Blayze Communications

Blayze Communications

Management Styles - Theories X and Y

A small company I have dealings with (subsidiary of a global corporate) is suffering a major motivation problem. Since a new General Manager was appointed in January 2008, the morale and productivity has declined until now where it has just about reached rock bottom. I was thinking about his management style, and was reminded of Douglas McGregor.

Douglas McGregor was heavily influenced by the studies of Elton Mayo (Hawthorn Studies), and Abraham Maslow (Maslow’s Theory of Human Needs). McGregor advanced the thesis that managers should give more attention to the social and self-actualising needs of people at work. He asked managers to shift from “Theory X” to “Theory Y”, two very different approaches based on different assumptions.

Theory X assumes people:- Dislike work Lack ambition Are irresponsible Are resistant to change Prefer to be led than to lead

Managers with Theory X assumptions tend to be overly directive (micro manage) and control oriented. This creates passive, dependant and reluctant subordinates.

Theory Y assumes people:- Are willing to work Are capable of self control Are willing to accept responsibility Are imaginative and creative Are capable of self direction.

Managers with Theory Y assumptions give subordinates more participation, freedom and responsibility in their work This creates opportunities to satisfy their esteem and self-actualisation needs. They respond by showing initiative and high productivity.

McGregor points out that managers holding either of these sets of assumptions can create a self fulfilling prophecy where the staff will start exhibiting behaviours that confirm the original expectations.
Thinking about these theories, I realised the General Manager had strong Theory Y assumptions, managed accordingly, and has provided the environment for the changes, and now has his prophecies fulfilled. Unfortunately, he sees the changes as a confirmation of his original assumptions, rather than as a reaction to his management style. I expect when the staff all leave (which is looking like a strong possibility), he will believe they were not suitable from the start.
What is your management style?
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