Theory X and Theory Y

Management styles: Douglas McGregor (1960) polarised (caricatured?) managers' attitudes

Theory X:

McGregor suggested:

Theory Y


Theory X and Theory Y

One IT manager canvassed described how his boss would show displeasure by emptying the contents of the wastepaper bin all over his desk (Lewis, 1995)

Stress drives people towards X


Theory X: The lurch to the right

The litany of failed, over-budget, late projects is legendary and seems to be added to every week.

The solution usually proposed is more and better management. Few people propose the opposite: less management.

(The former) approach requires a great deal of resources for planning, coordination and monitoring.

Highly qualified and skilled people for not generally respond well to being closely managed. They prefer to be set objectives, provided with the necessary resources and left to deliver the goods.

(Howard, 1995)


Theory X investigated

Harry's boss was a hard taskmaster, driving his employees to exhaustion. In the middle of a project, Harry dropped dead.

The boss visited a medium to see if he could contact Harry's spirit. "You may speak to him now," said the medium.

"Harry, how is it going?" shouted the boss.

"It beats the office," Harry answered.

A bit miffed by his response, the boss asked, "Can you see from heaven where you left the Wilson cost study?"

"Heaven?" replied Harry. "Who says I'm in heaven?"

(Phil Hartman, quoted in Reader's Digest, December 1995)


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