Theories X and Y about motivation to work

What motivates you to work hard? According to Douglas McGregor, there are two categorizations of what motivates people: Theory X and Theory Y.

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Theory X

Theory X suggests that people work for extrinsic reasons – in other words, money! This theory is linked to management and leadership, and assumes that workers are lazy, selfish and generally sloppy in their work. As a result, managers with this approach believe that their employees should be given really simplistic tasks, little independence or freedom, and tasks that don’t involve much creativity.

Theory Y

Theory Y suggests that people are motivated by intrinsic reasons, as opposed to extrinsic reasons. What this means is that they are working for reasons that go well beyond money, and include reasons, such as feeling satisfied with themselves, increasing self-esteem, helping others, etc. This is really an approach to management and leadership. A manager who takes a Theory Y approach gives workers more freedom so that they can be independent, strive for success, and be more creative.

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