Critically evaluate McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y. How far is it applicable to management and employee motivation in contemporary Chinese organizations? In the modern corporation environment, employees’ motivation plays a pivotal role, thus they should be recognised as a significant part of corporations’ financial assets. There are several distinct viewpoints of approaches to managerial strategies about motivating employees, one of which is McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y. It proposes that providing an autonomous environment satisfying employees’ higher needs is more preferable than simply controlling them by rewards and punishment.
This essay will firstly evaluate McGregor’s theory. Although influential value of this theory in organization history might be approved, there are two primary issues, invalidity and superficial recognition, which criticisms revolve around. Subsequently, this essay will discuss the extent of this theory’s application in Chinese organizations. Although McGregor’s theory may be employed in few corporations, this theory is generally not applicable in most contemporary Chinese organizations.
Many theorists support that McGregor’s theory considers the field of management from a new angle, indicating a strong influential value. In contrast to the principles of conventional management mentioned as Theory X, the advocated Theory Y illuminated a cluster of new or redefined concepts such as self-fulfilling prophecy and responsibility. According to Carson (2005), some of those concepts had been interpreted before; however, McGregor’s theory combined those concepts emerging from separate theories.
Based on these compiled conceptions, this theory takes higher-order needs into consideration, which innovatively introduces a profound work value that management should not only involve controlling and monitoring. Moreover, the inclination to responsibility of employees contributes to participative atmospheres in working environment. Lerner (2011) claims that McGregor’s theory can prepare employees’ skills to tackle complicated tasks due to their sense of responsibility, in parallel with improving the potential of an individual.
Therefore, this theory, revealing an initial pattern of management strategy, dramatically influences the applied field of organization development. In spite of the influence and originality of McGregor’s theory, there is a primary drawback of the validity, which is regarding the assumption of human nature in this theory.
This theory is primarily based on an analysis of human nature. McGregor (2000) has pointed out that theory X management assumes that people generally are not responsible for work in contrast to theory Y assuming that people are invariably self-controlled. However, the theory X assumption is exaggeratedly negative while the theory Y assumption is overly optimistic. According to Bobic and Davis (2003), there is no evidence that systematically certifies the existence of individuals’ extreme attitudes towards work. Similarly, Francesco and Gold (2005) argued that human nature is not viewed purely positive or negative in all the cultures, drawing on Hofstede’s theory.
Furthermore, different employees may have somewhat different characteristics; however, McGregor blended those sophisticated human natures into two simplistic models to introduce a quite deficient theory. Therefore, the theory seems to be invalid due to this relatively unrealistic and inadequate analysis. In addition to the invalid assumption of McGregor’s theory, there is another drawback concerning superficial recognition of autonomous environment and authority which are primary principles of Theory Y and Theory X respectively. McGregor (2000) state that autonomous environment can be acquired by opportunities for self-actualization.
Nonetheless, Head (2011) has argued that incentives involving self-actualization are barely effective. Likewise, Bobic and Davis (2003) state that self-actualization is not a pragmatic motivational factor due to the rare opportunity provided by corporations in reality. Although some approaches such as job enrichment can be implemented, managers may not be totally competent to direct this management, which reveals that McGregor’s theory may overestimate the effectiveness of autonomous environment.
Conversely, the model of authority representing Theory X may be a more frequently adopted management tool, which is the contrary to what is portrayed in the theory. Head (2011) pointed out authority rather than bureaucracy may offer legitimate power and guarantee development of corporations towards certain direction. In fact, offering appropriate guidance to subordinates and essentially avoiding overly vigorous control stand a significant position in most companies. Consequently, McGregor’s proposal that autonomous environment should be concentrated on while authority is obsolete may require reconsideration because of the superficial recognition. Motivational strategies have been considered as an essential concentration for corporations.
With respect to the application of McGregor’s theory in China, minimal successful instances may be seen in some extremely large conglomerates. Those conglomerates such as Shanghai’s corporations hire numerous workers, contributing to competition and pressure; therefore, employees in these organizations may emphasize higher-order needs because of this particular work circumstance, in accordance with the assumption of McGregor’s theory. Chan and Wyatt (2007) demonstrate that employees in Shanghai’s corporations can be significantly motivated by the satisfaction of self-esteem that is also emphasized in McGregor’s theory.
Hence, it seems that this theory can reflect its feasibility in few large Chinese organizations. However, generally, McGregor’s theory reflects low practicability in most contemporary Chinese corporations. According to Alas (2005), most Chinese respondents are more likely to be encouraged by lower needs satisfaction such as incomes, whereas the dominant principle of McGregor’s theory is strategies satisfying higher needs. Therefore, Chinese employees’ concentration on lower needs makes it difficult for them to be motivated by McGregor’s theory.
Moreover, Dessler (2006) argued that employee empowerment, one of the principles of McGregor’s theory, is excluded from Chinese corporations. Furthermore, McGregor’s theory is incompatible with the comparatively ingrained Confucian value system in Chinese culture. According to Geren (2011), an abandoned principle in the theory is obedience for authority which is the essence of Confucian value system. Chinese employees largely cultivated in the atmosphere of Confucian value may be uncomfortable with the management of McGregor’s theory. Emphasis on lower needs and the cultural of Confucian value system are both opposite to McGregor’s theory.
Therefore, this theory is not applicable in most contemporary Chinese organizations. As a whole, McGregor’s theory may animate original spirit of motivation management; nevertheless, its invalidity is directly resulted from inadequate and unrealistic assumption of human nature. Additionally, excessively focusing on autonomous environment and ignoring efficiency of authority may indicate the superficial recognition in this theory. These two drawbacks can account for ineffective arrangement. As motivation management develops globally, in China, in spite of efficient application in few conglomerates, McGregor’s theory is not compatible with most Chinese organizations because general Chinese condition is the obstacle to successfully adopting this theory.
There is no universal theory; hence, in order to improve the effectiveness of management, organizations should utilize distinct management principles flexibly in specific working circumstance.
Word account: 1079
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McGregor, D. (2000) The Human Side of Enterprise. Reflections: The Society for Organizational Learning Journal. Vol. 2(1), pp.6-15. (PDF available)
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