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30 October, 2015 - 17:47

Douglas McGregor proposed the X-Y theory in his 1960 book called The Human Side of Enterprise.  1 McGregor’s theory gives us a starting point to understanding how management style can impact the retention of employees. His theory suggests two fundamental approaches to managing people. Theory X managers, who have an authoritarian management style, have the following fundamental management beliefs:

  • The average person dislikes work and will avoid it.
  • Most people need to be threatened with punishment to work toward company goals.
  • The average person needs to be directed.
  • Most workers will avoid responsibility.

Theory Y managers, on the other hand, have the following beliefs:

Most people want to make an effort at work.

  • People will apply self-control and self-direction in pursuit of company objectives.
  • Commitment to objectives is a function of expected rewards received.
  • People usually accept and actually welcome responsibility.
  • Most workers will use imagination and ingenuity in solving company problems.

As you can see, these two belief systems have a large variance, and managers who manage under the X theory may have a more difficult time retaining workers and may see higher turnover rates. As a result, it is our job in HR to provide training opportunities in the area of management, so our managers can help motivate the employees. Training is a large part of the retention plan. This will be addressed in more detail in  "Implementing Retention Strategies".

Human Resources Recall

What are the disadvantages of taking a theory X approach with your employees?