Adopt the “Right” Management Style

Theory X vs. Theory Y

In his book “The Human Side of Enterprise,” Douglas McGregor explained that our experiences, assumptions and beliefs define how we think and react to events, and thus our management style. He defined two opposing sets of managerial beliefs and behaviors and called them Theory X and Theory Y.

Theory X managers assume employees dislike work, avoid responsibility, do only the minimum required, can’t be trusted, and have little desire to solve problems or advance within the organization. With these negative assumptions and beliefs, Theory X managers think they must micromanage everyone, tell them what to do and how to do it, and yell a lot. Is Theory X manager is a very unpleasant person to work for.

Theory Y managers, on the other hand, assume the opposite. They believe most employees want to learn, do a good job, use their talents, accept responsibility, manage their own work, control their own fate, solve problems, make decisions, achieve positive results, be recognized for their good work, and grow within the organization. If you have a Theory Y boss who respects you and your work, you are quite lucky. And you most likely enjoy your job.

So which boss are you, Theory X or Theory Y? What you believe and practice will determine the results you get. Your management style becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

To Succeed You Must Adopt Theory Y

If you practice Theory X, as many managers still do, you are creating unhappy, unmotivated employees who are giving you mediocre results. Most likely turnover is high. Your department could be so much better and much more productive.

But if you practice Theory Y, most likely your people are happy, motivated and productive. This is especially true if you 1) give them meaningful and challenging jobs, 2) provide them with opportunities to achieve, 3) recognize them when they achieve and 4) allow them to plan and manage their own work- as long as the quality is high and deadlines are met.

Consider the Departmental Wheel

Think of your department as a wheel. As manager, you are the hub and each employee is a spoke. Your job is to make each spoke as strong as possible. You do this by hiring and developing exceptional people, giving them meaningful and challenging jobs, providing the necessary training and education to do the job well, helping them set goals, coaching them when needed, monitoring goals and performance, and making adjustments as necessary.

Think about it. With you, a Theory Y manager as the hub, you can maximize the effort and output of each person in your department and each spoke will be strong. If you build a strong team who support one another and departmental goals, everyone will be moving in the same direction. Then you can’t help but have a successful department. Consequently, you will be perceived as a successful manager. By delegating and focusing on everyone else, you are helping yourself. Develop your team and you will benefit as much as they do—probably even more.


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