Using the Management Theory of Douglas McGregor

Learn how to successfully motivate employees by using the management theory of Douglas McGregor

According to McGregor’s theory, management decisions work on assumptions made about employee motivations. Douglas McGregor was a social psychologist, professor and noted management theorist in the area of motivation.  By only fulfilling employees’ base needs for money and physical security, managers fail to recognize higher motivations such as creativity and self fulfillment. Knowledge of deeper motivations is key in making the most of the management theory of Douglas McGregor.

To understand McGregor's theory of management, it might help to compare his Theory X and Theory Y. Theory X involves the all too common assumption that the average employee avoids work whenever possible, does not wish to take responsibility for decisions and lacks intelligence and ambition. This tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Theory Y differs in the basic elements, which include:

1. Using McGregor's theory to allow employees more opportunities by broadening their job descriptions and offering variety.

2. Tapping creativity by involving employees in decision making processes.

3. Delegating tasks and responsibilities instead of leaving everything to high-level management.

4. Letting employees set their own goals and including them in the evaluation of the progress toward accomplishing them.

Understand the Douglas McGregor XY theory of management

There are many online resources to help you better understand the details of McGregor's XY theory. Keep in mind that Theory Y is not necessarily the opposite of Theory X, but it's a different basis for understanding employee motivations.

Hire a consultant to help you implement the McGregor management theory

Consulting services can help you find new ways to make your business more successful. Often a consultant can make minor changes to systems already in place, which saves you time and money and makes the transition easier on all parties.

Learn more about Douglas McGregor

Read more about Douglas McGregor's life and work. His major published work, "The Human Side of Enterprise," remains popular and provides in-depth information into his theories.

  • A step beyond Douglas McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y is Theory Z, combining American and Japanese management styles. The focus is to employ workers with one company for life, thus creating motivation through loyalty. Collective decision making, individual responsibility and a concern for employees and their families are key features of Theory Z.