A Kind Word for Theory X: Or Why So Many Newfangled Management Techniques Quickly Fail

Bobic, Michael P.; Davis, William Eric
July 2003
Journal of Public Administration Research & Theory;Jul2003, Vol. 13 Issue 3, p239
Academic Journal
Forty-three years ago, Douglas McGregor's The Human Side of Enterprise offered managers a new assumption of management (Theory Y), which would be more effective than what he considered then-current management assumptions (Theory X). While McGregor's Theory Y model has been widely adopted in management literature as the preferred model, Theory X management still persists in practice. Moreover, many efforts to introduce management initiatives based on Theory Y have failed to reform the workplace or worker attitudes. While most explanations of these failures focus on training, implementation, or sabotage, this article proposes several defects in Theory Y that have contributed to these failures. Theory Y is based upon an incomplete theory of human motivation that erroneously assumes that all people are creative (and want to be creative) in the same way. Important research by Michael Kirton presents a different model of creativity that explains the failure of Theory Y and justifies Theory X as an important managerial theory and strategy. Theory X persists not because of circumstances or the nature of particular jobs, but because different people have personalities that respond to Theory X management better than to Theory Y management.


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