Douglas McGregor developed two contrasting theories that explained how managers’ beliefs about what motivates their people can affect their management style.
He labelled these Theory X and Theory Y. I think these theories are relevant to plenty of organisations.
McGregor first explained Theory X and Theory Y in his book, “The Human Side of Enterprise,” which basically refer to two styles of management:
- Authoritarian (Theory X) – command, control and fear
- Participative (Theory Y) – cooperative, collaborative and self-motivated
X-rated managers are the managers that tend to take a pessimistic view of their staff and assume that they are naturally unmotivated and dislike work. They think that people will avoid putting in the effort whenever possible, they need to be persuaded to work and they lack creativity.
Theory X managers believe that staff need to be rewarded or punished to make sure they get tasks done. They need to be constantly supervised and their performance appraisals are usually based on tangible results.
A Theory X manager believes that staff do not really want to work, that they would rather avoid responsibility and that it is the manager’s job to structure the work and energise the employee.
It’s highly unlikely that you will find Theory X managers in a school organisation but organisations with an educational element to them might have Theort X managers. These will be the bog organisations. I won’t name names!
Y-rated managers are optimistic, they have positive opinions of their staff and they have a participative management style which encourages collaboration across the organisation.
Theory Y managers believe that their staff want to put the effort in, they are eager to take responsibility for their work, they show ambition and are creative. These managers encourage staff to develop their skills and they believe it is their responsibility to create a climate where people will flourish.
It’s highly likely that your school will have Theory Y managers. They are happy for you to be involved in decision making, they encourage you to take ownership of tasks, solve problems and work in the best interests of the organisation.
A Theory Y manager will try to remove the barriers that prevent workers from fully actualising their potential. A Theory Y manager believes that, given the right conditions, most people will want to do well at work and that there is a reservoir of untapped creativity in the workforce.
Let’s just hope that after reading this you are a Theory Y manager or someone with a line manager who isn’t X-rated.