Critically evaluate McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y. How far is it applicable to management and employee motivation in contemporary Chinese organizations? During the 1960s the number of psychologists invented motivational theories, which aimed to increase organizations’ productivity. One of those is McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y, in which he claimed that people can be managed in two extremes, based on the grounds of their needs.
After publishing his work had a significant impact on management ideas. Head (2011) states, that in present days, his approaches of management can be successfully applied in different countries, as well as in China.
However, despite the modernization of modern working environment in China, there are still the number of hardships that make the adaptation of his theories complex and difficult. From the year of publication, McGregor’s work made a significant influence on the management philosophy. Most of the management books include his theory as an example of the substantial step of management insights (Jastolka, 2009).
It was stated by Head (2011), that most of the managers prefer to use one of those, instead of other approaches. Later, after McGregor’s publication the contribution for a deeper research of labor’s motivation was made. Also, McGregor’s work persuaded managers to believe that employees’ behavior can be predicted using scientific methods. Afterwards the research has been conducted, therefore the deeper understanding of human’s motivation can be gained (Head, 2011). The appliance of both methods can be successful, depending on which sphere the company is specializing in.
According to Bobic and Davis (2003), adaptive approach, or Theory X works with highly routine and detailed tasks. Additionally, it is more appropriate for firms with bureaucratic structures (Kirton, 1978; cited in Bobic and Davis, 2003). Such organizations have hierarchical systems with clearly distinguished responsibilities and roles. Regarding to the innovative technique, or Theory Y, it responds more efficiently with complicated tasks that require special skills (Sorensen, 2011). In spite of listed advantages, McGregor’s work was criticized for the number of weaknesses. Firstly, technological development, new forms of businesses and other improvements in the organization of production leaded to the alteration of employees’ responsibilities, and formed new types of jobs. It was claimed by Bobic and Davis (2003), that present workers have different working settings, in the comparison to the working environment in 1960s.
Thus, it is fallaciously to regard this theory as a beneficial explanation of contemporary humans’ motivation. Secondly, people have a set of characteristics, which makes every person unique, and it is far too complex to distinguish them between only two groups. For example, Theory X does not take the diversity of individuals into the consideration (Miner, 2002; cited in Jastolka, 2009). Finally, McGregor’s hypothesis is mostly founded on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which validity is criticized (Heylighen, 1992; cited in Bobic and Davis, 2003).
Furthermore, Maslow’s work was based on the empirical base of America, and its applicability to other countries has not been successfully proven yet. In case of China, its working environment is slightly becoming similar to Western, because in 1979 Chinese government began to implement economic policies to create an economy with capitalistic features, such as profit orientation, private owning and market forces (Francesco and Gold, 2005). Such changes significantly influenced the way, in which Chinese workers are treated by their managers, forcing them to practice methods that used in Western nations, however despite these changes, implementing of McGregor’s methods is hard for certain reasons. First of all, according to Francesco and Gold (2005), the management style of a country, such as China, with strong traditions and remained patriarchy, is hard to be transformed or altered.
For example, Garg and Ma (2005) conducted a research, which shows the difference between frameworks of organizations. The participants of survey were three groups of firms, with different introduction of non-Chinese executives, who use Western management approaches: complete, partial and blank, and result shows a significant difference between these companies in some aspects of working conditions. In organizations with only Chinese executives, most of employees experience an unavailability of managers, lack of encouragement to be innovative and lack of support most of the time. However, it could be argued that the conditions described above could be associated with Theory X. Secondly, Chinese employees in firms function as a group where each member is working for the prosperity of the whole company (Francesco and Gold, 2005).
This feature restrains the enthusiasm of workers to be innovative in their job in order to maximize the profit of his/her company, but coerce them to do their tasks conventionally, because employees are anxious to harm their firm, while Theory Y assumes that people must have more freedom. Then, Tsui et al. (cited in Huang, 2006), argue that communist ideology force Chinese employees to make efforts in their work to the favor of the commune. Finally, due to the listed characteristics most of the Chinese managers use commune-based leadership style. This means that Chinese workers are mostly dependent on their command and thus it is more appropriate to implement the ideas of Theory X in Chinese organizations (Jackson and Bak, 1998; cited in Huang, 2006). However, an interview made by Jamal and Xie (1991), shows that satisfaction and motivation of employees are in direct relationship to managers’ level of participation.
To sum up, both Theory X and Theory Y have been successfully adopted in Western and some of the developing countries. With regard to China, which economy type has changed only 30 years before and traditional values of Chinese people remain fundamental, which in turn reduce the probability of prosperous adaptation of McGregor’s ideas. Comparing both theories, Theory X is more applicable to China than Theory Y, because of traditional command-style of leadership. However, in spite of the number of successful implementations of these approaches in completely Chinese organizations, with the goal to maximize the profit of a company, the applying of methods, which reflect the nature of a worker in China, who is different from the Western employee is preferable to McGregor’s work.