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The motivation in Theory X occurs only at the Physiological and Security levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory.

Theory X undertakes that the principal source of most employee motivation is monetary, with a strong security.

Douglas McGregor (196O), reflecting on Leadership and motivation at work, procured the accessible literature on organisations and subsequently examined modern managerial policy and practice.

McGregor’s assumptions were that there were two contrasting sets of assumptions about people underlying managerial attitudes and behaviour.

McGregor contributed these two sets of assumptions the purposefully impartial labels of ‘Theory X and Theory Y’.

McGregor’s accomplishment lay in depicting attention to two contrasting types of managerial attitude. The assumptions personified in the two approaches are illustrated further down.

Theory X and Theory Y | McGregor and Leadership | Motivation | HR

The Hard and Soft Approach of Theory X | Key Issues with Theory X theory x The Hard and Soft Approach of Theory X | Key Issues with Theory X soft and hard theory x The Hard and Soft Approach of Theory X The Hard and Soft Approach of Theory X soft and hard theory x
The Hard and Soft Approach of Theory X | Key Issues with Theory X

Theory X assumptions are as follows:

  • The average individual has an intrinsic dislike of work and will avoid it if he or she can.
  • For that reason, people must be compelled, controlled, directed and cautioned with penalty to get them to place in satisfactory determination.
  • The average individual wishes to remain directed, prefers to escape duty, and has little determination, expecting money, safety and security beyond all.
  • Most people prefer to resist change
  • Most people are very much self-centred and as a result cares not much about organizational objectives.
  • The average individual is easily persuaded to believe something and not predominantly intellectual.
  • Most people have little aptitude for resolving organisational problems.

In overall, the motivation in Theory X occurs only at the Physiological and Security levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory.

Theory X undertakes that the principal source of most employee motivation is monetary, with a strong security.

The Hard Approach and Soft Approach of Theory X

Under Theory X, Management approaches to motivation range from hard to soft.

The hard approach fundamentally relies on coercion, implicit pressures, close observation, and strict controls, principally a situation of command and control.

The soft approach, on the other hand is to be tolerant and seek out coordination with the optimism that in return employees will join hands when demanded.

Nevertheless, neither of these extremes is ideal, as the hard approach has potential consequences of hostility, deliberately low-output, and hard-line union demands, while the soft approach results in ever-increasing requests for more rewards in exchange for ever-decreasing productivity.

The ideal management approach under Theory X perhaps would position somewhere between those extremes. Nevertheless, McGregor emphasizes that neither approach is suitable since the assumptions of Theory X are not accurate.

Challenges and Limitations of Theory X and Theory Y | Motivation

The Key Issues with Theory X

Theory X management approaches obstruct the satisfaction of higher level needs. The only technique that employees can attempt to satisfy higher-level needs at work is to seek more compensation; therefore, they emphasise financial rewards.

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As a result, in a Theory X setting, people practice work to satisfy their lower needs; they seek to please their higher needs in the course of their relaxation period.

McGregor submits that a “command-and-control” setting is not effective for the reason that it depends on lower level needs for motivation.

In contemporary civilization, those wants are mostly satisfied, consequently they no longer perform as persuaders.

You would assume employees in such an atmosphere to dislike their work, evade responsibility, have no concern in organizational goals, and resist change, as a result producing a self-fulfilling forecast. From that cognitive, McGregor suggested a substitute: Theory Y.

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