Douglas McGregor's landmark book, The Human Side of Enterprise
(1960), changed the path of management thinking and practice.
Questioning some of the fundamental assumptions about human behavior in
organizations, he outlined a new role for managers: rather than
commanding and controlling subordinates, managers should assist them in
reaching their full potential. At the foundation of McGregor's
Theory Y are the assumptions that employees are: (1) not inherently
lazy, (2) capable of self-direction and self-control, and (3) capable of
providing important ideas/suggestions that will improve organizational
effectiveness. Thus, with appropriate management practices, such as
providing objectives and rewards and the opportunity to participate in
decision making, personal and organizational goals can simultaneously be
realized. In contrast to Theory Y, McGregor posited that conventional
managerial assumptions (which he called Theory X) reflect essentially an
opposite and negative view--viz., that employees are lazy, are incapable
of self-direction and autonomous work behavior, and have little to offer
in terms of organizational problem solving. Hereafter, we refer to
McGregor's theorizing as Theory X/Y.
Indicative of McGregor's impact, Miner's (2003) review of
73 established organizational behavior theories found that Theory X/Y
was tied for second in terms of recognition and in 33rd place with
respect to importance. By the time The Human Side of Enterprise was
republished in 1985, it had become a classic with the book jacket
reading like a Who's Who in Management. Drucker hailed it as
"ever more relevant, more timely, and more important."
Townsend called it "the most powerful and useful book about people
I've ever read." Kanter claimed it contained "profound
and timeless truths." Waterman declared it "a classic text
that is a fundamental touchstone for anyone in management and
organizational development." Bennis wrote "... this book, more
than any other book on management, changed an entire concept of
organizational man and replaced it with a new paradigm that stressed
human potentials, emphasized human growth, and elevated the human role
in industrial society" (McGregor, 1985: iv).
However, as Miner noted in his comprehensive (2002) text on
organizational behavior theories and research, "[t]here are very
few direct tests of McGregor's formulation in the literature ...
Furthermore, McGregor himself conducted no research related to his
formulations, nor did he attempt to make his variables operational in
any kind of measurement procedures" (2002: 261). In our view,
McGregor's theorizing about the effects of individual differences
in managerial assumptions has remained virtually unexamined due to the
absence of prior construct validation research. Clearly, it is not
possible to test McGregor's theory if the central construct--the
assumptive world (or cosmology) of the focal manager--lacks a published,
construct-valid measure. In light of this long overdue undertaking, the
present research reports on the development and construct validation of
a measure of Theory X and Theory Y assumptions/attitudes.
McGregor identified a number of management practices that he
thought were consonant with Theory Y assumptions (such as participative
leadership, delegation, job enlargement and performance appraisals).
Consequently--and unfortunately in our view--tests of the efficacy of
these management practices were often interpreted as a proxy for
assessing the validity of McGregor's theorizing. Successful
implementation of participative leadership, for example, is at best only
tangentially related to McGregor's theorizing. Moreover, McGregor
recognized that implementation of these practices with a Theory X
mindset will be limitedly successful, with employees seeing such
techniques as disingenuous manipulations (Heil et al., 2000; McGregor,
At the heart of McGregor's argument is the notion that
managers' assumptions/attitudes represent, potentially,
self-fulfilling prophecies. The manager who believes that people are
inherently lazy and untrustworthy will treat employees in a manner that
reflects these attitudes. Employees, sensing that there is little in the
job to spur their involvement, will exhibit little interest and
motivation. Consequently, and ironically, the manager with low
expectations will lament that "you can't get good help
nowadays," oblivious as to the actual nature of cause and effect.
Closing the serf-reinforcing cycle, the manager feels vindicated; that
is, his/ her low expectations were warranted. Conversely, the manager
who believes that employees are generally trustworthy and desirous of
growth will facilitate their achievement. McGregor's explanation
was that the manager had created conditions that enabled "the
individual to achieve his [her] own goals (including those of
self-actualization) best by directing his [her] efforts toward
organizational goals" (1967: 78). Subsequently, numerous, more
intricate, psychological and social-psychological mechanisms have been
invoked to explain this phenomenon (e.g., Bandura and Locke, 2003; Eden,
1990; Heil et al., 2000; McNatt and Judge, 2004).
McGregor (1957, 1967) noted that some businesses were adopting
practices that could be expected to yield superior results, such as
decentralization and delegation, job enlargement,
participative/consultative management, and performance appraisal.
However, he also observed that these programs often were unsuccessful
due to the way they were implemented. When those executing the programs
did so with Theory X attitudes or within organizations with Theory X
climates, the programs would be likely to fail--perhaps another
Eden (1990) reported on numerous field experiments demonstrating
that when managers were led to have high expectations of some
subordinates (based on fictitious information), the subordinates
outperformed their peers. Attempting to apply this finding to leadership
training--but without using deception--Eden et al. found weak results in
seven field experiments, results they characterized as "a
disheartening basis for practical application" (2000: 195). Indeed,
Eden et al. went on to say that leadership training, in general, may be
unrealistic; some managers "have it naturally and some do not, and
those that do not cannot be trained, coaxed, or coached to have it"
(2000: 204; emphasis added). However, neither the early nor the latter
studies by Eden and his colleagues speak to McGregor's theorizing;
in all of Eden et al.'s research, expectations were artificially
manufactured. In contrast, McGregor's theory relates to organic
differences in managers' assumptive worlds (or cosmologies). To
wit: perhaps the Theory Y managers "have it."
To our knowledge, only one field investigation (Fiman, 1973) has
been conducted that speaks directly to the posited effects of Theory Y
managerial attitudes. In Fiman's study of female clerical employees
and their supervisors in one corporation, a perceived Theory Y
managerial orientation was positively related to job satisfaction but
unrelated to job performance. Fiman's X/Y attitude items were never
published and the only construct validity information Fiman (1973)
reported was split-half reliability coefficients.
Although McGregor's Theory X/Y may be characterized as
representing a dispositional mindset suggestive of a one-best-way to
manage, McGregor recognized that a Theory Y managerial style will not be
appropriate in all situations (Heil et al., 2000; McGregor, 1967). In
any event, before McGregor's theory and numerous
theoretically-related propositions can be researched (see the Discussion
section), it is necessary to develop a construct-valid measure of the
central concept. Accordingly, we see the present endeavor as a critical
first step in assessing the substantive validity of McGregor's
We distributed surveys to undergraduate and graduate students in
business at two east coast colleges from 2002 to 2006. Participation was
voluntary and anonymous. The final sample consisted of 512 participants
with a mean age of 28 years (using midpoints of categories and age 55
for 50+) and was 56% female. Nearly 80 percent of respondents were
currently or recently employed, with 68% working in the private sector.
The largest categories of employment were financial services (24%),
health care (20%) and miscellaneous professional services (16%).
Respondents tended to work for either very large organizations with over
1,000 employees (44%) or small organizations with fewer than 100 (32%),
with 24% working for organizations of intermediate size. Their mean
annual salary was $55,800.
The survey consisted initially (N = 159) of four principal
sections: 17 items measuring Theory X and Theory Y attitudes (drawn from
two sources described below); 19 items measuring Theory X and Theory Y
behaviors (drawn from two prior works); five items measuring faith in
people; and five items measuring fast food opinions. A fifth section
consisting of three items relating to leisure time activities was added
to the later version of the survey (N = 353). With regard to our
theorized nomological network, we reasoned that Theory X/ Y attitudes
and assumptions would be closely related to Theory X/Y behaviors and
that Theory X/Y attitudes and behaviors would be positively but distally
related to generalized faith in people. However, we could see no reason
why opinions about fast food meals and leisure-time activity preferences
would be related to Theory X/Y attitudes or behaviors.
Theory X/Y Attitudes and Assumptions were assessed by 17 items (see
Appendix) drawn from two sources. We incorporated ten items from a scale
entitled "McGregor's Theory X-Y Test" (Swenson, n.d.) and
seven items were selected from the "Theory Y/Theory X Leadership
Assumption Test" (Scanlon Leadership Network, n.d.). The latter
source consisted initially of ten items, but three were dropped because
they mirrored items in the first scale. All 17 items were scored on a
five-point Likert scale with end-points ranging from "strongly
disagree" to "strongly agree." Scanlon's Leadership
Assumption Test is a product of the Scanlon Leadership Network and the
measure appeared on their website (www.scanlonleader.org).
McGregor's Theory Y aligns with Scanlon's belief that
organizations can be more effective if information is shared between
managers and employees, and the latter are involved in problem solving.
It might be noted that in both of McGregor's books (1960/1985,
1966) an entire chapter was devoted to the Scanlon Plan. There is no
available evidence supporting the reliability and validity of the scores
on either the Scanlon or the Swenson measures. Cronbach alpha for these
17 items (hereafter, the "17-item X/Y attitude scale") was
.78. It should be noted that the authors only became aware of
Fiman's (1973) research after the present investigation was well
underway. Likewise, we have recently discovered a few more scales
published in organizational behavior textbooks, some combining attitudes
and behaviors; none with psychometric data or construct validity
evidence. Two non-public-domain instruments exist, one only available
commercially (Teleometrics International, 1995). A list of all known X/Y
scales, including properties and construct validity evidence is provided
in Table 1.
Theory X/Y Behaviors were assessed by 19 items drawn from two
sources. We incorporated 15 statements adapted from Costley and
Todd's (1987) list of managerial actions that result from Theory X
and Theory Y beliefs and we also used the four-item measure developed by
Miles (1964). Costley and Todd (1987) listed seven actions that result
from Theory X beliefs and six actions that result from Theory Y beliefs.
We modified these items slightly to improve clarity. A sample item
is" "The amount of responsibility given to employees should be
limited and controlled." Miles' (1964) scale was originally
developed to measure managers' attitudes about participative
leadership policies. Miles' items were slightly modified (e.g.,
changing "subordinates" to "employees"). Response
options used the above described five-point Likert scale. Cronbach alpha
for these 19 items (hereafter, the "19-item X/Y behavior
scale") was .71.
Faith in People was assessed by five items (two forced choice items
and three agree-disagree statements) from Rosenberg (1957). Positive
responses indicate an absence of faith in people; we reverse coded
responses, with scores ranging from 1 (low faith) to 6 (high faith).
Validity evidence might be adduced from the occupational choices of the
4,585 nationwide college students who completed the instrument years ago
(cf. Robinson and Shaver, 1973). Students with a high faith-in-people
score selected people-oriented occupations such as social work, human
resource management, and teaching. Both men and women with low scores
tended to select occupations such as sales, finance, and advertising.
Cronbach alpha in the present study was .55.
Fast Food Opinion Scale consisted of five items developed by the
authors to measure opinions about fast food meals. A sample item is:
"On the whole, I would say that a meal consisting of a
McDonald's hamburger, fries and soda is an ideal meal."
Response options used the same five-point Likert scale. Cronbach alpha
for this study was .76.
Leisure-Time Activity items were also developed by the authors to
serve as unrelated measures. A sample item is: "Roughly how many
hours per week do you spend watching television?" Response
alternatives were 0-4 hours, 5-10 hours, and more than 10 hours, with
corresponding scores of 1 to 3, respectively. The other two leisure
items related to number of movies attended annually and hours per week
spent reading for pleasure. Because each of the leisure time items
entailed the expenditure of time, we found moderate levels of
intercorrelations: rs of .27, .30, and .34.
It has long been recognized that an assessment of the construct
validity of a measure should precede substantive research (e.g., Schwab,
1980). Accordingly, we conducted a number of empirical analyses to
develop a construct-valid measure of Theory X/Y attitudes. Table 2
presents descriptive statistics, reliabilities, and intercorrelations
among the variables utilized in these analyses.
Factor Analysis and Creation of an Abbreviated Scale
We performed CFA using structural equation modeling with LISREL
(Version 8.53; Joreskog and Sorbom, 2002). We specified a model using
three "parcels" for each of the X/Y attitude and X/Y behavior
scales and two "parcels" for each of the fast food opinion and
trust in people scales. More specifically, the X/Y attitude and X/Y
behavior scale parcels were comprised of 6, 6, and 5 items and 6, 6, and
7 items, respectively, constituting all items of the two scales. The two
parcels related to each of the fast food and trust in people scales
consisted of three and two items. The CFA model's fit statistics
([chi square] = 42.10, df = 29, p = .055, [chi square]/df = 1.45; GFI =
.98; AGFI = .97; CFI, .99; NFI = .98; RMSEA = .03) showed that the
measurement model had very good fit. The ratio of [chi square]/df was
below the recommended value of 3 and the fit statistics values were at
or above the recommended thresholds of 0.9 for NFI, above 0.8 for AGFI,
and the RMSEA value was below the recommended value of 0.10 (Hair et
al., 1998). All X/Y attitude items loaded significantly on their
assigned latent constructs, although one of the parcels for X/Y
behaviors had a coefficient of .64, below the recommended threshold of
.70, and the two parcels for fast food loaded at .68 and .41. This model
had a better fit than alternative models where the three X/Y attitude
and three X/Y behavior "parcels" were loaded onto a single
latent variable ([chi square] = 274.73, df = 32, p = .00, [chi
square]/df = 8.59; GFI = .90; AGFI = .83; CFI, .90; NFI = .89; RMSEA =
.12) and where all ten parcels were loaded onto a single latent variable
([chi square] = 597.51, df = 35, p = .00, [chi square]/df = 17.08; GFI =
.81; AGFI = .70; CFI, .69; NFI = .68; RMSEA = .18).
Given the high degree of conceptual overlap among the 17 Theory X/
Y attitude items, we sought to determine if a shorter scale might be
developed. We conducted a principal axis exploratory factor analysis
(EFA) with Varimax rotation using methodology similar to that employed
by Kelly and Lee (2002) and Sato (2003). (Principal axis factoring is
the preferred exploratory-descriptive method of factor extraction when
analyzing common variance. Orthogonal (i.e., varimax) rotation yields
factors that are maximally independent.) There are varying opinions
concerning the sample size required to perform factor analysis, but it
is generally accepted that 10 respondents per item is sufficient
(Tinsley and Tinsley, 1987), and our sample provided more than 20 cases
per item. We first conducted EFA on the 17 items, suppressing
coefficient values (factor loadings) that were less than .50. This
analysis yielded four factors with eigenvalues > 1.0. The first
factor, with an eigenvalue of 4.4, accounted for 26.1% of the variance.
The second factor had an eigenvalue of 1.30 and accounted for 7.6% of
variance, and the remaining two factors together accounted for 14.0%.
Five items loaded above .50 on three factors. We then conducted a second
iteration of EFA, again suppressing coefficients less than .50. Four
items were retained, loading on a single factor. The items and loadings
are shown in Table 3. Replicating this analysis with an oblique
(Oblimin) rather than a varimax rotation resulted in the same four items
loading on a single factor.
We used these four items to form a shortened measure of
managers' underlying assumptions about their employees. We next
examined internal consistency reliability estimates for all the measures
in the present research, and reviewed evidence pertinent to the
convergent, substantive, and discriminant validity of response scores
using the new four-item Theory X/Y measure.
Table 2 presents internal consistency reliability estimates
(Cronbach [alpha]) on the diagonal. Alpha reliabilities ranged from .55
to .78. The 17-item X/Y attitude scale, the Fast Food Opinion Scale, the
new four-item X/ Y scale, the 19-item X/Y behavior scale, and the
13-item X/Y attitude scale (the 17 X/Y attitudinal items excluding those
in the new four-item X/Y scale) had the highest reliability estimates
(coefficient [alpha] = .78, .76, .72, .71, and .67, respectively). Four
scales showed internal consistency estimates that exceeded
Nunnally's (1978) .70 benchmark. The (five-item) Faith in People
scale had relatively low internal consistency reliability ([alpha] =
.55), but adjusting for scale length (per the Spearman-Brown prophecy
formula), alpha would have been .74.
Convergent, Substantive, and Discriminant Validity
Correlations among the two measures of Theory X/Theory Y
attitudes--viz., the new four-item X/Y scale and the remaining 13 X/Y
attitude items--and the other key variables comprising the theorized
nomological network are summarized in Table 4. The four-item X/Y scale
was seen as conceptually identical to the 13-item X/Y scale, as closely
related to the 19-item X/Y behavior scale, as distally related to the
more generic Faith in People scale, and unrelated to the Fast Food
Opinion scale and the three leisure pursuit items.
A strong relationship was found between the new four-item measure
and the 13-item X/Y attitude scale (r = .66), and this association
exceeded the correlation between the new four-item measure and the
closely related construct of Theory X/Y behaviors (r = .51). Notably,
the four-item X/Y attitude measure was more highly related to the
19-item X/Y behavior scale than was the 13-item X/Y attitude scale (r =
.38). Both the four-item and the 13-item X/Y measures were moderately
related to the distally related construct of Faith in People (rs = .25
and .22, respectively). As anticipated, mean correlations between the
four- and 13-item X/Y attitude measures with the four conceptually
unrelated measures (fast food attitude, movies attended, hours spent
watching television, and hours spend reading for pleasure) were quite
low at r = -.01 and r = -.01, respectively. Further, neither the
four-nor 13-item X/Y attitude measure was sizably related to the four
biographic variables measured: age, sex, salary, and tenure. Examining
correlations using absolute numbers (because the coding of sex was
arbitrary), rs ranged from .04 to .16 with the four-item scale and from
.09 to .13 with the 13-item pool. Overall, therefore, the pattern of
associations is supportive of the theorized nomological network.
We systematically controlled for the potential confounding effects
of biographic variables by performing a hierarchical regression.
Entering age, sex, salary, and tenure in Step 1, we regressed in Step 2
the four-item X/ Y measure on the six dependent variables comprising the
nomological network (Model 1). We also performed this analysis by
regressing the 13-item X/Y measure in Step 2 on the same dependent
variables (Model 2). As shown in Table 5, the Beta coefficient for the
four-item X/Y scale when regressed on the 13-item X/Y scales was .65
(almost identical to the simple bivariate correlation of .66).
Similarly, Beta coefficients for associations between the four- and
13-item X/Y measures and the other six variables in the nomological net
differed from correlations on average by about .03. Further, the
significance of Step 2 (with the four-item measure as the independent
variable) paralleled the theorized network of relationships: F = 60.25
(same construct), F = 25.04 (closely related construct), F = 8.19
(distally-related construct), and for the four unrelated constructs,
Franged from .94 to 2.65.
We also performed a post hoc analysis to see if X/Y attitude scales
were related to industry, along the lines of the prior research on
occupation and scores on the Faith in People scale. We compared 216
participants working in more caring industries (healthcare, travel,
non-profit, public utility, and government) to 233 who worked in
financial services, retail, and miscellaneous professional services
(which included accountants, consultants, and attorneys). We found no
significant difference in X/Y attitudes (for 17-item X/Y attitude scale
(t(447) = .30, p = .77, d = .03); however, we did replicate the earlier
finding that the former had greater faith in people (t(446) = 2.84, p
< .01, d = .27).
Further, we sought to examine the generalizability of our results
by performing our EFA analyses separately for respondents with less than
three years of tenure on their current job and those with three or more
years of job tenure. Using a cut-point of three years is meaningful
because the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (US Department of Labor, 2006)
reports that the median tenure of wage and salary workers in the private
sector in 2006 was 3.6 years. The EFA results for the two subgroups
yielded very similar four-item scales, and they would have been
identical except one item loaded at .49 after the first iteration and
was dropped from the second EFA analysis, with the minimum loading for
retention being .50.
The present evidence suggests that the new four-item measure of
Theory X/Y assumptions/attitudes is psychometrically sound and
reasonably construct valid. The scale taps most of the central concepts
pertinent to Theory X/Y--viz., whether employees are lazy, are
trustworthy, are capable of self-control and self-motivation, and have
ambition. Accordingly, it would seem appropriate to use this measure in
the conduct of substantive research regarding relationships between
individual differences in X/Y assumptions/attitudes and variables
related to human behavior in organizations.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
Summarizing results, we have described the development of a new
four-item Theory X/Y attitude measure and presented construct validity
evidence. The measure is content valid, has adequate reliability, and
behaves as postulated with respect to a theorized nomological network.
However, there are a number of limitations and areas for future
research that need to be addressed. First, the present validation
evidence was provided primarily by employees who also happened to be
students. Although we found very similar results upon splitting our
sample based on years of work experience, it would be desirable to
examine data drawn directly from a field setting. Second, part of the
construct validation process should include the examination of
substantive results. We would have increased confidence in the validity
of our measure if we had collected data showing that work groups led by
Theory Y managers had higher levels of employee creativity, and perhaps
even superior levels of work-unit performance. Third, we view the new
four-item Theory X/Y attitude measure as a start, and not the
"final word" in terms of instrument development. Our pool of
17 items was comprised of far more Theory X (13) than Theory Y
statements (four). This may have contributed to the four-item Theory X/Y
scale being comprised solely of Theory X statements. Accordingly, future
research, drawing on an expanded and more evenly balanced set of Theory
X/Y statements, might yield a different, possibly multidimensional
measure. This would empirically address one reviewer's suggestion
that the four-item scale might be alternatively labeled a Theory X
scale. Future research should also attempt to tease out genetic versus
personal attitudes (i.e., towards "employees in general"
versus "me as an employee"). Perhaps the present research may
spur the undertaking of additional construct validation research.
Yet, as we noted earlier, the paucity of substantive research on
the effects of Theory Y managerial assumptions/ attitudes may be
attributed to the absence of a construct valid measure that is freely
available to researchers. How can McGregor's theory be tested if
the focal construct has essentially gone unmeasured? Furthermore,
interventions consistent with Theory Y attitudes, such as participative
leadership, should not be viewed as proxies for measuring managerial
attitudes. Yet the key issue that seemingly has eluded most management
scholars, even to this day, is that Theory Y pertains to an individual
difference variable reflecting assumptions about people at work--it is
not a specific set of recommended management practices. For example, in
his book review of Douglas McGregor, Revisited, Jacobs called the
authors--Heil, Bennis, and Stephens--to task for balking "at
involving workers to the degree contemplated in the Scanlon plans,"
rather instead endorsing "the diluted tonic of open book management
as an acceptable substitute" (2004: 295).
There are many fascinating substantive questions that can be
researched now that the more fundamental task of construct validation
has been initially addressed. We list a few below.
Coaching and Development. McGregor (1966) asserted that managerial
attitudes reflect deep-seated (and possibly unconscious) beliefs;
similarly, Locke (2003) observed that the Pygmalion effect does not
operate consciously and that leaders deny that they treat different
people differently. Perhaps this partially accounts for the difficulty
Eden et al. (2000) encountered in using one- to three-day workshops to
"train" managers to adopt successfully the Pygmalion
Leadership Style. Along these lines, Heil et al. wrote: "Douglas
McGregor's most important legacy was neither Theory X nor Theory Y.
It was his insistence that managers question their core assumptions
about human nature...." (2000: 20). Thus, our measure of Theory X/Y
attitudes might serve as a self-administered diagnostic tool that
enables managers to achieve greater self-awareness of their attitudes
and assumptions about managing people at work.
There has also been general agreement among both academics and
practitioners that a new social/psychological contract has been
emerging--one that emphasizes new employer and employee
responsibilities. Employers are now expected to provide training,
education, and skill development opportunities, involve employees in
decision making, and foster challenging and stimulating work
opportunities; and employees are now responsible for developing their
own careers, taking initiative, and participating in organizational
decision making (Boswell et al., 2001). From this perspective, the new
employment relationship assumes a Theory Y view with respect to what
employees are willing and able to contribute to the organization, with
corresponding employer responsibilities.
Boundary Conditions. Are there boundary conditions that moderate
the efficacy of Theory Y managerial attitudes? Does organizational
climate serve as one such boundary condition; for example, will a
manager with Theory Y inclinations be less successful in a
command-and-control type of environment? Are Sutton and Woodman (1989)
correct in their conjecture that a Theory Y managerial style will be
more effective where the work entails challenge and uncertainty? Will
employee expectations about how they should be managed moderate the
effectiveness of Theory Y assumptions/attitudes?
Relatedly, there appears to be an increasing tendency for modern
firms to adopt organic structures with participative
involvement-oriented cultures, empowered self-managed teams, and
managers serving as "coaches" or "facilitators."
This is in contrast to traditional mechanistic structures with
control-oriented cultures emphasizing managerial command and control
(Stevens and Ash, 2001). Implicitly, the decision to empower workers and
to assign corresponding managerial behaviors assumes a Theory Y mindset,
whereas the traditional manner of organizing work could be seen as more
It is possible that it may be an oversimplification to categorize a
manager as having either a Theory X or Theory Y mindset. According to
leader-member exchange theory (Dansereau et al., 1975), managers have
different types of relationships with subordinates who are in-group
members versus those who are out-group members. Furthermore, Campbell
and Swift (2006) found evidence that managers differ in whether they
make internal or external attributions for good and bad performance,
depending on whether the subordinate is an in-group member or not. It is
possible that managers have a Theory Y mindset with respect to in-group
members and a Theory X mindset with respect to out-group members and
engage in correspondingly different managerial behaviors.
Consequences. Most fundamentally, McGregor's theorizing about
the effects of managerial assumptions has not been rigorously examined.
Using field data, the hypothesis that work units led by managers with a
Theory Y orientation will be generally more effective could be
tested--of course, with performance data at the work-unit level. Other
theoretical issues might also be researched--e.g., how enduring are the
effects of a Theory Y orientation? Along these lines, Liden, Wayne and
Stilwell (1993) found that initial managerial expectations influenced
leader-member exchanges, but the effects on performance dissipated after
There is no shortage of books on leadership. Taylor (2004) reported
that Amazon listed 59,366 book titles under the heading
"leadership." Yet a survey of 40,000 workers from 350
organizations found thousands of examples of poor leadership (Taylor,
2004). Sample comments included: "They [supervisors] treat us like
criminals or as if we're on parole--treating us like we mean
nothing and they have no problem getting rid of us." "This is
a very negative, control place...." "I have a manager that
doesn't listen and simply wants to be the boss." Perhaps if
more managers operated according to Theory Y assumptions, Dilbert's
day-to-day experiences with the "pointy-haired boss" would be
of less interest. But before we can test McGregor's Theory Y we
must be able to measure the focal construct.
Items Measuring Theory X/Y Attitudes and Assumptions
1. Most people will try to do as little work as possible.
2. For most people, work is as natural as play or recreation.
3. Most employees must be closely supervised to get them to perform
up to expectations.
4. Most employees actually prefer to be told exactly what to do
rather than having to figure it out for themselves.
5. Most employees do not care much about the organization's
6. Most employees would prefer increased responsibility to
increased job security.
7. Most people will not use their own initiative or do things that
they have not been specifically assigned to do.
8. Employees generally do not have much to contribute when asked to
participate in making decisions or solving problems.
9. It is just basic human nature--people just naturally dislike
10. Most employees will not exercise self-control and
self-motivation--managers must do this for them.
11. Most employees have little ambition.
12. Most people do want responsibility.
13. Most employees prefer to have someone else set their goals and
14. Most people work to eat and pay their bills rather than because
they need to solve problems and be creative.
15. Most employees prefer supervising themselves rather than close
16. Most people are lazy and don't want to work.
17. Most employees can't be trusted.
Bandura, A. and E. A. Locke. 2003. "Negative Self-efficacy and
Goal Effects Revisited." Journal of Applied Psychology 88: 87-99.
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Richard E. Kopelman
Professor of Management
David J. Prottas
Assistant Professor of Management
Anne L. Davis
Tooele Army Depot
* We gratefully acknowledge the helpful comments of our colleagues,
Abe Korman, Alien Kraut, Hannah Rothstein, and Donald Vredenburgh as
well as an anonymous reviewer. Earlier versions of this article were
presented at the 112th Meeting of the American Psychological Association
(2004) and the 22nd Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial and
Organizational Psychology (2007).
Listing of Extant Theory X/Y Attitude and Behavior Scales
Source Type Published Domain
1. Swenson (n. d.) Attitude Yes Yes
2. Scanlon Institute (n. d.) Attitude Yes Yes
3. Costley and Todd (1987) Behavior Yes Yes
4. Miles (1964) Behavior Yes Yes
5. Fiman (1973) Attitude and No Yes
6. Chapman (in Borkowski, Attitude Yes No
7. Greenberg (1999) Behavior Yes Yes
8. Osland, Kolb and Rubin Behavior Yes Yes
9. Baron and Paulus (1991) Attitude Yes Yes
10. Gordon (1999) Attitude and Yes Yes
11. Teleometrics International No
(1995) Attitude Yes
1. Swenson (n. d.) 10 items, 5-point rating
2. Scanlon Institute (n. d.) 10 items 4-point ratingscale
3. Costley and Todd (1987) 10 items, no scaleprovided
4. Miles (1964) Four items, 5-point rating
5. Fiman (1973) 29 attitudinal items and
12 behavioral items,
undefined rating scales
6. Chapman (in Borkowski, 15 items, 5-point rating
7. Greenberg (1999) 8 pairs of forced choice
8. Osland, Kolb and Rubin 10 pairs of forced choice
9. Baron and Paulus (1991) 7 pairs of forced choice
10. Gordon (1999) 12 pairs of forced choice
11. Teleometrics International 36 items, 7-point rating
Source Validity Evidence
1. Swenson (n. d.) None published
2. Scanlon Institute (n. d.) None published
3. Costley and Todd (1987) None published
4. Miles (1964) comparisons of group
5. Fiman (1973) Split-half reliabilities
6. Chapman (in Borkowski, None published
7. Greenberg (1999) None published
8. Osland, Kolb and Rubin None published
9. Baron and Paulus (1991) None published
10. Gordon (1999) None published
11. Teleometrics International Self-published reliabilities
(1995) and correlations.
Descriptive Statistics, Reliability Coefficients, and Correlations
Variable M SD 1 2 3
1. Age 28.30 6.61 --
2. Sex 1.44 .50 -.03 --
3. ($000) 55.79 28.27 .45 *** .14 ** --
4. Tenure 3.10 2.62 .48 *** .06 .28 ***
5. Fast Food 4.43 .61 .02 -.06 .04
6. Leisure TV 1.56 .83 -.12 * .09 -.02
7. Movies 1.89 .81 -.20 *** .02 -.06
8. Reading 1.24 .79 .01 .01 -.07
9. People .44 .29 .23 *** .03 .14 **
X/Y Att. 17-
10. item 3.30 .47 .12 ** -.13 ** .12 *
X/Y Art. 13-
11. item 3.15 .45 .11 * -.13 ** .09
X/Y Att. 4-
12. item 3.80 .68 .12 ** -.11 * .16 **
13. 19-item 3.47 .36 .12 ** -.08 .10
Variable 4 5 6 7 8
4. Tenure --
5. Fast Food -.01 (.76)
6. Leisure TV .00 -.13 * --
7. Movies .02 .07 .30 * --
8. Reading .07 -.05 .27 ** .34 *** --
9. People .l7 *** -.07 -.14 * -.11 * -.00
X/Y Att. 17-
10. item .10 * .07 -.07 -.02 .06
X/Y Art. 13-
11. item .11 * .06 -.08 -.00 .06
X/Y Att. 4-
12. item .04 .08 -.04 -.04 .06
13. 19-item .08 .16 ** .06 -.04 .07
Variable 9 10 11 12 13
5. Fast Food
6. Leisure TV
9. People (.55)
X/Y Att. 17-
10. item .24 *** (.78)
X/Y Art. 13-
11. item .22 *** .97 *** (.67)
X/Y Att. 4-
12. item .25 *** .83 *** .66 *** (.72)
13. 19-item .24 *** .46 *** .38 *** .51 *** (.71)
Note. N = 506 to 511 except for salary (N = 400), tenure (N = 492),
and the leisure items (N = 352). Age was expressed as a range
(20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, [greater than or equal
to] 50) with midpoints of range (and 55 for [greater than or equal
to] 50) used for analyses. Categorical variable: Sex (1 = female; 2
= male). Att. = Attitudes; Beh. = Behaviors. X/Y Attitude 13-item
scale is comprised of the items in X/Y Attitude 17-item scale,
excluding the X/Y Attitude four- item scale. Cronbach alphas for
each scale appear on diagonals in parentheses. * p < .05,
two-tailed; ** p < .O1, two-tailed; *** p < .001, two-tailed.
Factor Analysis of Theory X and Theory Y Attitude Items
# Description of Items Loading
1. Most employees can't be trusted. .72
2. Most employees will not exercise self-control and .61
self-motivation--managers must do this for them.
3. Most people are lazy and don't want to work. .60
4. Most employees have little ambition. .57
Percent of explained variance 54.10
Note. These four items resulted from two consecutive principal axis
factor analyses with suppression of coefficients less than .50.
Correlations among Closely and Distally Related Constructs
Variables Attitudes Attitudes
Same Construct (a) .66 *** --
Closely Related Construct (Behaviors) (b) .51 *** .38 ***
Distally Related Construct (Faith) (c) .25 *** .22 ***
Unrelated Constructs (d) -.01 -.01
Note. (a) Four-item X/Y correlated with 13-item X/Y-13; (b) four-item
X/Y-4 and 13-item X/Y correlated with X/Y Behaviors;
(c) correlated with Faith in People; (d) mean of correlations with
the fast food opinion scale and the three leisure time pursuit
items (r-to-z transformations).
*** p < .001, two-tailed.
Hierarchical Regression of Four-item and 13-item Theory X/Y Attitude
Scales on Closely and Distally-related Constructs
Two Models with
Four-item and 13-item Same Closely Distally
X/Y Attitude Scales as the X/Y X/Y Faith
Independent Variables Attitude Behavior in
in the Second Steps 13-item 19-item People
Theory X/Y Attitude 4-item
[beta](second step) .65 *** .47 *** .22 ***
[DELTA][R.sup.2] (second step) .40 .21 .05
[DELTA]F (second step) 271.47 *** 106.37 ** 19.61***
Total [R.sup.2] (first step) .04 .04 .05
Total [R.sup.2] (second step) .44 .25 .10
Total F (second step) 60.25 *** 25.04 *** 8.19 ***
Theory X/Y Attitude 13-item
[beta] (second step) -- .37 *** .27 ***
[DELTA][R.sup.2](second step) -- .13 .07
[DELTA]F (second step) -- 59.18 *** 26.62 ***
Total [R.sup.2] (first step) -- .04 .05
Total [R.sup.2] (second step) -- .17 .12
Total F (second step) -- 15.24 *** 10.29 *
Two Models with Four Unrelated Constructs
Four-item and 13-item
X/Y Attitude Scales as the Fast
Independent Variables Food Leisure-
in the Second Steps Opinion TV
Theory X/Y Attitude 4-item
[beta](second step) .07 -.03
[DELTA][R.sup.2] (second step) .01 .00
[DELTA]F (second step) 1.93 .16
Total [R.sup.2] (first step) .00 .03
Total [R.sup.2] (second step) .01 .03
Total F (second step) .94 1.37
Theory X/Y Attitude 13-item
[beta] (second step) .04 -.09
[DELTA][R.sup.2](second step) .00 .01
[DELTA]F (second step) .46 2.17
Total [R.sup.2] (first step) .01 .02
Total [R.sup.2] (second step) .01 .03
Total F (second step) .65 1.78
Two Models with Four Unrelated Constructs
Four-item and 13-item
X/Y Attitude Scales as the
Independent Variables Leisure- Leisure-
in the Second Steps Movies Readin
Theory X/Y Attitude 4-item
[beta](second step) .01 .06
[DELTA][R.sup.2] (second step) .00 .00
[DELTA]F (second step) .01 .88
Total [R.sup.2] (first step) .05 .03
Total [R.sup.2] (second step) .05 .03
Total F (second step) 2.65 * 1.25
Theory X/Y Attitude 13-item
[beta] (second step) .07 .05
[DELTA][R.sup.2](second step) .01 .00
[DELTA]F (second step) 1.35 .71
Total [R.sup.2] (first step) .04 .03
Total [R.sup.2] (second step) .05 .03
Total F (second step) 2.93 * 1.84
Note. In each case, age, gender, salary, and tenure were added in
Step 1. /is of age, gender, salary, and tenure are not shown for
space reasons. The four-item Theory X/Y attitudes and the 13-item
Theory X/Y attitude scales were added in the second step in separate
* p < .05, two-tailed; ** p < .01, two-tailed; *** p < .001,