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McGregor’s theory X and Y presents two opposite views of the nature of workers. Theory X shows a negative view of people. It says that an average person dislikes work and will avoid work if possible. Therefore, they must be controlled, directed, or threatened with punishment to get them to work. Theory X postulates that an average worker will avoid doing what he or she is supposed to do, thus needs to be directed to perform. Gitman et al, 2018 states that this theory suggests that, “managers must constantly prod workers to perform and must closely control their on-the-job behavior”. Theory X managers are very directive, they like to be in control, they have little confidence in people, and as a result, they tell people what to do. Lawter, Kopelman, and Prottas (2015) said that, “a manager’s assumptions about people at work is potentially a self-fulfilling prophecy”. This means that the view that a manager has of the subordinates is how they will act. When a manager believes that the subordinates are incapable of using their initiatives and make right decisions, the subordinates become incapacitated and totally dependent on the manager. This was the prevailing view of workers in the 1950’s.

Theory Y on the other hand portrays a positive view of human nature. This theory says that under proper conditions, people like to work and can be self-directed and self-controlled. The theory says that people will work hard to achieve organizational goals that they believe in. Theory Y further suggests that workers can be motivated using positive incentives and that they will work hard to achieve organizational goals if they believe that they will be rewarded for doing so (Gitman et al, 2018). Theory Y further says that an average person likes to take responsibility, they have relatively high degree of imagination and creativity and are willing to help solve problems (Gitman et al, 2018). Theory Y is the approach many modern managers and corporations have adopted. Employees are given responsibilities and are rewarded for accomplishing them. This approach awakens the imagination and creativity that are in people. This approach brings more heads together to solve the problems confronting an organization.


Gitman, L., McDaniel, C., Shah, A., Reece, M., Koffel, L., Talsma, B., Hyatt, J.C. Introduction to Business. OpenStax CNX. Nov 13, 2018.[email protected] (Links to an external site.)

Lawter, K., Kopelman, R.E., Prottas, D.J. McGregor’s Theory X|Y and Job Performance: A Multilevel, Multi-source Analysis: Journal of Managerial Issues. 2015, Vol. 27 Issue 1-4, P84-101. 18p.

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