Comparing Theory X and Theory Y

Motivation Theory X assumes that people dislike work; they want to avoid it and do not want to take responsibility. Theory Y assumes that people are self-motivated, and thrive on responsibility.

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Management Style and Control In a Theory X organization, management is authoritarian, and centralized control is retained, whilst in Theory Y, the management style is participative: Management involves employees in decision making, but retains power to implement decisions.

Work Organization Theory X employees tend to have specialized and often repetitive work. In Theory Y, the work tends to be organized around wider areas of skill or knowledge; Employees are also encouraged to develop expertise and make suggestions and improvements.

Rewards and Appraisals Theory X organizations work on a ‘carrot and stick’ basis, and performance appraisal is part of the overall mechanisms of control and remuneration. In Theory Y organizations, appraisal is also regular and important, but is usually a separate mechanism from organizational controls. Theory Y organizations also give employees frequent opportunities for promotion.

Application Although Theory X management style is widely accepted as inferior to others, it has its place in large scale production operation and unskilled production-line work. Many of the principles of Theory Y are widely adopted by types of organization that value and encourage participation. Theory Y-style management is suited to knowledge work and professional services. Professional service organizations naturally evolve Theory Y-type practices by the nature of their work; Even highly structure knowledge work, such as call center operations, can benefits from Theory Y principles to encourage knowledge sharing and continuous improvement.

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