Douglas McGregor put up two opposing theories about how people think, one negative (theory X) and the other positive (theory Y). McGregor concluded that a manager’s perception of the nature of people is based on a specific set of assumptions and that he or she tends to shape his or her behavior toward employees by these assumptions after observing how managers interacted with employees.
The four presumptions made by managers according to Theory X are:
- Most employees dislike their jobs and will do anything to avoid them.
- Employees must be forced, managed, or threatened with penalty since they detest their jobs.
- When possible, workers will avoid obligations and look for formal guidance.
- Most employees lack ambition and prioritize security over all other aspects of their jobs.
In contrast to these negative views about the nature of human beings, McGregor listed the four optimistic assumptions that he called Theory Y:
- Employees may perceive work as being as natural as pleasure or relaxation.
- When people are committed to their objectives, they will exercise restraint and self-discipline.
- The average person may learn to accept responsibility and even go looking for it.
- Making creative decisions is a skill that is commonly possessed by the populace and is not always the exclusive domain of individuals in managerial roles.
What are the motivational repercussions if McGregor’s analysis is correct? The framework Maslow offers best explains the response.
According to Theory X, people tend to prioritize their lower-order requirements. According to Theory Y, human beings are dominated by higher-order demands. McGregor himself thought that the premises of Theory Y were more reliable than those of Theory X. To maximize an employee’s job motivation, he suggested participatory decision-making, responsible and demanding jobs, and strong group dynamics.