Theory X and Theory Y management theories originated in the 1960s by Douglas McGregor. Theory X and Theory Y management styles make assumptions about human behavior and are essentially opposites of each other. These are among the first theories discussed in business schools, and are fairly easy to understand as they are two completely different viewpoints and most managers are somewhere between the two. Theory X is a very pessimistic view of employees while Theory Y is much more optimistic. These theories seem to try to give to ends of a spectrum and there are other management theories that build upon these.

Theory X

  • employees hate work and will do anything to avoid it
  • employees do not want any responsibilities
  • what management says goes
  • employees are not creative
  • employees are motivated only by rewards and money
  • the organization must have a well-defined hierarchical structure
  • employees require close supervision, need to be micro-managed and need help to stay on track
  • management must apply pressure to insure the work gets done
  • employees require direction
  • employees are self-centered and look out for themselves

This style of management tends to produce very low morale, as it is reliant only on the manager and is not a team effort.

Theory Y

  • employees think work is just as important as leisure
  • employees are ambitious and seek more responsibility
  • creativity is boundless
  • employees need basic needs, food, shelter but once met, our higher needs such as the needs for personal development are huge motivators
  • employees are self-managed and can reach maximum potential with minimal supervision
  • it is a democracy, workers have input into the decision making process
  • employees are autonomous
  • employees look to the future and their career development
  • managers support and make it easier for employees to do their job by giving them the tools and staying out of their way
  • managers encourage development of the employee

This style of management tends to produce higher morale and promotes open and honest communication.