Friday, October 31, 2008

Personality Assumptions

I recently went back in time (1960) to read an article by Douglas McGregor. In The Human Side of Enterprise Douglas describes two interesting concepts of human nature, Theory X and Theory Y. As I read his two lists of assumptions I realized that I have known and worked with supervisors and managers that actually buy in to Theory X a lot more than Theory Y.

Assumptions of employees falling into Theory X goes like this:
  • Work is inherently distasteful.
  • The average person is lazy and unambitious.
  • People prefer close supervision.
  • Typical workers avoid responsibility.
  • The principal worker incentive is money.
  • Workers must be coerced or bribed to achieve the organization's goals.
If you subscribe to the Theory X concept, I think you have some soul searching to do. Now don't get me wrong, there are people who fall into portions of this concept but research over the past few years has proven a number of these points wrong.

Check out Theory Y:
  • People enjoy work.
  • Work is as natural as play.
  • Recognition and self-fulfillment are as important as money.
  • Employees are committed to their work.
  • Employees exercise self-direction and seek responsibility.
  • Workers at all levels will exhibit creativity and ingenuity when given the chance.
As research and surveys have been showing, I think Douglas was way ahead of his time. Compare employee attitude and management styles of the '60's to today and you'll see just what I'm talking about.

These two theories determine just how you interact with your employee's. It determines what motivation (or unmotivational) tactics you use. It determines your overall relationship with your employee's.

Human nature causes us to act on our assumptions, opinions, etc. Take a step back and look at the true attitudes of your employee's and compare that to your assumptions - and act on it.

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