A site of endless curiosity

Reevaluation – Thirty-six assumptions about people in the workplace

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Back in the 1960’s there was this crazy management theory called “Theory Y” dreamt up by McGregor.

Imagine this

Theory Y management, in which the essential task “is to arrange organizational conditions and methods of operation so that people can achieve their own goals best by directing their own efforts toward organizational objectives”

The list below are assumptions of Theory Y. 

I wonder, in 2010, how many of these assumptions seem a throw back to the age of ideological TV sitcoms like Leave it to Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet, Bewitched, and similar?  Or, are these assumptions about people, in the face of Enron, Global Crossing, and the modern workplace, looked upon as fond memories of the past – a place where we can never return. 

Better question yet – Were any of these ever true?  Or were they just a projection of a an academic idealism that was never true or realistic – just like a 1960’s family sitcom?

1. Assume everyone is to be trusted.
2. Assume everyone is to be informed as completely
as possible of as many facts and truths as
3. Assume in all your people the impulse to achieve.
4. Assume that there is no dominance-subordination
hierarchy in the jungle sense or the authoritarian
5. Assume that everyone will have the same ultimate
managerial objectives and will identify
with them no matter where they are in the organization
or in the hierarchy.
6. . . . assume good will among all the members of
the organization rather than rivalry or jealousy.

6a. Synergy [combined action] is also assumed.
7. Assume that the individuals involved are healthy
8. Assume that the organization is healthy enough.
9. Assume the “Ability to Admire.”
10. . . . assume that the people in eupsychian plants
are not fixated at the safety-need level.
11. Assume an active trend to self-actualization.
12. Assume that everyone can enjoy good teamwork,
friendship, good group spirit, good group
harmony, good belongingness, and group love.
13. Assume hostility to be primarily reactive rather
than character based.
14. Assume that people can take it.
15. . . . assume that people are improvable.
16. Assume that everyone prefers to feel important,
needed, useful, successful, proud, respected,
rather than unimportant, interchangeable, anonymous,
wasted, unused, expendable, disrespected.
17. Assume that everyone prefers or perhaps even
needs to love his boss (rather than to hate him),
and that everyone prefers to respect his boss
(rather than to disrespect him).
18. Assume that everyone dislikes fearing anyone
(more than he likes fearing anyone), but that he
prefers fearing the boss to despising the boss.
19. . . . assume everyone prefers to be a prime mover
rather than a passive helper, a tool, a cork tossed
about on the waves.
20. Assume a tendency to improve things, to
straighten the crooked picture on the wall, to
clean up the dirty mess, to put things right, make
things better, to do things better.
21. Assume that growth occurs through delight and
through boredom.
22. Assume preference for being a whole person and
not a part, not a thing or an implement, or tool,
or “hand.”
23. Assume the preference for working rather than
being idle.
24. Assume all human beings, not only eupsychian
ones, prefer meaningful work to meaningless
25. Assume the preference for personhood, uniqueness
as a person, identity (in contrast to being
anonymous or interchangeable).
26. . . . assume that the person is courageous enough
for eupsychian processes.
27. . . . assume non-psychopathy (a person must
have a conscience, must be able to feel shame,
embarrassment, sadness, etc.).
28. . . . assume the wisdom and the efficacy of selfchoice.
29. . . . assume that everyone likes to be justly and
fairly appreciated, preferably in public.
30. . . . assume the defense and growth dialectic for
all these positive trends that we have already
listed above.
31. Assume that everyone but especially the more
developed persons prefer responsibility to
dependency and passivity most of the time.
32. . . . assume that people will get more pleasure out
of loving than they will out of hating (although
the pleasures of hating are real and should not be
33. Assume that fairly well-developed people would
rather create than destroy.
34. Assume that fairly well-developed people would
rather be interested than be bored.
35. . . . assume at the highest theoretical levels of
eupsychian theory, a preference or a tendency to
identify with more and more of the world,
moving toward the ultimate of mysticism, a
fusion with the world, or peak experience,
cosmic consciousness, etc.
36. Finally we shall have to work out the assumption
of the meta-motives (the ways in which a person
whose lower needs are met pursues the realization
of self-actualization and the B-values) and
the meta-pathologies (resulting from the lack of
meeting the meta-needs), of the yearning for the
“B-values,” i.e., truth, beauty, justice, perfection,
and so on.

Is Theory Y any more realistic?

In this theory, which has been proven counter-effective in most modern practice, management assumes employees are inherently lazy and will avoid work if they can and that they inherently dislike work. As a result of this, management believes that workers need to be closely supervised and comprehensive systems of controls developed. A hierarchical structure is needed with narrow span of control at each and every level. According to this theory, employees will show little ambition without an enticing incentive program and will avoid responsibility whenever they can.

The Theory X manager tends to believe that everything must end in blaming someone. He or she thinks all prospective employees are only out for themselves. Usually these managers feel the sole purpose of the employee’s interest in the job is money. They will blame the person first in most situations, without questioning whether it may be the system, policy, or lack of training that deserves the blame. A Theory X manager believes that his or her employees do not really want to work, that they would rather avoid responsibility and that it is the manager’s job to structure the work and energize the employee. One major flaw of this management style is it is much more likely to cause Diseconomies of Scale in large businesses.

The Situational Perspective – Theory Z

Read more about Theory Z

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A Savage Factory: An Eyewitness Account of the Auto Industry’s Self-Destruction


Written by frrl

August 7, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. The listing you presented is not a listing of Theory Y assumptions. Rather, they are the eupsychian management assumptions of Abe Maslow. The list represents the ideal–and still do. Theory Y goes part of the way, but doesn’t deal adequately with the transcender SA’s, which is why Maslow developed “Theory Z” apart from Bill Ouchi, who was the unintended brand hijacker.


    August 8, 2010 at 12:59 am

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