This is the third in a four part series examining the relationship between management theories and personal productivity.
Douglas McGregor lived from 1906 to 1964 and was a professor at MIT. Four years before his death, he published his theory on management, which is known as theory X and theory Y.
Theory X is that employees are lazy and don’t want to work. Under this theory, managers must create very structured environments in order for work to get done. They don’t trust the employees and often see themselves in competition with them. This leads to managers who run their business as a dictatorship.
Theory Y is a different way for managers to look at their employees. It is the opposite of X in that it believes that employees want to work in a fulfilling job. Given the right direction and guidance, employees will perform well. Managers using this approach are generally less autocratic, trust employees and look out for their well being.
McGregor felt that employees will generally reflect how the manager views the employee. He felt that the way to motivate workers depends more on the outlook of the manager because they will shape how the employees behave.
This is an interesting view. Looking inward, it would seem to suggest that our performance is, at least somewhat, based on the opinion of people around us. It is also influenced by our view of ourselves.
If you don’t see yourself as someone who is highly productive, you probably won’t be. Obviously, this creates a chicken and the egg problem. You can’t change your perception until you change your habits and vice versa. The key is to change both your habits and your perception simultaneously by bootstrapping them off of each other. Give yourself small steps and notice when you achieve your goals. This will increase your confidence which, in turn, will increase your abilities.
If we do change to become the way people view us, then it is wise to carefully choose who we spend our time with. If you are spending a great deal of your time with people who put down your skills and abilities, it will have a negative impact on your performance.
In summary, if we apply McGregor’s views to our personal productivity, we need to be aware of how we view ourselves and how others view us. We can increase our performance by realizing that the way people view us and the way we view ourselves impacts what we can accomplish.
Originally published October 29, 2005.