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Friday, June 21, 2013

The Two theories of managing people

              "The ingenuity of the average worker is sufficient to outwit any system of controls devised by management"
                                                           -Douglas Mcgregor

While it might be confusing as to why I have mentioned this quote at the beginning of this post, I would like to throw some light on the person who made this statement, to start things off. Douglas Mcgregor, while working at MIT Sloan School of Management, created and developed the two great theories of human motivation, namely: Theory X and Theory Y during the 1960s. These have been used extensively in human resource management, organizational behavior, organizational communication and organizational development.

While the pictures are pretty self-explanatory, some more understanding should be there about these two theories. Theory X has been deemed highly counterproductive. It leads to mistrust, highly restrictive supervision and a punitive atmosphere. Phrases and words like intolerant, deadline-driven, aloof and arrogant, demands yet never asks are associated with a manager who follows this theory. It is quite clear that such managers wouldn't last one day in the current world and it is surprising that such class of managers do exist. On the other hand, Mr. McGregor rates Theory Y quite highly. In 'The Human Side of Enterprise' he simply argues for managers to be open to a more positive view of the employees. He explains that this would go a long way in creating an environment of Trust, that is indispensable for human resource development. 

Something not as popular as these two theories is called Theory Z. This was not developed by Mr. Mcgregor but by William Ouchi in his book, 'Theory Z: How American management can meet the Japanese Challenge'. Theory Z essentially advocates a combination of all that's best about theory Y and modern Japanese management, which places a large amount of freedom and trust with workers, and assumes that workers have a strong loyalty and interest in team-working and the organization. Theory Z also places more reliance on the attitude and responsibilities of the workers, whereas Mcgregor's X and Y theory is mainly focused on management and motivation from the manager's and organization’s perspective. There is no doubt that Ouchi's Theory Z model offers excellent ideas, albeit it lacking the simple elegance of McGregor’s model, which let's face it, thousands of organizations and managers around the world have still yet to embrace.

Coming to the question of managers that I have personally had a chance to work with, I have had two of them. Mr N and Ms. G. I am choosing to avoid using their names to avoid talking about them in public forum with their names. Both of my managers always went by Theory Y and it should be mentioned as a credit to the work culture at my organization that all the managers were encouraged to do so. I believe I’ll make a manager who will go by Theory Y with a subtle hint of Theory X when something important needs some urgent follow up and I am not sure if the concerned resource will get it done on time.

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