X-Y Theory

Douglas McGregor proposed the X-Y theory in his 1960 book called The Human Side of

Enterprise. [5] McGregor’s theory gives us a starting point to understanding how management style can

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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.


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