Evaluating McGregors Theory as an approach to Management


In the fast paced 21st century that we live in companies rise and fall every single day. One of the main differences between the ones that stay on top and ones that fail to succeed is the ability to manage their employees well. Within every company no matter how large or small there are always managers to oversee the employees and according to Douglas McGregor, mangers were divided into 2 groups. The first being theory Y mangers and theory X managers (Waddell, Jones, George 2010, p.49). In this essay I will elaborate more on the Douglas McGregor's Theory X and Y as well as how the theory has added value in the methods of the management that manager's today use to reach organizational goals.

Douglas McGregor divided managers into 2 groups which are theory X and theory Y as previously said. Managers which applied theory Y into their way of managing were assumed to believe that employees were not inherently lazy and if the opportunity presented itself, employees would work in the benefit of the company. Employees were also said to be capable of self-direction and self-control, and capable of providing important ideas or suggestions that could improve organizational effectiveness (Kopelman, Prottas, Davis, 2008, p.255). On the other hand, the managers who adopted theory X believed that all employees were lazy, incapable of self-direction and independent work behavior, and would have little to offer in terms of organizational problem solving. Douglas McGregor's theory has been instilled into every modern day manager's way of managing ever since he released his book in 1960. According to Miner's (cited in Kopelman, Prottas, Davis, 2008, p.256) review of 73 established organizational behavior theories, Theory X and Y was ranked in at 2nd place in terms of recognition and 33rd place for importance. Bennis' (1972, p.144) said in his report that effective development of managers does not include forcing or manipulating the behaviors of employees to suit the goals of the enterprise but instead create a relationship where the goals of the employees and the enterprise are infused into one. This way, employees would feel a sense of accomplishment when he/she achieves a goal using their own capabilities. An example of the application of this theory would be when an advertising company says to its employees that whoever successfully manages to produce an advertisement which is good enough for the customer to buy the advertisement from the company, will get a promotion.

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Theory X as previously stated is where a manager thinks that all employees are lazy, dislike work and will try to avoid doing work. With that being said, theory X managers will try to counter the laziness of the employees. They would ensure that employees work hard by closely monitoring their performance. In this type of situation, theory X managers would create a work environment with strict rules; implement a well-defined system of performance appraisal to control employees (Waddell, Jones, George 2010, p.50). For example, Henry Ford, according to McGregor was a manager who has adopted theory X as Henry Ford closely monitored his employees (Waddell, Jones, George 2010, p.50). In opposition of Theory X, theory Y goes against everything theory X says. Theory Y's assumptions are that managers should shape the company's work culture into a way where opportunities for subordinates to exercise initiative and self-direction would be facilitated to (Waddell, Jones, George 2010, p.50). In Bennis'(1972, p.142) it was stated that in a speech that Douglas McGregor was giving, he said that "This is a process primarily of creating opportunities, releasing potential, removing obstacles, encouraging growth, providing guidance. It is what Peter Drucker called 'management by objectives' in contrast to 'management by control (Bennis 1972, p.142).

In the words of Douglas McGregor, 'Theory X and Theory Y therefore are not polar opposites; they do not lie at extremes of a scale. They are simply different cosmologies' (cited in Douglas McGregor's Theoretical Models: Their Application in assessing Leadership Styles, 2009). McGregor felt that traditional leadership was leaning more toward theory X which is hierarchical and very controlling where employees were very dependent on their managers as there are controlled very tightly. He continued on saying that this mode of managing could lead to a waste of human talent and potential (Douglas McGregor's Theoretical Models: Their Application in assessing Leadership Styles, 2009). An example of this could lead down to something as simple as the saying, two heads are better than one. Clearly, theory X function almost like a dictatorship which doesn't take into account the ideas and creativity of employees. In a situation like this theory Y would benefit a company much more. Unless the company is a large corporation such as Coca cola, where the company is divided into many divisions such as production, marketing and human resources. For example in the production division, employees which are involved in manufacturing of the bottle would be only be expected to carry out their purpose of making the bottles which is a repetitive process. Theory X here would be more beneficial as there is no need for innovation or creativity. Whereas, in the marketing division, innovation and creativity are essential for success.

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Given the ideas presented earlier, from my point of view McGregor's theory X and Y gives managers a new understanding of how different leadership methods has an effect on the productivity of employees. Theory X and Y are not opposites and neither is one completely better than the other one. The theories are just a guideline on how which way (theory X or Y) would better suit the company and produce a better work environment as well as increasing productivity.