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Douglas McGregor part 2

Douglas McGregor


Many years ago industry was very automated.
Production lines were the epitome of efficiency.
Workers had to follow a simple set of instructions and production would be fine.
Industry has moved away from the early robotic nature of factory production to where new ideas, computers and worker input have added to variation in order to create that unique selling point of a product that will gain the all important market share.

Theory X is useful where predictability, a lack of mistakes, monitoring and control are required, for example, in insurance companies.

Theory Y thrives on adaptability and change, for example, in the advertising industry.

Many managers will find that Theory Y is the most difficult management approach to adopt.
Theory X communication style is largely one way.
It is simple and to the point.
Employees, if things go wrong, can be blamed for inattentiveness, lack of interest, unreliability.

The Theory Y manager has to be more sensitive.

They might need to:

  • Take time to explain.
  • Know the traits of the individual.
  • Engage coaching and other interpersonal exchanges.

For this you need to build trust.
It is not really acceptable to revert to a Theory X manager when the going gets tough.

Theory Y is the opposite of abdication, giving staff license to interpret and implement organizational objectives themselves.
The manager remains at the centre facilitating the initiation and control processes.
Essential to the Theory Y culture is a monitoring, feedback and control system.

It has been thought that Theory Y is just a rehash of Theory X with a few allowances to human emotions with the ultimate aim of improving motivation and encouraging higher performance.

In the Theory X and Y systems, managers are still responsible for the planning process, getting workers on board and recognizing goals.
Managers set the parameters but work systematically and conscientiously with junior staff defining jobs and priorities, planning operations, agreeing programs, and reviewing achievements.

Theory Y recommended what Frederick Herzberg in 1964 called "job enrichment" and Peters in 1982 and 1985 called "empowerment ".
Re-designing jobs to expand opportunities for self-control and self-direction would, it was stressed, contribute to improved performance.

The manager was encouraged to remove job restrictions and create more scope for job development enabling employees to grow and give more of their innate potential to the business.

Theory X and Theory Y are two poles of motivational thinking.
Even in a Theory Y environment some direct instructions are bound to happen.
The truth is probably that the exact position on the line is somewhere in between Theory X and Theory Y depending on the situation and the individual.

Self fulfilling

The issue here is that management by Theory ‘X’ and Theory ‘Y’ can be self fulfilling.
That is, if you act like you believe people inherently fall into Theory ‘X’ then the personnel will behave in this way and you will be proven correct. The same is true if you behave according to Theory ‘Y’.

There may be a strong element of the manager’s character showing through.
For example, if he or she naturally sees the good side in people and starts relationships on the basis of trust.

Control vs freedom

Theory ‘X’ suggests that you want to do everything yourself and don’t trust others to do the job without close supervision.
This implies a heavy degree of control.
At the other end Theory ‘Y’ is a more trusting style of management that minimises control.

When control is used to excess pressure may be brought to bear to reach deadlines.
Punishment is often used when poor performance is encountered.
Criticism is not easily tolerated and under performers are confronted readily.

In the latter, creativity and ideas are valued with decision making much more by consensus.
Peoples efforts are valued and recognised accordingly.

Individual and the situation

Even if you lean more to Theory ‘X’ or Theory ‘Y’ there will be times when you must use one or the other depending on either the natural character of the individual or the nature of the situation you are in.

In particular, when safety is an issue it would be totally impractical to wait for a consensus.
You may need to be decisive.

Some people will respond better to control and others better to the freedom of Theory ‘Y’.