Theory 'X' and theory 'Y' - Motivation Theory | Two Factor Theory

Updated: Nov 4, 2020

The two-factor theory states that there are certain factors in the workplace that cause job satisfaction while a separate set of factors cause dissatisfaction, all of which act independently of each other. Douglas McGregor concluded that a manager’s view of the nature of human beings is based on a certain grouping of assumptions and he or she tends to mold his or her behavior toward employees according to these assumptions.

Theory X assumptions are basically negative.

  • Employees inherently dislike work and, whenever possible, will attempt to avoid it.

  • Since employees dislike work, they must be coerced, controlled, or threatened with punishment.

  • Employees will avoid responsibilities and seek formal direction whenever possible.

  • Most workers place security above all other factors and will display little ambition.



Theory Y assumptions are basically positive.

  • Employees can view work as being as natural as rest or play.

  • People will exercise self-direction and self-control if they are committed to the objectives.

  • The average person can learn to accept, even seek, responsibility.

  • The ability to make innovative decisions is widely dispersed throughout the population.


What are the implications for managers? This is best explained by using Maslow’s framework:

  • Theory X assumes that lower-order needs dominate individuals.

  • Theory Y assumes that higher-order needs dominate individuals.

  • McGregor himself held to the belief that Theory Y assumptions were more valid than Theory X.

  • There is no evidence to confirm that either set of assumptions is valid.

  • Either Theory X or Theory Y assumptions may be appropriate in a particular situation.


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