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Bobic-and-Davis-A-Kind-Word-for-Theory-X - ARTICLES A Kind...

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ABSTRACT Forty-three years ago, Douglas McGregor’s The Human Side of Enterprise offered managers a new assumption of management (Theory Y), which would be more effective than what he considered then-current management assumptions (Theory X). While McGregor’s Theory Y model has been widely adopted in management literature as the preferred model, Theory X management still persists in practice. Moreover, many efforts to introduce management ini- tiatives based on Theory Y have failed to reform the workplace or worker attitudes. While most explanations of these failures focus on training, implementation, or sabotage, this arti- cle proposes several defects in Theory Y that have contributed to these failures. Theory Y is based upon an incomplete theory of human motivation that erroneously assumes that all people are creative (and want to be creative) in the same way. Important research by Michael Kirton presents a different model of creativity that explains the failure of Theory Y and justifies Theory X as an important managerial theory and strategy. Theory X persists not be- cause of circumstances or the nature of particular jobs, but because different people have personalities that respond to Theory X management better than to Theory Y management. But if the times and circumstances change, [a leader] will fail for he will not alter his policy. There is no man so prudent that he can accommodate himself to these changes, because no one can go contrary to the way nature has inclined him, and because, having always prospered in pursuing a par- ticular method, he will not be persuaded to depart from it. . . . If he were able to adapt his nature to changing circumstances, however, his fortunes would not change. — Nicolo Machiavelli, The Prince A Kind Word for Theory X: Or Why So Many Newfangled Management Techniques Quickly Fail Michael P. Bobic Emmanuel College William Eric Davis Community College Southern Nevada DOI: 10.1093/jopart/mug022 Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory , Vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 239–264 © 2003 Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Inc. ARTICLES We thank Dr. Beryl Radin and the anonymous reviewers, whose contributions greatly improved this draft. We would also like to thank Dr. Bob Cunningham (University of Tennessee at Knoxville), Mike Berheide (Berea College), and Bob Berman (Marshall University) for their support and inspiration. All errors are solely those of the authors.
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If man is not what conventional organizational theory assumes him to be, then much of the organization planning carried on within the framework of that theory is nothing more than a game of logic. —Douglas McGregor, quoted in Warren Bennis, Edgar H. Schein, and Caroline McGregor, Douglas McGregor, Revisited: Managing the Human Side of Enterprise In 1960, Douglas McGregor published The Human Side of Enterprise ( THSE ), funda- mentally altering the course of management theory. McGregor’s perspective was that management was more than simply giving orders and coercing obedience; it was a careful
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