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we will never get people to direct their efforts voluntarily towards organizational goals. . . .
Work becomes a kind of punishment [people] undergo in order to get those things they require for need satisfaction after they leave the job” (1967, 47).
Second, only a few people in any population are likely to reach the stages of esteem or
self-actualization (Hansen 2000), and there are not that many jobs in the economy that realistically provide the opportunity for employees to self-actualize (Lethbridge 1986, 90).
This is not a trivial point: McGregor, citing work by Herzberg and others, claimed “opportunities for ‘self-actualization’ are the essential requirements of both job satisfaction and
high performance” (1960, 55). If this is the case, then satisfaction in one’s job is a rare event
regardless of managers’ assumptions. McGregor was concerned about this problem (1960,
223). In The Professional Manager, he seems to argue that the solution can be found in how
a manager structures different jobs (McGregor 1967, 76–77). This is not a trivial solution:
McGregor argued that managers could have a profound impact on their subordinates’ senses
of self and self-worth (1967, 72–75). Unfortunately, McGregor passed on before he could
develop these ideas more fully.
Third, if Maslow’s hierarchy is culturally biased, then McGregor’s model is limited
as well. If one concedes that Maslow’s model is Western in outlook and that he never intended any broader application, then as America’s population diversiﬁes, any Maslowian
theory of management will become less and less relevant. It is projected that by 2050, the
majority of U.S. citizens will be of non-Western descent, meaning that McGregor’s theory
would apply to less than 8 percent of the country’s population (assuming that current U.S.
immigrants or succeeding generations of immigrants do not adopt traditional American values). As this demographic trend continues, McGregor’s ideas would ﬁnd even less validity.
Finally, Rowan (1999) argues that people moving down the hierarchy of needs respo...
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