implications of Theories X and Y:
The major implications of Theories X and Y may be seen in the management process which are explained below:
Management Process with Theories X and Y:
i. Superior sets objectives for subordinates.
ii. Little participation in objective setting and plan formulation.
iii. Few alternatives are explored.
i. Low commitment to objectives and plans.
ii. Autocratic leadership based on authority.
iii. Top-down communication with little feedback.
iv. Limited information flow.
3. Appraising and Controlling:
i. Low trust in appraisal.
ii. Control is extreme and rigid.
iii. Focus on past and fault finding.
i. Superior and subordinate set objectives jointly.
ii. Great deal of participation in objective setting and plan formulation.
iii. Many alternatives are explored.
i. High commitment to objectives and plans.
ii. Participation and teamwork leadership based on competence.
iii. Two-way communication with plenty of feedback.
iv. Free information flow.
3. Appraising and Controlling:
i. High trust in appraisal.
ii. Internal control based on self-control.
iii. Based on past but forward looking and problem solving.
It may be mentioned that these processes are not based on any conclusive proof of research studies but present a conjectural view based on assumptions of Theories X and Y.
In an organization, managerial actions, including those related to directing, take place in a context. This context is organizational culture. Therefore, its discussion is quite relevant.
Theory X and Theory Y
Prof. Douglas McGregor has presented two opposite sets of assumptions about employees. These have been represented by Theory X and Theory Y.
(i) The average person dislikes work and, whenever possible, will avoid it
(ii) Most people are not ambitious, have little desire for responsibility and prefer to be directed.
(iii) To make people to work, it is necessary to use strict control, threats, constant pressure, coercion, persuasion, and even punishment.
(iv) Most people have little capacity for creativity in solving organisational problems and
(v) People actually like to be directed and supervised very closely.
McGregor concluded that the theory X assumptions about human nature are often inaccurate and that the management approaches using theory X may fail to motivate many individuals to work towards organisational goals. He observes that Management by direction and control may not succeed.
We cannot use theory X for motivating people whose physiological and safety needs are reasonably satisfied and whose higher level needs are becoming predominant. He, therefore, developed an alternative theory of human behaviour called Theory Y.
i. It assumes that people are not lazy and unreliable by nature.
ii. They enjoy work, show initiative and imagination in self-direction and self-control.
iii. Work is a natural activity, like playing and taking rest, if the conditions are favorable.
iv. Close supervision and threats of punishments are not the only ways to make people work.
v. Motivation occurs at the social esteem and self-actualisation levels, as well as at the physiological and security levels.
vi. People can be self-directed and be creative at work if properly motivated.
Several studies after the Second World War revealed how assumptions about workers’ attitudes and behaviour affect managers’ behaviour. Perhaps the most influential approach was developed by Douglas McGregor. He proposed that two different sets of assumptions about work attitudes and behaviours dominate the way managers think and affect how they behave in organisations. McGregor named these two contrasting sets of assumptions.
i. Theory X:
According to the assumptions of Theory X, the average worker is lazy, dislikes work, and will try to do as little as possible. Moreover, workers have little ambition and wish to avoid responsibility. Thus, the manager’s task is to counteract workers’ natural tendencies to avoid work. To keep workers’ performance at a high level, the manager must supervise them closely and control their behaviour by means of “the carrot and stick”—rewards and punishments.
Managers who accept the assumptions of Theory X design and shape the work setting to maximize their control over workers’ behaviour and minimize workers’ control over the pace of work. These managers believe that workers must be made to do what is necessary for the success of the organisation, and they focus on developing rules, SOPs, and a well-defined system of rewards and punishments to control behaviour.
They see little point in giving workers autonomy to solve their own problems. Theory X managers see their role as to closely monitor workers to ensure that they contribute to the production process and do not threaten product quality. Henry Ford, who closely supervised and managed his workforce, fits McGregor’s description of a manager who holds Theory X assumptions.
a. The average person dislikes work and will avoid it he/she can.
b. Therefore most people must be forced with the threat of punishment to work towards organisational objectives.
c. The average person prefers to be directed; to avoid responsibility; is relatively unambitious, and wants security above all else.
ii. Theory Y:
In contrast, Theory Y assumes that workers are not inherently lazy, do not naturally dislike work, and, if given the opportunity, will do what is good for the organisation. According to Theory Y, the characteristics of the work setting determine whether workers consider work to be a source of satisfaction or punishment; and managers do not need to control workers’ behaviour closely in order to make them perform at a high level, because workers will exercise self-control when they are committed to organisational goals.
It is the manager’s task to create a work setting that encourages commitment to organisational goals and provides opportunities for workers to be imaginative and to exercise initiative and self-direction. When managers design the organisational setting to reflect the assumptions about attitudes and behaviour suggested by Theory Y, the characteristics of the organisation are quite different from those of an organisational setting based on Theory X.
Managers who believe that workers are motivated to help the organisation reach its goals can decentralize authority and give more control over the job to workers, both as individuals and in groups.
In this setting, individuals and groups are still accountable for their activities, but the manager’s role is not to control employees but to provide support and advice, to make sure employees have the resources they need to perform their jobs, and to evaluate them on their ability to help the organisation meet its goals. Henri Fayol’s approach to administration more closely reflects the assumptions of Theory Y, rather than Theory X.
i. Effort in work is as natural as work and play.
ii. People will apply self-control and self-direction in the pursuit of organisational objectives, without external control or the threat of punishment.
iii. Commitment to objectives is a function of rewards associated with their achievement.
iv. People usually accept and often seek responsibility.
v. The capacity to use a high degree of imagination, ingenuity and creativity in solving organisational problems is widely, not narrowly, distributed in the population.
vi. In industry the intellectual potential of the average person is only partly utilized.