Theory X and Theory Y Leadership

At its very core, Theory X and Theory Y leadership are theories that have looked at how humans are motivated to complete certain tasks. They originated in the 1960s in the Sloan School of Management and are used to describe the two basic contrasts of employee motivation that exist in the workplace. It’s a theory of leadership that examines the Yin and Yang of each employee and how a manager’s perception of that Yin and Yang influence their personal management styles.

What Is the Definition of Theory X?

People who fit into this category would be considered lazy or unmotivated. They really hate their jobs. It would dictate to a manager that a more authoritative approach would be required. Control would need to be held at every level because the average employee in this category wouldn’t be motivated to do a good job on their own. It’s an environment that leads a manager to distrust their employees.

The definition of this theory is compliance. It discourages creativity and encourages those who follow the rules. It is typically used in places where repetitive tasks must be performed and there are limited advancement opportunities available.

What Is the Definition of Theory Y?

People who fit into this category are very motivated, ambitious, and enjoy coming to work every day. Their working days are just part of their life, like watching a football game on the weekend or taking at hike up to see a mountain waterfall. It would dictate to a manager that an employee only needs to be motivated to do a good job in some way, so creative outputs would be put into place. It creates an environment of trust and comfort where everyone tends to have a say in the decisions that are being made.

What Happens When These Theories Are Combined?

Theory X and Theory Y take into account the fact that most employees aren’t going to fall on one extreme or the other. Most people have certain tasks that do not motivate them, yet also have certain levels of creativity that they can bring to the job. Managers must evaluate both approaches in order to determine what the right mix of authoritarianism and trust should be given to each person.

The advantage of this theory is that it requires an individualized approach. Each manager must observe their employees, note their skills, and encourage their talents in a way that best suits them. The end result would be to create an environment that is individually tailored to each team member and then use the individual approaches to create a team identity.

People can be motivated for a wide variety of reasons. Sometimes it is money. Sometimes it is through fear. When managers can recognize what motivates an employee to create consistent results through this theory, then everyone can wind up having more overall success.

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