• Michael Najar, Ph.D

Theory X and Theory Y

In the 1960s, social psychologist Douglas McGregor developed two contrasting theories that explained how managers' beliefs about what motivates their people can affect their management style. He labelled these Theory X (authoritarian) and Theory Y (participative).

Theory X Of Motivation

According to Theory X of motivation, employees are normally unmotivated and do not prefer to work because of which an authoritarian style of management is resulted. According to this concept, in order to accomplish the various goals and tasks, the management intervention is inevitable. The following assumptions are made with respect to the employees in Theory X of Motivation:

  • Employees usually ignore working.

  • They tend to avoid any kind of responsibility and the management need to direct them time to time.

  • In order to accomplish the works, these employees are needed to be forced, controlled and threatened .

  • Employees are required to be monitored in each step and various controls are needed to be implemented.

  • Various impetuses need to be provided to the employees to produce desired results otherwise they will lack motivation or incentive to work.

The organisations which follow X-theory of motivation rely heavily on the top management and managers and supervisors are required to monitor the employees on each and every step. These kind of organsiations have almost no delegation of authority and entire control remains with the centralized management.

In the views of McGregor , the number of employees who fall in X-category are few in numbers and yet in mass organsiations, there will be necessity of X category management and it cannot be avoided.

Theory Y of Motivation

Theory Y of motivation favors the participative style of management which facilitates the decentralization of management. According to Theory Y, the employees are motivated to work and can be characterized as self motivated ad creative in nature and they enjoy having greater responsibility. According to Theory Y, the employees can be characterized as below:-

  • Employees like greater responsibilities and are motivated to accomplish the goals which are assigned to them.

  • Employees look for greater responsibilities and are able to work without any direction.

  • The employee think the work is the natural part of the life and they tackle every type of problems imaginatively

The participative management style is more widely applicable in most of the organisations. The greater involvement of low level employees in decision making with greater responsibility are observed in Y-type organisations.


Fear and intimidation will be applied by the managers who adopt Theory X for the motivation of employees. The employees will be following the directives of the manager to ensure security and comfort and avoiding any kind of backlash on their jobs.

The managers who follow theory Y are having more participative and collaborative attitude towards the employees and team members. The team members are self motivated and self directed in order to accomplish the goals and objectives.

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