Assumptions about people at work


There are two types of people at work according to Douglas McGregor.

Those who dislike and avoid the work, who must be forced or bribed to make the right effort, who must be told what to do, who are motivated by money and fear, and who never have ideas on how to improve the work. McGregor labeled them Theory X people.

Then there are Theory Y people: those who are generally interested and engaged in the work, who are able to direct themselves toward a target, who seek responsibility, who are motivated by the idea of fulfilling their own potential, and always have ideas on how to improve the work.

Which are you: Theory Y or Theory X?

What about the people who work in your organization? What percentage of those people are Theory X?

Well they're all trick questions. McGregor never said there are two types of people at work. In fact he found no evidence whatsoever that Theory X people exist anywhere.

We're all Theory Y people.

But we work for organizations that believe in Theory X.

Those responsible (you?) forthe rules, procedures, processes, requirements, systems, structures, guidelines, precedents, social norms, trainings, et al. assume they're the only Theory Y people working in the organization. Everyone else? Theory X.

It is that Theory X assumption which creates Theory X people.

It's a destructive assumption. It's wasteful. And it's wrong! Theory X people don't even exist! Yet it's the assumption at the core of how we organize and manage work.

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