McGregor Theory X and Theory Y for Staff and Employees Motivation

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 04:56 -- Gulzar Ahmed

Productivity plays a vital role in success of any business. How many satisfied the employee of a particular organization so many productive they are. Did you ever think that what motivates the employees of an organization to go to work with new energies each morning?

Many employees of different organizations get great satisfaction from their work and take great pride on their job. Some employees may view their job as a burden, and they simply work to survive. How to motivate the employee of an organization? This question has been studied by social psychologists and management theorists for many decades, in order to identify successful approaches for business management.


In the 1960s Douglas McGregor a social psychologist of MIT developed two well known contrasting theories on human motivation and management theory X and theory Y. McGregor promoted Theory Y as the basis of good management approach, and this break new ground for argument that employees of an organization are not merely cogs in the machinery of the organization, as X-Type organizations seemed to believe.

McGregor theory x and y looks at how a leader percept about motivating his/her team members.  And how leader approach will affects the way in which employee will behaves. If a leader will better understand that how his/her assumptions about employees motivation can influence management style, then he/she can adapt an appropriate approach for team members, and hence he/she can manage team members more effectively.

Motivation Theory X and Y

The management or leadership style of a leader is strongly influenced by his/her assumptions and beliefs about what motivates team members. If you believe that your team members not putting their best or dislike work, you should use an authoritarian leadership style of management, On the other hand, if you think that your team members take pride in doing a good job, you should adopt a more participative leadership style.

Theory X

McGregor Theory X assumes that employees of an organization or team members are naturally unmotivated and dislike working, and this encourages an authoritarian leadership style. According to this view, management of an organization must actively involve in get things done by their employees. Theory X assumptions are:

  1. Employees dislike working and not put their best.
  2. Team members avoid responsibility and need to be directed.
  3. Employees of the organization have to be controlled, forced, and threatened to deliver work
  4. Employees of the organization need to be supervised at every step
  5. Workers need to be enticed about producing desired results
  6. If leader will not entice employees they have no ambition or incentive to work.

In X-Type organizations managers and supervisors of the organizations control their workers at every. There is very little delegation of authority and control usually remains firmly centralized.

McGregor recognized that in many organizations X-Type workers are usually found in the minority, but even then in mass organizations, like large scale production environment, theory X management or leadership style may be required and can be unavoidable.

theory y and theory x

Theory Y

Theory Y focuses on a participative leadership style that is de-centralized. According to Type Y employees of organizations are happy to work, task oriented, self-motivated and creative. This further assumes that many employees enjoy working with greater responsibility. Leader should motivate and encourage their team members in accomplishment of goals and objectives. Theory Y assumes that:

  1. Employee of the organization take responsibility and are motivated to achieved the desired goals
  2. Employees accept the responsibility & do not need much direction for achieving task.
  3. Employees consider work as a natural part of life
  4. Employees of the organization solve work problems imaginatively.

This more participative leadership style is more widely applicable. In Y-Type organizations, management also involves the lower level employees in decision making hence the have sense of belonging and work with more responsibility.

Difference between Theory X and Theory Y

comparison of theory x and theory y


Theory X assumes that employee of the organization dislike work, they usually avoid work and they often do not want to take responsibility for a task or goal. On the other hand  Y-Type assumes that employees of the organizations are self-motivated and they want to take responsibility for a goal or task.

Leadership Style & Control

In a Types X organization, leadership style is authoritarian and centralized control is retained by management, while in Theory Y, the leadership style is participative and management of the organization involves employees in decision making, but final decision is made by top level management.

Work Organization

Theory X employees of an organization wants to have specialized and often repetitive tasks. In Theory Y, the employee of the organization wants to be organized around wider areas of skills or competencies. Employees are also motivated to give suggestions and make improvements.

Rewards & Appraisals

In theory X organizations, employees work on a ‘stick to the purpose’ basis, and performance appraisal is considered very vital in overall mechanisms of control and remuneration. In Theory Y organizations, performance appraisal is also considered important, but it is considered a separate mechanism from organizational controls. Theory Y organizations also give frequent opportunities for promotion to their employees.


Although Theory X leadership style is widely accepted as inferior to others leadership style, it still has its place in large scale and unskilled production-line work. Many of the rules of  Y-Type are widely adopted in business world by those organizations that value and encourage participative leadership style. Theory Y leadership style is suited for knowledge based work and professional services.

Using the Theory X and Y

As a leader your assumptions about employee’s motivation and encouragement can help you to learn and manage employees more effectively.

In order to understand McGregor’s theory X and Y in more detail I suggest you to read the book Douglas McGregor Revisited, this book is Published in 2000, and it shows how these theories apply in today’s organizations.

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