McGregor developed two theories of human behaviour at work: Theory and X and Theory Y.
He did not imply that workers would be one type or the other. Rather, he saw the two theories as two extremes - with a whole spectrum of possible behaviours in between.
Theory X workers could be described as follows:
- Individuals who dislike work and avoid it where possible
- Individuals who lack ambition, dislike responsibility and prefer to be led
- Individuals who desire security
The management implications for Theory X workers were that, to achieve organisational objectives, a business would need to impose a management system of coercion, control and punishment.
Theory Y workers were characterised by McGregor as:
- Consider effort at work as just like rest or play
- Ordinary people who do not dislike work. Depending on the working conditions, work could be considered a source of satisfaction or punishment
- Individuals who seek responsibility (if they are motivated0
The management implications for Theory X workers are that, to achieve organisational objectives, rewards of varying kinds are likely to be the most popular motivator. The challenge for management with Theory Y workers is to create a working environment (or culture) where workers can show and develop their creativity.