The purpose of this paper is to make a case for the co‐existence of Theories X and Y assumptions in everyone. The author does this by comparing the works of Douglas McGregor and Frederick W. Taylor, “the father of scientific management,” after having lived with their legacies for several decades as manager and consultant. The author shows how the striking similarities in their values diverged in practice and how the author learned to integrate their voices in himself.
Personal cases are used showing how the author learned to improve workplaces while tracing his roots from McGregor to Taylor and back, drawing on a few of more than 260 sources the author cited in Productive Workplaces (1987, 2004).
Putting theories into practice for the author involved not only devising new policies, procedures, and structures but also going on a never‐ending journey of self‐discovery. Second, theories X and Y may have originated in McGregor's own projections on his father, just as Taylor's scientific management may be understood as an expression of his Quaker roots. Third, the tension between X and Y in all of us is a reality to appreciate, not a battle requiring that we take sides.
The author offers this paper as a corrective to two popular myths from his years as a manager/consultant. One is that “Theory Y” managers are superior to “Theory X types” when they often may be the same people. Two is that Taylor is the boogey‐man who corrupted workplaces by forcing people into mindless jobs. In fact his systems were eagerly embraced by countless others and paradoxically coexist today, even in workplaces whose managers believe passionately in human capability.
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