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Readiness Recipes

The X-Theory Manager

October 5, 2012 by Dr. Jon Warner in Readiness Recipes

The X-Theory Manager

In his book, The Human Side of Enterprise, the management writer, Douglas McGregor suggests that there are two theories about working with employees — Theory X and Theory Y. Under Theory X, employees are considered by a manager, at least philosophically, to be inherently lazy and will avoid work if they can and even that they inherently dislike hard work, preferring to find ways to avoid it. As a result of this, a manager adopting this view believes that his or her employees need to be closely supervised and controlled most of the time. According to this theory, employees will show little ambition without an enticing incentive program and will tend to avoid responsibility. Managers who adopt a theory X view therefore typically rely heavily on clear or perhaps subtle manipulation and coercion to gain their employees’ compliance.  However, there are times in which a theory X management approach is actually quite appropriate and even necessary to get the results that the organization is looking for. That is, Theory X has its place at times, and can be a positive approach to adopt if the situation calls for it.

Ingredients:Readiness Recipes

  • Alert to shortfalls
  • Challenging mediocrity
  • Conflict management ability
  • Fact focus
  • Straight-talking
  • Target-focused

Ingredients should be added, blended well and left to mature over time:

  • Alert to shortfalls involves setting up as many performance shortfall “early warning systems” as necessary to ensure that individuals can be encouraged or coached before gaps widen.
  • Challenging mediocrity is about a manager challenging him or herself and others on the team to do the best work possible and not to accept lackluster performance, or results.
  • Conflict management ability refers to a manager’s capacity to manage any conflict encountered (conflict in which he or she is causing or is others making) so as to ensure that employees stay focused, work hard and are not distracted.
  • Fact-focused is about being concerned to establish solid evidence when making important decisions. It also involves challenging beliefs and assumptions in order to discover root causes, rather than guesses and hypotheses that may not be substantiated by evidence.
  • Straight-talking is the ability to be frank and use clear communication rather than technical language, avoiding indirect or abstract communication, so that people clearly understand standards or instructions.
  • Target-focused is about setting clear objectives creating long term plans with well-described milestones and ensuring that effective measurement systems are in place to track progress.
The X-Theory Manager has all of these ingredients; no substitutions or omissions can be made to the recipe.

“Readiness Recipes” is a new article series exploring 26 different kinds of managers A-Z and the key ingredients that each needs for success. Stay tuned for more recipes and thanks for reading!

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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