Theory of X and Y

This theory draws upon Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and McGregor’s beliefs on human nature and behaviour at work, based on attitudes and assumptions of people and work.

Theory X was based on the assumption that people are lazy and dislike work, avoiding responsibility, preferring to be directed and lacks ambition and values security most of all, although motivation only occurs at physiological and security levels.

McGregor questions whether this theory of human nature is correct basing this on the use of rewards and sanctions exercised by the manager’s position and authority, but it could lead to an exploitative or authoritarian style of management.

In contrast, Theory Y principles are based on the integration of the individual and organizational goals. The assumptions based on people enjoy working, and they are happy to exercise self-direction and self-control because their commitment could bring them rewards and providing creativity to solve organizational problems.  McGregor views the average person is not fully utilized and motivation only occurs at the association, esteem and self-actualization stages as well as the physiological and security levels.

Therefore, the need of management’s to create conditions that will satisfy it members motivational needs helping them achieve their goals as well as the management’s goals. However, practically it is hard to achieve successfully, be time-consuming, frustrating and a cause of many mistakes (Mullins, 2013:456-458).


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