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McGregor’s Theory X and Y Essay

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The foundation of McGregor’s theory has direct links to Taylor’s study of scientific management: a study of scientific management as a link between human beings and their jobs which in turn need to be re-constructed to maximise efficiency (Waddell et al. 2007, p. 43). Many researchers and scholars have developed theories based on the work of F.W. Taylor. McGregor, Maslow and others who assisted to improve the view of human relation tried to prove that there is another side to the traditional perspective of workers (Bartol and Martin 1998, p.

52).This literature review will be focusing on the evolution of McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y in relation to the development of management theory. Moreover will be explaining the definition of X and Y theory and its relevance to 21st century.

McGregor proposed two contrasting sets of managerial assumptions about the workers. He further examined taking Taylor’s traditional view of workers and Mayo’s human relation approach into consideration, which he labelled Taylor’s view as ‘Theory X’ and as Mayo’s view as ‘Theory Y’ (Montana and Charnov 2000, p.

25). [ (Stephen P.Robbins) ] However, ‘both these theories have the common definition of functions of manager: management is responsible for organising the elements of productive enterprise- money, materials, equipment, and people- in the best interest of economic ends’. Main differences in these two theories are the assumptions (Urwick 1970, p .1). McGregor with his experience as a manager and as a psychologist, observed the behaviour and attitude of the workers (Daft.2003, p. 47). According to Kopelman, Prottas and Davis (2008, p 1) Theory X represents that workers generally dislike work, are irresponsible, are lethargic and require close supervision. In contrast, Theory Y denotes that individuals are generally creative, innovative, accept responsibility and believe work is a natural activity.

Furthermore, his observations on the classical and the behavioural approaches to understanding workers were found different. He paired up his theories to the work of Abraham Maslow, where he compared the higher needs put forward by Abraham Maslow such as self-actualization, to a Theory Y leadership style, and lower needs such as physiological and safety, to the Theory X leadership style (Bartol and Martin 1998, p. 51). Theory X is referred to as optimistic and Theory Y as pessimistic (Montana and Charnov 2000, p 26), others labeled Theory X as negative and Theory Y as positive (Robbins et al.1998, p 202) and according Schein (1970, p.5) McGregor called Theory X as “hard approach” and Theory Y as “soft approach”. According to McGregor (1960, p. 33-35), the assumptions of Theory X are that individuals by nature do not like to work and will avoid it if possible. Furthermore, human beings do not want responsibility and desire precise guidance.

Additionally, the workers put their own concerns above that of the organization and by nature they are resistant to changes. Finally, human beings are taken for granted to be easily manipulated and controlled. According to Boddy and Paton (1998, p. 201) it is of practice with Theory X philosophy to include time registration, supervision, quality checked by a superior as assigned in job description. The main focus of Theory X is that of external control, by systems, procedures or supervision. They believed that managers who accepted Theory X view would be inconsiderate in accepting aptitude of a normal human being (Boddy and Paton 1998, p. 200). Managers who assign to Theory X are expected to practice authoritarian style (Lewis, Goodman and Fandt 1998, p. 56). By contrast, Theory Y has assumptions which is completely opposite of Theory X. As per Theory Y, work is natural, and tries to occupy them actively and enjoy too.

Furthermore, workers do not require detailed supervision and they are self-motivated. Additionally, it assumes that they work innovatively and creatively. If people are given a chance to prove their competency they are ambitious to solve problems and help their organizations meet their goals (McGregor 1960, p. 47-48). Managers who hold the belief in Theory Y are likely to exercise a participatory style, discussing with their subordinate voicing their opinion, and encouraging them to take part in decision making (Lewis, Goodman and Fandt 1998, p. 56). Management’s main aim is to structure a proper working environment in order to achieve their higher-order personal goals by achieving organizational objectives (Bloisi, Cook and Hunsaker 2007, p. 205).

The organizations of 21st century are in a more dynamic world where technology, education and research and better economic conditions are vastly improving. It becomes gradually more important for managers to hold the set of assumptions about human behaviour that McGregor has proposed in his Theory If an individual holds Theory X assumptions then he will not be logical and responsive to data, therefore, will have limited choice of managerial style. In regard to Theory Y, he can wisely choose from variety of options (Schein 1975, p. 7). Having worked for 15 years in many types of organization, Schein (1975, p. 3) believes that organizations need more Theory Y managers at all levels especially at higher levels. However, few companies still practice Theory X management (Daft 2003, p.48), but many are applying Theory Y concept of management such as Hewllet Packard (Waddell et al. 2007, p. 56) and SOL cleaning service, and it has proved to be a success.

They consider everyone equal and value each employee’s contribution (Daft 2003, p.48). According to Kochan, Orlikowski and Gershenfeld (2002, p.4) assumptions characterizing twentieth century refers to Theory X and twenty first century organization’s characteristics refer to Theory Y were explained using people, work, technology leadership and goals. Many organizations have realised the importance of the human capital and are currently try to adopt to change themselves as they recognize. McGregor argued that modern organizations do not take into account the innovativeness of workers. In order to utilize these valuable assets, managers need to provide employees to use their expertise. Thus, provide and create conditions that integrate individual and organisational goals (Boddy and Paton 1998, p. 200-201). McGregor believed that people in twenty first century are more educated and affluent and they are more self controlled (Hersey, Blanchard and Johnson 2001, p. 60).

Hence, most of the modern organisations strongly practices management by delegating authority, job enlargement, making work more interesting, with increased level of responsibilities and their share of information and innovations regarding the work content, work design and results (Montana and Charnov 2000, p. 25). Finally, in order to measure the performance of the individual, the organisations have appraisal system which evaluates their performances annually or semi-annually. For example, companies such as General Mills, Ansul Chemicals, and General Electric have been experimenting with performance appraisal approaches (Ott, Parkes and Simpson 2003, p. 168).

These managerial propositions are associated best with the Theory Y management style. According Lorshe and Morse (cited in David and Robert 2000, p. 202) in their research of four companies and concluded that successful company in the normal business used a consistent Theory X style and the other in the creative business used theory Y .These theories may be applicable to some organizations and to some cultures. In article, peoples Republic of China, being a communist country has practiced Theory X in the past and has adopted to practice Theory Y style with a productive result (Oh 1976, p. 1).

In summary, Theory X and Theory Y have significant impact on modern management styles. The assumptions of these two theories hold the extreme ends and McGregor assumed that people’s behaviour is strongly influenced by their beliefs. His theories have been labelled relating to Taylor and Mayo’s work. As in my opinion there is no one best theory which may fit all organizations. However, more in depth research need to be undertaken to identify and prove which theory does best fits. According to Boddy and Paton (1998, p. 202) many argue that both these theories may be inappropriate in some situations. “Theory Y is a theory of human motivation, not a theory of how to manage or run an organization” (Schein 1975, p. 1).

References

Waddell, D, Devine, J, Jones, GR & George, JM 2007, Contemporary Management, McGraw-Hill Irwin, North Ryde.
Bartol, KM & Martin, DC, Management, 3rd edn, McGraw-Hill Co, Boston Montana, P & Charnov, B 2000, Barron’s Management, 3rd edn, Hauppauge, N.Y Daft, RL 2000, Management, 6th edn, Thomson learning, Ohio

Robbins, SP, Millett, B, Cacioppe, R & Marsh TW 1998, Organizational behaviour: Learning and managing in Australia and New Zealand, 2nd edn, Prentice Hall, Sydney McGregor, D 1960, The human side of enterprise, McGraw-Hill book company, New York Boddy, D & Paton, R 1998, Management: an introduction, Prentice Hall Europe, London Lewis, PS, Goodman, SH & Fandt, PM 1998, Management: Challenges in the 21st century, 2nd edn, South-Western College Pub, Cincinnati Bloisi, W, Cook, CW & Hunsaker, PL 2007, Management and organisational behaviour, 2nd edn, McGraw-Hill, Berkshire Hersey, P, Blanchard, KH & Johnson, DE 2001, Management and
organizational behaviour : leading human resources, 8th edn, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River Kopelman, RE, Prottas, DJ & Davis, AL 2008, ‘Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Y: toward a construct‐valid measure’, Journal of Managerial Issues, vol. 20, no. 2, 255‐271, retrieved 22nd March 2011, Ebsco Host

Ott, JS, Parkes, SJ & Simpson RB 2003, Classical reading in organizational behaviour, 3rd edn, Thomson/Wadsworth, Belmont Schein, EH 1975, ‘In defence of Theory Y’, Organizational Dynamics, Vol. 4, Issue 1, p17-30, retrieved 22nd March 2011, Ebsco Host Oh, TK 1976, ‘Theory Y in People’s Republic of China’, California Management Review, Vol. 19, Issue 2, p77-84, retrieved 22nd March 2011, Ebsco Host Urwick, LF 1970, ‘Theory Z’, SAM Advanced Management Journal, Vol. 35, Issue 1, p14, retrieved 28th March 2011, Ebsco Host Kochan, T, Orlikowski,W & Gershenfeld JC 2002, ‘Beyond McGregor’s Theory Y:Human Capital and Knowledge-Based Work in the 21st Century Organization’, retrieved 24th March 2011, http://mitsloan.mit.edu/50th/pdf/beyondtheorypaper.pdf

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