Motivation Theory X

foundation of today’s organizations. These theories go back to the turn of the century and in some cases are considered by the uninformed to be simply fads which come and go. As I have discovered, these theories are rather the steps on a ladder which continually takes us higher and higher. Douglas McGregor in his book, “The Human Side of Enterprise” published in 1960 has examined theories on behavior of individuals at work, and he has formulated two models which he calls Theory X and Theory Y. Theory X Assumptions The average human being has an inherent dislike of work and will avoid it if he can. Because of their dislike for work, most people must be controlled and threatened before they will work hard enough. The average human prefers to be directed, dislikes responsibility, is unambiguous, and desires security above everything. These assumptions lie behind most organizational principles today, and give rise both to “tough” management with punishments and tight controls, and “soft” management which aims at harmony at work.
Two years ago, I was employed by SunTrust Bank working in their stocks ; transfers department. Theory Y approach ( basic assumption is that staff will contribute more to the organization if they are treated as responsible and valued employees) was utilize with great success through out our department. The most notable is self directed work teams which are defined as a small number of people with complementary skills, who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and approach, for which they hold themselves mutually accountable (Katzenbach ; Smith, 1993). Collaborative self directed work teams can get complex projects done at faster rates than the traditional boss-worker arrangement, because the decision making process is made faster and more effective in a team. Empowering teams to make decisions about their work also enhances satisfaction and reduces turnover (Berger, 1998). Self directed work teams involve employees in a specific area, or those who are working on a specific product or process. Self directed work teams can be any size, we usually use 5 team members but normally run no more than 12 to 15 employees. The work team makes the decisions that would normally be made by a supervisor or manager, and might interact with the company’s suppliers and customers, whether they are inside or outside the company.

In some companies, self-directed work teams will also take over many of the human resource functions as well (Cotton, 1993). Self directed work teams have also become one of the more changing approaches to employee involvement, and has been increasing in popularity within the last several years. Companies such as Proctor & Gamble, Digital Equipment, General Mills, Federal Express and other well known companies, are reorganizing their employees into self directed work teams. In a recent survey, 476 Fortune 500 companies found that although only 7% of the work force is organized into self directed work teams, management at half of these companies said that they will be relying on them more in years ahead. (Cotton, 1993). Establishing Self-Directed Work Teams.
There are nine basic steps in establishing self-directed work teams:
Developing performance expectations and feedback
Developing an appropriate pay system
Constructing the appropriate physical layout of facilities (where applicable)
Developing friendly union interaction. (Berger, 1998),(Cotton, 1993).
The benefits I have witness at this company from utilizing these theory Y employee empowerment methods are increased morale from a more satisfying and effective workplace. More personal pride in the quality of the product we have at Harbinger.
Although there are some noted disadvantages to self directed teams such as some team member’s unwillingness to change their attitudes to comply with a team based structure. Lack of participation among some members of the work team. It is important for management to overcome this reluctance and understand that everyone is equal and a part of the team. At Eaton Corporation in South Bend can, Indiana, some workers felt as if the self-directed work team movement had become somewhat of a cult. Members who are shy and not into team activities felt as if they were outcast. Other workers felt that some of their peers used the team concept to create clicks within the company. They felt as if these clicks were used to further outcast them or cause their removal from the company. Still others expressed that they did not like the empowerment. They stated that, “you feel more responsible for what you are doing – and that makes you nervous.” (Aeppel, 1997) Eaton Corporation has approximately 155 factories. The one in South Bend, Indiana has a 10 percent turnover rate. This is the highest of all the 155 factories (Aeppel, 1997). The bottom line is that not every worker is cut out for teamwork. Some people work much better alone and unsupervised. Whyshould these people be subjected to working in an environment that does not fit their personalities?
One former union shop employee walked out after six months claiming that he did not like the team aspect. He explained “they should have judged me on my job performance, not on how I interact with my teammates.” (Aeppel, 1997).
Another example is that of Johnson Wax. 3 black employees who claimed that self-directed work teams allowed a “pattern of racial discrimination to flourish” sued Johnson Wax in 1997. (Neuborne, 1997) Johnson Wax officials say that isn’t true. At Kodak, employees were distracted from their regular positions by being increasing time needed to work within their teams. It gets so bad that at one point technical personnel were spending 30 to 40 percent of their entire day in meetings.
As a currently employee of Harbinger Corporation a leader in e-commerce software there is yet another prime example of theory Y successfully implemented. The shared-leadership model. This addresses the important factor of leadership within the team. In this department, members take on a leadership role for a different aspect of the work that needs to be done and is responsible for being the authority in that area. For example, one member can be in charge of keeping an eye on the competition’s products, one can be in charge of helping create new ideas, and another can research possible vendors to keep costs down and quality up. This way, all members have equal influence and authority in the group. It also eliminates the need to keep information from others to obtain power within the group. This was a problem observed at SunTrust with the Self-Directed Work Team. In the Shared Leadership Model, the members have to address key issuer early on.
Four major issues that must be determined early on are:
Who leads when, and who follows when?
How and when will the team know the project is a success?
After the members decide on many of the workings of the group, managers can assist them in addressing any issues of authority and help them shift the assignments for authority as necessary. This does not completely eliminate the need for a manager either. The support of the manager is vital to the team’s success in the shared-leadership model.
Some critics point out that one of the issues that a Human Resource Manager must keep in mind is that, “employees will feel vulnerable in a self-directed work team because it lacks the familiar clarity of a hierarchical structure (Arnold, 1996).” This can increase the sensitivity of authority issues. Also, should competition help the team by pushing each member a bit harder, or is it a hindrance that erodes the solidarity and friendship (Neuborne, 1997).

The military is a classic example of theory X the most common management practice) management organizes all elements of production, motivates and controls employee behavior to fit the needs of the organization, and without this intervention, employees would be indifferent to changing organizational needs. I enlisted in the United States Army in 1988 as a chance to travel and further my education. During the initial part of my six years of active military duty the general assumption was that soldiers felled squarely into theory X. Most senior enlisted officers I encountered for the most part seemed to have this mindset of soldiers having a natural dislike for work. I believed control and punishment are not the only ways to make people work, man will direct himself if he is committed to the aims of the organization. Needless to say once promoted through the ranks I chose a different approach than the one inherited with the system. Theory Y basic assumption is that staff will contribute more to the organization if they are treated as responsible and valued employees. By simply treated the soldiers under my tutelage as valued employees, I was able to maintain the best and fastest communication team in the battalion.
There is also a new twist on the popular X and Y theories, Theory O, in which all the employees act like owners–because they are. As owners, they have certain rights, but they also have responsibilities to make sure their jobs are performed as well as possible in light of the needs of the company. Theory O companies strive to create what John Case of Inc. magazine called “a company of business people,” a company in which everyone understands the needs of the company and has opportunities and expectations to move those needs forward. When ownership is added to this management practice, people need to understand precisely how if they do act as business people, they will be the ones to benefit. One exampl of this is at United Airlines. The People Division and Ownership Services Team: Like many ESOP companies, the Human Resources Department will play an active role in the transformation. Human Resources is now called the People Division at United, and within this division, the Ownership Services Team has spearheaded the education program. Its work on this front includes: Two publications, entitled “Destinations” and the “ESOP Owner’ Guide,” which provide an overview and explanation of the ESOP and the deal that created it. These were distributed to all employees at the beginning ofthe “new” United. Publishing a newsletter called “ESOP News,” which discusses new developments related to the ESOP and participation efforts. Using United’s daily newspaper, “Newsreal,” to discuss ownership issues. Conducting presentations at different United locations to explain how the ESOP works and what it all means. These presentations not only cover the ESOP and participation efforts, but also provide a forum for employees to ask questions related to any aspect of the company. Setting up a toll free phone-in service that employees can call with questions about the ESOP or other benefits.
Copyright 1995, 1999 by The National Center for Employee Ownership
(NCEO) (phone 510/272-9461; e-mail emailprotected; WWW
http://www.nceo.org/). All rights reserved.

Both these are “wrong” because man needs more than financial
rewards at work, he also needs some deeper higher order motivation
– the opportunity to fulfill himself.
Theory X managers do not give their staff this opportunity so that
the employees behave in the expected fashion.
The expenditure of physical and mental effort in work is as
natural as play or rest.
Control and punishment are not the only ways to make people work,
man will direct himself if he is committed to the aims of the
If a job is satisfying, then the result will be commitment to the
The average man learns, under proper conditions, not only to
accept but to seek responsibility.
Imagination, creativity, and ingenuity can be used to solve work
problems by a large number of employees.
Under the conditions of modern industrial life, the intellectual
potentialities of the average man are only partially utilized.
Comments on Theory X and Theory Y Assumptions
These assumptions are based on social science research which has
been carried out, and demonstrate the potential which is present in
man and which organizations should recognize in order to become more
McGregor sees these two theories as two quite separate attitudes.
Theory Y is difficult to put into practice on the shop floor in
large mass production operations, but it can be used initially in
the managing of managers and professionals.

In “The Human Side of Enterprise” McGregor shows how Theory Y
affects the management of promotions and salaries and the
development of effective managers. McGregor also sees Theory Y as
conducive to participative problem solving.

It is part of the manager’s job to exercise authority, and there are
cases in which this is the only method of achieving the desired
results because subordinates do not agree that the ends are
However, in situations where it is possible to obtain commitment to
objectives, it is better to explain the matter fully so that
employees grasp the purpose of an action. They will then exert
self-direction and control to do better work – quite possibly by
better methods – than if they had simply been carrying out an order
which the y did not fully understand.

The situation in which employees can be consulted is one where the
individuals are emotionally mature, and positively motivated towards
their work; where the work is sufficiently responsible to allow for
flexibility and where the employee can see his own position in the
management hierarchy. If these conditions are present, managers will
find that the participative approach to problem solving leads to
much improved results compared with the alternative approach of
handing out authoritarian orders.

Once management becomes persuaded that it is under estimating the
potential of its human resources, and accepts the knowledge given by
social science researchers and displayed in Theory Y assumptions,
then it can invest time, money and effort in developing improved
applications of the theory.

McGregor realizes that some of the theories he has put forward are
unrealizable in practice, but wants managers to put into operation
the basic assumption that:
staff will contribute more to the organization if they are treated
as responsible and valued employees.
While I currently hold no management position is theories X and Y and were based on assumptions made
regarding the “system” and individuals. In short, in Theory X (the most
common management practice) management organizes all elements of
production, motivates and controls employee behavior to fit the needs of
the organization, and without this intervention, employees would be
indifferent to changing organizational needs. McGregor further assumes
that managers believe that the average employee is by nature indolent and
lazy, lacks ambition, is self-centered, and resistant to change (McGregor
1957). The grim consequences that McGregor proposes about management by
“direction and control,” a style that is and was popular in big business,
hardly have been exhibited in the corporate world 40 years later. This
fact alone shows that McGregor’s assumptions regarding Theory X are
inaccurate. McGregor’s alternative to Theory X was Theory Y. This theory
made the assumptions that management has the responsibility for organizing
the elements of production, people are not by nature passive, but become
so as a result of experiences, management should enable employees to
develop their motivational characteristics, and that it is essential for
management to arrange organizational conditions in a manner where
employees can achieve their own goals by directing their personal effort
towards organizational objectives. The contrast between X and Y solely
relates to who controls human behavior. Theory X touts external control,
and Theory Y promotes self control and self direction. The main dilemma
with McGregor’s premises is that Theory Y places an unrealistic amount of
burden on the management. Heroics cannot be the responsibility of a
manager and the difficulty a manager would have fulfilling his own
personal goals and the goals of the organization while conceiving “of
their job as helping each of his subordinates to achieve their mutual
goals in the subordinate’s own way (Gellerman 1963),” is an enormous.

Douglas McGregor -Theory X and Theory Y
The average man learns, under proper conditions, not only to
accept but to seek responsibility.
Imagination, creativity, and ingenuity can be used to solve work
problems by a large number of employees.
Under the conditions of modern industrial life, the intellectual
potentialities of the average man are only partially utilized.
Comments on Theory X and Theory Y Assumptions
These assumptions are based on social science research which has
been carried out, and demonstrate the potential which is present in
man and which organizations should recognize in order to become more
McGregor sees these two theories as two quite separate attitudes.
Theory Y is difficult to put into practice on the shop floor in
large mass production operations, but it can be used initially in
the managing of managers and professionals.

In “The Human Side of Enterprise” McGregor shows how Theory Y
affects the management of promotions and salaries and the
development of effective managers. McGregor also sees Theory Y as
conducive to participative problem solving.

It is part of the manager’s job to exercise authority, and there are
cases in which this is the only method of achieving the desired
results because subordinates do not agree that the ends are
However, in situations where it is possible to obtain commitment to
objectives, it is better to explain the matter fully so that
employees grasp the purpose of an action. They will then exert
self-direction and control to do better work – quite possibly by
better methods – than if they had simply been carrying out an order
which the y did not fully understand.

The situation in which employees can be consulted is one where the
individuals are emotionally mature, and positively motivated towards
their work; where the work is sufficiently responsible to allow for
flexibility and where the employee can see his own position in the
management hierarchy. If these conditions are present, managers will
find that the participative approach to problem solving leads to
much improved results compared with the alternative approach of
handing out authoritarian orders.

Once management becomes persuaded that it is under estimating the
potential of its human resources, and accepts the knowledge given by
social science researchers and displayed in Theory Y assumptions,
then it can invest time, money and effort in developing improved
applications of the theory.

McGregor realizes that some of the theories he has put forward are
unrealizable in practice, but wants managers to put into operation
the basic assumption that:
staff will contribute more to the organization if they are treated
The military is a classic example of theory X the most common management practice) management organizes all elements of production, motivates and controls employee behavior to fit the needs of the organization, and without this intervention, employees would be indifferent to changing organizational needs. I enlisted in the United States Army in 1988 as a chance to travel and further my education. During the initial part of my six years of active military duty the general assumption was that soldiers felled squarely into theory X. Most senior enlisted officers I encountered for the most part seemed to have this mindset of soldiers having a natural dislike for work. I believed control and punishment are not the only ways to make people work, man will direct himself if he is committed to the aims of the organization. Needless to say once promoted through the ranks I chose a different approach than the one inherited with the system. Theory Y basic assumption is that staff will contribute more to the organization if they are treated as responsible and valued employees.
I am currently employed by Harbinger a leader in software developer. While I currently hold no management position is theories X and Y and were based on assumptions made
regarding the “system” and individuals. In short, in Theory X (the most
common management practice) management organizes all elements of
production, motivates and controls employee behavior to fit the needs of
the organization, and without this intervention, employees would be
indifferent to changing organizational needs. McGregor further assumes
that managers believe that the average employee is by nature indolent and
lazy, lacks ambition, is self-centered, and resistant to change (McGregor
1957). The grim consequences that McGregor proposes about management by
“direction and control,” a style that is and was popular in big business,
hardly have been exhibited in the corporate world 40 years later. This
fact alone shows that McGregor’s assumptions regarding Theory X are
inaccurate. McGregor’s alternative to Theory X was Theory Y. This theory
made the assumptions that management has the responsibility for organizing
the elements of production, people are not by nature passive, but become
so as a result of experiences, management should enable employees to
develop their motivational characteristics, and that it is essential for
management to arrange organizational conditions in a manner where
employees can achieve their own goals by directing their personal effort
towards organizational objectives. The contrast between X and Y solely
relates to who controls human behavior. Theory X touts external control,
and Theory Y promotes self control and self direction. The main dilemma
with McGregor’s premises is that Theory Y places an unrealistic amount of
burden on the management. Heroics cannot be the responsibility of a
manager and the difficulty a manager would have fulfilling his own
personal goals and the goals of the organization while conceiving “of
their job as helping each of his subordinates to achieve their mutual
goals in the subordinate’s own way (Gellerman 1963),” is an enormous. A
manager would require not only extensive training in management but in
human psychology. Drucker’s opinion on the subject sums up why the
McGregor’s techniques lack vital characteristics for effective
organizational motivation; An employer has no business with a man’s
personality. Employment is as specific contract calling for specific
performance, and nothing else. Any attempt of an employer to go beyond
this is usurpation. It is an immoral as well as illegal intrusion of
privacy. It is abuse of power. An employee owes no “loyalty,” he owes no
“love,” and no “attitudes” -he owes performance and nothing
elseā€¦Management and management developmentā€¦should consider themselves with
changes in behavior likely to make a man more effective. They do not deal
with who a man is -that is, with his personality or his emotional dynamics
(Drucker, 1973). Though Drucker’s opinions reflect why Theory Y may be
perceived as flawed, they represent a somewhat cold stance on other issues
in organizational behavior. Management must have some responsibilities to
the emotional well being of their subordinates, but they cannot be
responsible to the extent Theory Y proposes. Of all the intrinsically
based theories of motivation, the one that is most related to motivation
through reinforcement is that of the expectancy-valence theory. Vroom’s
formulations on this theory have become the dominate works in regard to
motivational management. The expectancy-valence theory is a cognitive
approach to explaining the causes of motivation, which in turn, influence
the behavior of the individual. Expectancy theories explain not only the
choices an employee will make regarding actions, but to what level the
employee will perform in regard to those actions (Schwab 1978). This
somewhat scientific approach to explain motivation involves three key
steps. The valence of outcomes is the first step which incorporates the
concept of the attractiveness associated with activities. Unlike Maslow,
Herzberg, or McGregor, the expectancy theory “makes no a priori statements
about what outcomes individuals will find valent or nonvalent (Schwab,
1978).” The second assumption in the expectancy theory regards people’s
beliefs about the connection between activity and outcome. These
perceptions ” can be thought of as subjective probabilities and are
referred to as instrumentality perceptions (Schwab 1978).” In essence,
people have an idea that there is a link between performance and wage
increases. The final premise of the expectancy theory ” pertains to the
individual’s beliefs about the connection or linkage between one’s effort
to engage in an activity and the likelihood that the activity will be
accomplished (Schwab, 1978). Crystallized, the expectancy theory of
motivation states that employee motivation is high when a task is
attractive in itself, and when the outcomes of the completed task are
attractive to the employee. Because of the complexities of the internal
nature of the expectancy theory, it is a difficult approach to take as a
manager. Though it takes into account that the recognition of the outcome
of an action may influence the frequency of that behavior, the expectancy
theory still relies too much on the internal processes of motivation
because of its basis in cognition. A far simpler way to motivate employees
disengages itself from internal (intrinsic) processes and solel
Copyright 1995, 1999 by The National Center for Employee Ownership
Bibliography: