Management April 2, 2012 Last updated September 18th, 2018 5,362 Reads share

Management Styles – Theory X And Theory Y

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Basic human needs are the fundamental aspects of human nature. Values, beliefs, and customs differ from country to country and group to group, but all people have similar needs. This is more relevant in the workplace now than ever before, especially when management style is being scrutinised, and Leadership is becoming the preferred method of empowering employees, clients, colleagues and peers. In this post, we will look at what a few of the expert Theorists have researched over the last century, and surmise how relevant some of these explorations are today.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) felt that basic human needs were arranged in a hierarchical order, originally shown as a 5 step pyramid. He based his theory on healthy, creative people who used all their talents, potential, and capabilities. Basic needs are physiological, such as food, water, and sleep; and psychological, such as affection, security, and self esteem. These basic needs are also called deficiency needs because if they are not met by an individual, then that person will strive to make up the deficiency.

The higher needs are called meta needs or growth needs. These include justice, goodness, beauty, order, unity, etc. Basic needs take priority over these growth needs. People who lack food or water cannot attend to justice or beauty. A need higher in the hierarchy will become a motive of behaviour as long as the needs below it have been satisfied. Unsatisfied lower needs will dominate unsatisfied higher needs and must be satisfied before the person can climb up the hierarchy.

Related: Managing To Get The Very Best From Your People

Herzberg’s Hygiene and Motivational Factors

Frederick Herzberg (1923-2000) developed a list of factors that are closely based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, except it is more closely related to work:

Hygiene or Dissatisfiers – Working conditions

  • Policies and administrative practices
  • Salary and Benefits
  • Supervision
  • Status
  • Job security
  • Fellow workers
  • Personal life

Motivators or Satisfiers –  Recognition

  • Achievement
  • Advancement
  • Growth
  • Responsibility
  • Job challenge

Hygiene factors (dissatisfiers) must be present in the job before the motivators (satisfiers) can be used to stimulate that person. That is, you cannot use Motivators until all the Hygiene factors are met. Herzberg’s needs are specifically job related and reflect some of the distinct things that people want from their work as opposed to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which reflect all the needs in a person’s life. Building on this model, Herzberg coined the term  job enrichment to describe the process of redesigning work in order to build in Motivators.

Related: Do Business Owners Know What Makes For A Good Manager?

McGregor’s Management Styles – Theory X and Theory Y

Douglas McGregor (1906-1964) developed a philosophical view of humankind with his Theory X and Theory Y. These are two opposing perceptions about how people view human behaviour at work and organisational life.

Theory X

  • People have an inherent dislike for work and will avoid it whenever possible
  • People must be coerced, controlled, directed, or threatened with punishment in order to get them to achieve the organisational objectives
  • People prefer to be directed, do not want responsibility, and have little or no ambition
  • People seek security above all else

With Theory X assumptions, management’s role is to coerce and control employees.

Theory Y

  • Work is as natural as play and rest
  • People will exercise self-direction if they are committed to the objectives
  • Commitment to objectives is a function of the rewards associated with their achievement
  • People learn to accept and seek responsibility
  • Creativity, ingenuity, and imagination are widely distributed among the population. People are capable of using these abilities to solve an organisational problem
  • People have potential

With Theory Y assumptions, management’s role is to develop the potential in employees and help them to release that potential towards common goals.

Related: Managing your Stress in the Workplace

So which Management style do you prefer?

Theory X is the view that traditional management has taken towards the workforce. Many organisations are now taking the enlightened view of theory Y. A boss can be viewed as taking the theory X approach, while a leader takes the theory Y approach. With the onslaught of B2B social media, and the break down of formal business approach, business is also being conducted more around Theory Y than old school Theory X.

Which Management style have you worked under in the past? Does that influence how you run your business today, and more importantly how you manage your employees?

Image: “Business man moving chess figure with team behind – strategy or leadership concept/Shutterstock


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Elaine Rogers

Elaine Rogers

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