Douglas McGregor – Theory X / Theory Y

1906 – 1964

Douglas McGregor was an American social psychologist best known for Theory X and Theory Y; opposing assumptions about human behaviour behind every management decision or action.

Building on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, McGregor set out two opposing assumptions about human nature and motivation.

Theory X

People are lazy, dislike work and need threat of job loss and financial incentives to work hard. They need direction and control and cannot take responsibility.

Theory Y

People need to work, actively seek responsibility, and are generally creative and resourceful. They will be self-directed to achieve objectives that meet both organisational and individual goals. Intellectual potential needs to be utilised.

Douglas McGreogr said that management style and decision-making depends on which theory management believes applies to their staff. Theory X was adopted by traditional Taylor-ist management, and Theory Y by more modern management thinkers, following Elton Mayo’s human relations approach.

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