Thursday, March 10, 2011



We have probably all known of at least one manager who employed McGregor's (1960) Theory X, as his or her nominal management style. Several of my past managers typically used Theory X in praxis. However, I could argue that in certain cases, a few of them seemed somewhat justified in doing so. Some specific examples included situations wherein team members refused to "carry their loads." The managers in question applied Theory X behaviors situationally. These situations did not present as Pygmalion effects or as self-fulfilling prophesies (Kierein & Gold, 2000), where managers' expectations shaped the subordinates' behaviors. In fact, the managers appeared to have initially employed Theory Y-type behaviors. They only employed Theory X behaviors after they had provided ample opportunities for the dysfunctional members to fully participate. In that regard, Sewell (2005) argued that in what I define as Theory Y-type organizations, few checks exist to protect the majority who faithfully carry out their responsibilities "… from a minority who indulge in opportunistic self-interested behavior" (p. 686). He further explained that managers require the ability to control, regardless of organizational structure, to maintain "the operation of disciplinary mechanisms…" (p. 685). Consequently, it appears that some situations might call for Theory X behavioral responses, even if a given organization or a sub-unit thereof might prosper more from the routine application of Theory Y.

Kierein, N. M., & Gold, M. A. (2000). Pygmalion in work organizations: A meta-analysis. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 21(8), 913-928.

McGregor, D. (1960). The human side of enterprise. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Sewell, G. (2005). Nice work? Rethinking managerial control in an era of knowledge work. Organization, 12(5), 685-704.

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