McGregor's Theory X is the root cause of micromanagement. The concept surmises workers need to be constantly watched and instructed what to do. Managers who believe this philosophy assume that the average staff member dislikes work and avoids work whenever possible. The work is only motivated by money, position, and punishment. In addition, the worker avoids increased responsibility and seeks to be directed. The acceptance of Theory X will result in an authoritarian management style over the team and allowing for little collaboration or even participation in decision making.
Leaders (managers) who adhere to Theory X assume that the average person:
- Dislikes work and attempts to avoid it
- Lacks ambition, wants no responsibility, and would rather follow than lead
- Is self-centered and, therefore, does not care about organizational goals
- Resists change
- Act irresponsibly (Weinbach, 2008)
McGregor's Theory Y is the root cause of employee empowerment. This concept emphasizes that staff are self-discipline and would like to do the job themselves. The team members are active and supportive in our work climate and find the work itself rewarding. Adopting this philosophy will produce self-direction towards goals without coercion or control. Teammates will seek opportunities for personal improvement and self-respect
Leaders (managers) who adhere to Theory Y assume that:
- Work is a natural activity for people.
- People will be self-directed to meet their work objectives if they are committed to them.
- People will be committed to their objectives if rewards are in place that address higher needs, such as self-fulfillment.
- People will seek responsibility.
- Most people can handle responsibility, because creativity and ingenuity are common in the population (Weinbach, 2008).
A Theory Y type manager acts in a way that communicates trust and a belief in staff member’s good intentions. They assume that staff members want to work toward organizational goal attainment and work to set up an environment that enhances growth (Weinbach, 2008).
Obviously, it’s quite rare to find a purely Theory X or Theory Y orientation in an organization. There is usually a blend of each with a tendency to lean towards one or the other. However, McGregor makes it clear that it’s important to be careful when assuming one theory to be true in the workplace. Managers with more of a Theory Y orientation might observe the behavior of a few staff members (laziness, self-centered, etc.) and become more Theory X oriented. On the other hand, managers who are more Theory X orientated are sometimes pleasantly surprised and become more Theory Y oriented when their staff members are hard working, seek responsibility, etc. Regardless of which theory a manager lean towards, McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y causes managers to recognize employee differences. By doing so, managers can look beyond their own assumptions that might dictate their leadership behavior and begin accurately assessing their subordinates, as well as what motivates them. Figure 1