Have you ever had a boss or teacher who believed that you could do well – if so, then you probably responded to that belief by doing your very best – better than you might have for the boss or teacher who didn’t think much of your abilities.

I know it’s a bit sad, but I love theories – though only if they stand up to the test of our practical experience. If they do – then they’re really helpful. The one I’m writing about in this blog is Douglas McGregor’s X and Y theory of motivation.

Our behaviour follows our beliefs; so McGregor said that if a manager believes that their employees only work because they have to, need to be forced to work by rewards or punishments, and must be very closely supervised, then that manager may well find their belief to be true. This is a Theory X manager.

On the other hand, if a manager believes that their employees enjoy work, are likely to come up with great ideas or improvements, and can work with little supervision, then that manager may also find their belief to be true. This is a Theory Y manager.

Most organisations benefit from a Theory Y approach – though there are a few where Theory X is more appropriate – and this means that managers should resist the temptation to be authoritarian, prescriptive and micro-managing so that employees can develop skills and responsibility for taking the organisation forward.

Are you X or Y? If you’d like to find out, e-mail: sharonfirth@inspireaway.co.uk and I’ll send you a questionnaire.