A starting point for management training

Published on: Mon 5 August 2013 by Admin

A great starting point for any management training is to look at understanding yourself, and there is probably no better way of kicking off this process than by considering the theory offered by Douglas McGregor in his 1960 publication, “The Human Side of Enterprise”.  Whilst the robustness of American social psychologist McGregor’s famous X/Y theory is challenged in more recent research, it is still widely referred to in management training today and provides a useful start point in understanding how we view people in the workplace.

To give you an idea, consider the following two statements and decide which one best reflects your own views or beliefs.

  1. People need to have a job and go to work to earn a living and buy the things they need or desire in life. They have to work as it is an essential part of life in order to survive.
  2. People need to work as it gives purpose to their lives and provides the opportunity for them to achieve and demonstrate their abilities and skills. The challenge of work is a motivator and driver for most people.

So, which one of the statements best reflects your personal philosophy?

If statement 1 is closer to your thinking then, according to McGregor’s theory you are probably an “X” thinker; if statement 2 is more like you then you are probably a “Y” thinker.  As managers this then drives the way we tend to manage others.

The “X” Theory manager

If this is your preference then you are likely to operate a more autocratic style; according to McGregor. Autocratic managers tend to believe:

  • The average person does not like work and will try to avoid it if possible or do only as much as they have to
  • You need to keep an eye on people to make sure they keep working
  • People need to know that there will be a penalty/punishment if they fail to meet their targets or deadlines
  • Job security is highly important to people
  • People don’t like having responsibility and will try and avoid it
  • You must give people clear instructions or directions for them to do the job well

The “Y” theory manager

If this is your preference then you are likely to operate a more democratic or involving style; according to McGregor. These managers tend to believe:

  • The average person looks for enjoyment and satisfaction from their work
  • People want to do a good job and will always aim to do this so there is no need for constant monitoring or checking
  • As long as people know their objectives they can be relied upon to work towards achieving these
  • People like to take responsibility
  • Everyone should be aware of the benefits of achieving their objectives or targets
  • People are creative and imaginative and will come up with good ideas and solution if you give them the opportunity


There are successful managers from both X & Y thinking groups however, research suggest that staff prefer to work with “Y” managers and tend to be more productive and driven to achieve objectives when working in a “Y” type organisation.

Unsurprisingly, most management training today focuses on growing the skills and behaviours associated with “Y” style management.