Blog: Employee Productivity and McGregor’s Theory of X & Y

Employee Engagement

Employee Productivity and McGregor’s Theory of X & Y

McGregor’s Theory of X and Y states that motivation is directly linked to employee productivity
Employee Productivity and McGregor’s Theory of X & Y

As a leader or a manager who is tasked to supervise the work of others and get maximum output from them, you must have experienced many a times that people don’t always do what you want them to do. They will - if you are lucky, and then only few times - miss deadlines, procrastinate, wait for your instructions or blame others for their inability to complete the work. And on the other hand you have individual performers who are self-motivated, controlled and disciplined.

As all of us would agree, every individual has his/her own style of working and has a different work psychology. There are different things which motivate people. They come from diverse backgrounds and therefore, there are different set of factors which influence them and their productivity. Thousands of articles and theories have been written for managers to help them get the best from each of their employees.

Douglas McGregor, a famous MIT professor and Social Psychologist, formulated two theories of motivation — Theory X and Theory Y, where he suggests that these two (contrasting) theories directly link to the employees one might encounter at the workplace, and how managers can deal with them.

Theory X assumes that employees inherently dislike work. They avoid responsibility and therefore they always need to be told to do certain tasks. They need to be controlled and supervised at every step. This theory also assumes that since the employees are not motivated to work, they need to be enticed or at times, threatened to produce results. These beliefs lead to close supervision, tighter control and ‘tough’ management styles.

On the other hand, Theory Y assumes that employees are self-motivated, creative, proactive, willing to solve problems, and take responsibility. This style of management is fairly de-centralized. The leaders involve employees in decision making, encourage them to make suggestions, provide them opportunities to take up more responsibilities, and, accept their creative inputs and innovative ideas.

Theory X works very well for large scale mass production operations and for the work involving unskilled workers; whereas, theory Y is well-suited for knowledge workers, where knowledge sharing and continuous improvement is encouraged.

In both cases, managers need to have visibility into the work being done by employees. In case of application of Theory X, the managers need to put together a structured environment, so as to get the work done from the employees. The managers need to keep a close track on the employees’ activity.  In case of Theory Y, the managers need to show the right direction to the employees and they will automatically perform well. Obviously, the managers’ outlook impacts the productivity and performance of the employees. Their intervention shapes the working style of the employees.

In addition to these two theories, one more influencer is at play at the workplace - which is self- image. Self-performance drives self-image. Therefore, apart from what people perceive of us, individuals must also keep on doing periodic self-introspection to assess that “whether we are responsible for other’s perceptions of ourselves?”

What if there is a Fit-bit at work which offers complete transparency about the working habits of individuals with concrete data and figures — to both, the managers as well as individuals? Imagine if the manager gets to know detailed information about his team members — such as how much time they are spending on core activities, non-core activities, meetings, social networking sites etc.? Armed with such data, the manager can define a set of activities or processes which can positively impact the team’s productivity.

From an individual perspective – if there is some tool which can provide a mirror image of daily activities for each employee – then the employees can self-analyze their work patterns and bring in improvements so that they are less stressed, more productive and strike a perfect work-life harmony.


Disclaimer: This is a contributed post. The statements, opinions and data contained are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of People Matters and the editor(s).





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Topics: Employee Engagement, Life @ Work

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