McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y

A motivated employee is a good employee, there is no doubt about that. But how to make employees actually motivated to do work? Many scholars have been trying to find the answer to that question. A great number of motivation theories have been developed, trying to make the managers’ job easier. These include Theory X and Theory Y created by Douglas McGregor in the 1960s.

McGregor’s concept shows two contradictory approaches to employee motivation. Theory X is the negative approach, while Theory Y is the positive one. These approached show two types of employees that are motivated by different things.

Theory X

This approach assumes that en employee is someone that does not love his work. The employee is lazy and unwilling to take up new duties. The ambitions of the employee are low and he doesn’t want to have too much responsibility. The only thing that matters for the employee is the feeling of security. Under Theory X, the motivation of the employees is an external one: the assumption is that the remuneration is the most important thing for them. According to McGregor, in Theory X, the manager will constantly supervise his subordinates and will focus on maximizing their efficiency and not on their personal development. It’s easy to notice that this approach is slightly obsolete and does not fit in with modern standards. Theory X stands in opposition to McGregor’s other theory.

Theory Y

In this approach, the employee is involved in his work and wants to take up tasks that require responsibility. He is creative and displays initiative. The employee wants to broaden his mind and engage in self-improvement. In this approach, people are driven by an internal force and taking up new tasks gives them satisfaction. Under Theory Y, the manager has lots of trust to the employees. To fully exploit their potential, he has to create the right working conditions that will enable the employees to develop themselves. Such individuals have a lot of impact on how the enterprise prospers. This is why it’s important to make them feel good and respect their different opinions.

Douglas McGregor claimed that every enterprise has both types of employees and, in order to motivate them to do work, the manager needs to find out who is who and then adapt the management style to particular persons. Then the company as a whole will be able to achieve success.


Properly built motivation systems will surely help in managing employee motivation. The Motiveo e-service will be of use here, allowing every entrepreneur to quickly and efficiently prepare the right motivation programme. Additionally, thanks to the relevant tools, Motiveo can facilitate controlling sales. For system designers, it was important to make sure that the entrepreneur is not left alone in configuring the motivation programme. The system automatically provides hints at every stage of the process, explaining what should be done when. The Virtual Advisor is also helpful, and so is the testing programme for users which already has the data in it. Using that programme, the entrepreneur can learn more about the configurator of motivation programmes before setting up his own programme.

Motivating employees to do solid work is a key issue. This is why you first need to get to know the individuals you employ. Information on what is important for them is extremely important for the managers, as it allows them to use the relevant motivation tools.