Theory X and Theory Y

McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y

Douglas McGregor’s in his book “the human side of Enterprise” published in 1960, explained two different kinds of theories or assumptions about human behavior. They are theory X and theory Y. Theory X holds a negative (traditional) view of the workers while theory Y holds a much refined and positive view of workers.

Theory X

Theory X is the traditional theory of management philosophy. “Power is supreme” is the main theme of the theory where the people at work level have no authority to suggest or object anything except to carry out the orders of the supervisor.


1. Workers have an inherent dislike towards their job and they will avoid their job if it is possible for them.

2. Workers have little or no ambition in their work life and are not concerned about their career growth.

3. They tend to resist changes and also avoid responsibilities.

4. They are basically self-centered and do not care about organizational goals and objectives. In other words, their goals are contrary to the organizational goals.

5. They prefer to be led by others rather than lead others.

6. Workers in general are not intelligent and are mostly gullible.

7. Workers are generally poor decision makers.

8. They need to be monitored and controlled closely to make them work effectively.

X-Theory is regarded as the means to supervise and control the workers. Decision making in all fields is entrusted with the managers. Workers are allowed to express their suggestions and emotion. But the decisions are taken by managers and workers should follow the decisions.

Theory Y

Y-Theory is just opposite to X-Theory. So, X-Theory is considered as traditional theory and Y-theory as modern theory. Y theory emphasizes the importance of workers in the accomplishment of enterprise objectives.


1. The average human being does not dislike work. Work is as natural as play or rest. Work may be a source of satisfaction or punishment depending upon the controllable conditions.

2. External control and the threat of punishment are not the only means for accomplishing the organizational objectives. Workers are committed to objectives and exercise self control and self direction to achieve them. They are fully conscious of their job.

3. The average man works under proper conditions, not only to accept but seek responsibilities. Avoidance of responsibility, lack of ambition and emphasis on security are not the inherent qualities of the man but they are all consequences of experience.

4. The rewards for the execution of work is that is should be properly recognized. Satisfaction of ego and actualization needs can be product of efforts directed towards organizational objective.

5. The capacity to exercise a relatively high degree of imagination, ingenuity and creativity in the solution of organizational problems is widely distributed in the population i.e. labour co-operates the management in solving the problems of the organization.

6. Human abilities and capabilities are not fully developed till now with reference to modern industrial system. Management has ample scope to develop the intellectual potentialities of the average human being.

7. The theory is based on democratic principles wherein all persons are given equal chance to develop their skill.

According to Y-Theory, a worker has integrity and readiness to work hard. He is willing to participate in the decision making process and shows a sense of creativity and imagination. So, X-Theory may say to be a negative and pessimistic one and Y-Theory may say to be positive and optimistic.


(i) Theory ‘X’ and theory ‘Y’ are a good guide to management, to not only developing motivational techniques; but also attuning entire managerial systems around these assumptions about human behaviour.

(ii) McGregor’s assumptions about human behaviour are rather realistic; as in practice we usually find people corresponding to Theory ‘X’ or Theory ‘ Y’ ideologies. This is the common observation of many of us.


(i) It tends to over-generalise and over simplify people as being one way or the other. People cannot be put on two extremes. No enterprising man belongs either to Theory X or Theory Y.

(ii) McGregor’s theory squeezes managerial styles and philosophies into two extremes of conduct which is devoid of reality.

(iii) McGregor suggests that job itself is the key to motivation. But all people do not see motivation in the job. The management has to motivate people to work.

(iv) People who follow Theory Y still find that they have to behave in a very directive and controlling manner.

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