Theory X and Theory Y

Video Transcript

How do your assumptions affect your team's productivity?

As a manager, how do you view your team members? Do you need to supervise them closely to be sure of getting results? Or can you trust them to go the extra mile without asking for direction from you?

You might not realize it, but your beliefs about your people affect how you manage them and, therefore, how motivated and productive they are. This is the idea behind Douglas McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y. So, which theory sounds more like you?

Theory X managers believe that their employees come to work just to earn a living, and that they don't want to take on new responsibilities. These managers assume that people don't enjoy work – in fact, they would surely avoid doing it entirely if they could!

It's not surprising, therefore, that managers who hold to Theory X supervise their teams closely. They use a "carrot-and-stick" approach to get people to do their work. And they may tighten their control or issue threats if they see any danger of goals or deadlines being missed.

In contrast, Theory Y managers assume their people come to work because they want to. They believe that team members take pride in what they do without being pushed, and that they thrive on responsibility. People won't just meet expectations – they'll frequently exceed them.

Theory Y managers, therefore, allow employees more freedom. They often delegate decisions and tasks that Theory X managers would keep to themselves, and they support people's ambitions to grow and develop in their jobs. In fact, their whole management style encourages team members to get involved.

Which of these approaches would you prefer your manager used with you? Clearly, a Theory Y approach sounds more appealing but, in fact, different members of one team might benefit from different management approaches, depending on the situation. The trick is to be aware of your assumptions and to adapt your management style, so that all members of your team can benefit. When you do this successfully, you can become a highly effective manager.

You can find out more about Theory X and Theory Y in the article that accompanies this video.

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