Theories are the foundations that underpin great management practice. By studying management theory, we understand better the fundamental aspects that affect today’s manager, from human psychology to organisational strategic operations. There are many theories that have been developed and tested over the decades and we will look at some in detail over the next few posts.
The first theory we will look at is the X and Y theory. This popular theory was developed by Douglas McGregor, an American psychologist that analysed the differences in management perceptions of their staff.
A ‘theory X’ manager would typically view their employee as apathetic, unable to motivate themselves with a dislike of their job roles and the work that they do. A theory X manager would lead in an authoritarian way, giving orders and demands, expecting staff to do what is asked without question. It ultimately leads to a micromanagement culture, where employee initiative is quashed by their restrictive working environment.
In contrast, a ‘theory Y’ manager believes that their employees can be trusted to do their work under their own steam. It is a nurturing style of management where employees are deemed to be committed to their responsibilities, their teams and the success of the organisation. A theory Y manager would perceive their staff to be well motivated and focussed on meeting their objectives without coercion from management.
Each of these styles are valid depending on the needs of the organisation. Even though X seems an old-fashioned style of managing people, it can give great results, especially when working in a large organisation where everyone needs to remain focussed on achieving the overall objectives.
On the other hand, theory Y managers see great loyalty from their staff. There will be less sickness absence and a lower staff turnover. Staff will feel appreciated, that their opinions and ideas matter and that they have the support of the manager when they need to sharpen their skills or develop their careers.
Which type of manager would you rather be? Do you recognise Theory X and Y managers in your own workplace?
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