The Human Side of Enterprise

Douglas McGregor 1960

In his groundbreaking book The Human Side of Enterprise, Douglas McGregor (1906-1954) drew a distinction between autocratic and humanist styles of management, coining the terms "Theory X" for the autocratic and "Theory Y" for the humanist. The two theories have contrasting models for both workforce motivation and the perceptions that managers hold about their employees.

Douglas McGregor
Douglas McGregor

Theory X assumes that employees are inherently lazy and dislike work, so will avoid it if they can. As a result of this, management believes that the workforce needs a comprehensive system of controls and supervision.

Theory Y assumes that employees are able to self-motivate and exercise self-control given appropriate conditions (conditions that are typically lacking in Theory X environments). As a result of this Theory Y managers seek to engender a climate of trust, while creating a working environment in which the workforce can develop and use their abilities.